Harrisburg happenings, baffled over the inconsistency on entries in overnights in PA and final thoughts on the Breeders Crown

Live from the Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s auction, The Guru picks out the likely winners in Harrisburg.

by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: HARRISBURG WOW… I wish all the gloom-and-doom types in our industry were at the Harrisburg sale on Monday. The breeding business is alive and well. To say they had an amazing sale on Monday would be an understatement. It was strong from the first horse to sell to the last one. Being in the arena was a show not to be missed. It was next to impossible to buy a horse at a reasonable price.

European and Canadian money ruled in the trotting ranks to a much greater degree than previous years. Of the horses selling in excess of $200,000, it was almost $3 million in foreign money to $1 million American, a fact that doesn’t please me as the trotting power has been trending outside our borders.

The pacing market was very strong as well with the sophomore crops of “The Captain”, Sweet Lou, and one of the last crops of “The Beach” leading the way.

However, if you could bend a little, there was a plethora of bargains to be had on Tuesday and a Wednesday if you did your homework. It was very strange how the wheels started falling off the sale on Tuesday, a trend that continued into Wednesday. But a wave of new money entered the game about midway through the session and continued to be strong to the end.

To give you an idea how tough the sale was at the end, I thought I came up with a major find late in the sale, a Chapter Seven colt out of a mediocre Donerail mare Tantalizing Donna a very talented colt consigned by Winbak Farm selling as hip# 806. I said, ‘$80,000 will definitely buy him.’ They went by me like a freight train passing a hobo and hammered the colt down for $157,000 to Stroy Inc. If Chapter Seven elevates this pedigree as I am sure he will, Andy and Julie Miller will be in for a sweet ride. Although, in my opinion, the price was a reach it wouldn’t be a shock to see this colt to go on to wondrous achievements.

By the way, on the American trotting side, Andy and Julie, Ron Burke and Domenico Cecere, will train the best yearlings sold of all the U.S. trainers I truly hope they can turn the tide on the Swedish freight train we have witnessed this decade. They may not have the bullets, but the certainly have the talent.

I am so happy to say that many of my favorite yearlings will be training at Sunshine Meadows this winter and I will keep you informed as to their progress week by week.

I will return to south Florida next week and will compile the final yearling rosters ASAP and will publish them as fast as possible. Just from my quick estimation the combined value of the babies at Sunshine Meadows this winter will be in excess of $6 million. On top of that there will be a sensational group of coming 3-year-olds including the fabulous group of Captains from the Alagna Stable including Trevor and Ahab and the fabulous filly Tall Drink Hanover, and Casie Coleman’s Stag Party, along with Kings County from Lindy Farms, and hopefully we will see Atlanta resume her brilliant career.

I did get a lot of flack in two areas while in the arena. Many trainers weren’t kind with my opinion on horses that will be year-end champions. Coleman was adamant that I was mistaken by selecting Captain Crunch over Stag Party. All I could say is we will see very soon. Many owners on the other hand were supportive of my opinion of the Breeders Crown and many were critical of my so called retraction. This is the last time I will write about this because it’s stale and has been too repetitive however I feel I must put it to bed. John Campbell and I are friends, but in no way am I forced to agree with him. He has a job to do and so do I and unfortunately for him he must appease the buyers. There was no retraction. I still feel that the venue was wrong, but in respect for my friends at the Downs it was important they know that the industry was thankful for their time and investment. I realize my voice is new to the industry in public forum but I will fight for the changes that need to be made as long as I am given the forum. While on this subject, I implore the race secretaries to do a better job of separating major race days. Try to bend a bit to ease the trainers’ efforts in finding drivers for their horses. Especially with 2-year-old trotting races, the need for some kind of consistency is of great importance.

Ron Burke asks: With the shortage of horses as bad as it is, why does The Meadows let us race two horses uncoupled in overnight races and Harrah’s Philadelphia and Pocono Downs won’t permit it?

Ronnie asked me this question and I thought it would be and easy answer at the time, but it evolved as a true Pennsylvania cluster you know what… When the election came near, I listened to a talk show in Philadelphia discussing the problems with the voting rules in the state. The host was making comparisons with states as Oregon and Colorado where all you have to do is have a driver’s license and you are a registered voter. There are no polling places, everyone votes by mail. However, if you must vote by mail in PA and don’t send it in on time and decide to go to the polls instead you may need an edict from the Pope to cast a ballot. That’s how convoluted it is. Add to that the alcohol rules in the state that make it almost impossible to buy a small amount of beer and if you can you may have to drive 10 miles. Don’t even think about buying good wine in a restaurant because it’s 35 per cent higher than any state I know. There is a method to my discourse, sort of a primer on the way things are done in my new state. When the mess with the PA commission became public knowledge over positives in our sport being shoved under a rug simply because somejudgesomewhere (good name for a PA Bred) forgot about them for more than a year, I thought it can’t get any worse than this.

Well, I started doing research on Ronnie’s question and not to my surprise I got two different answers. The first, and most odd of all, is the horseman’s organization at The Meadows permits it but the Philly/Pocono group are very much against it, but they added that the commission didn’t care. So I called the judges at Pocono and the answer was that it was against the commission rules and that when two horses with conflict are entered the judges throw out one of the entries.

The most logical answer came from Rick Kane the director of racing at Pocono who said that it occurred because of the shortage of horses at The Meadows as they race all year round and the commission gives them permission to ease the pain of filling the cards, however in Harrah’s and Pocono there is no shortage of horses most of the time so there is no necessity to bend the rules. From my position I see a commission a state-wide entity, why aren’t the laws carried out equally?

Billy Bigler asks: You said that the Jolene Jolene filly was your favorite at the Lexington sale. Who were your favorites in all four categories in Harrisburg?

My favorite pacing filly actually sold Tuesday, Truth Hanover a Western Ideal from the top Brittany mare The Art Museum thus a full sister to Artspeak. For trotting filly, I loved Hello Tomorrow a Muscle Hill sister to Dejambro for whom I would have had to give my first born, as was the case with my selection for trotting colt, the Muscle Hill out of Brooklyn, Swiss House Onfire a full brother to Kings County. My choice for pacing colt fell in the same financial category, In Reality Hanover by Captaintreacherous from It was Fascination making him a full brother to Captain Trevor. Two of the four will be in training at Sunshine Meadows so we can see them all winter.

Thanks to all my readers for the kind words, special thanks to those that came over to me at the sale and introduced themselves, you all were more than kind. Hopefully I will have a Florida report for you shortly. Good luck with all your purchases and have a great week.

Have a question for The Guru?
Email him at GurfTrot@aol.com.