Thoughts on postponing the million-dollar trot, beating The Candyman and my book picks

All in the one-year anniversary edition of harness racing’s favorite advice column.

by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: This week is the one-year anniversary of the Ask The Guru column. If you told me last year that I would still be writing I would have laughed. My sincerest thanks and appreciation to the HRU team for their help and support. It has been a fabulous ride. Thank so much to you the followers of the column for your unbending support. As controversial as the column can be at times it amazes me how positive your response has been. For the entire year I have gotten a few negative comments via email and a few on Facebook but the positive outnumber them 100-1 or more. You all have been very supportive.

Murray Brown asks: What do you think about the clusterf— about the million-dollar race? They announce it right before the Lexington sale. They announce its cancellation on the morning of the beginning of the Harrisburg sale A coincidence probably? They give as a reason its conflict with other stakes on the calendar. Maybe? However there haven’t been any stakes scheduled, yet. The race secretaries don’t meet till early December to schedule the stakes. They say that it conflicts with the Kentucky Sires Stakes finals. HOWEVER if I read the initial press release correctly, it said that one of the great attractions was that it would be held on the same day as the Kentucky Sires Stakes finals. I had dinner last night with some of the Burke crew. They said that they felt cheated. One of their motivating factors in buying high-priced yearling trotting colts this year was the million-dollar trot. The fully intended to buy two spots in the event. What do you think?

First of all, and of the utmost importance, I think the innuendo of you query is way off base. There is no chance that this was a ploy to enhance the prices at the Lexington sale. Neither the sale company nor any of its directors had anything to do with the idea of the race. They were just happy to oblige the idea that was propagated by John Campbell. When the owners of The Red Mile were approached with the idea they were more than happy to acquiesce. If you look back at my column on the week of the announcement I was questioning the entire process because of the conflicts with the KYSS, the Bluegrass and the International Stallion. As far as the Burkes are concerned I had dinner with Jerry Silva, one of the major owners in the group, the night before the sale and he told me they had a ton of money to buy trotting colts yet they only bought one high-profile colt and spent the big bucks on two trotting fillies. Before you carry this any further I suggest you contact John Campbell before you start pointing fingers. We have been friends for many years and I know from following you on Facebook that sometimes you leap before you look or just jump on a situation. I know in my heart you meant no ill will by your question, but it certainly didn’t come across in a kindly fashion.

Peter Carlson asks: A few months ago you mentioned that you found a drug that has helped your psoriasis after years of trying others. I forgot the name of the pill and would like to know it as well as how it is working to date?

BAD subject with me. The drug is OTEZLA and it does work well, but with some harsh side effects. I met with Jeff Snyder in Harrisburg and he had a similar discussion with me and said it worked for him but he had to stop because the side effects were more than he could bear.

It’s sad but true, but the big drug companies are no better than local drug dealers, oft times called “The Candyman.” The nickname arose because they would give samples of their wares till you were hooked and then you had to steal to stay in the game. To me the OTEZLA story is no better. When my doctor first gave me the prescription my insurance turned it down. Then she had me apply to a related drug provider that helps those that can’t afford the drug. Hahaha, it’s $3,750 per month. Who can afford it? I was accepted to the plan and had the drug for 12 months. When I went to reapply I was told one year and done. I am now applying for assistance from another OTEZLA plan however, even if I get accepted is one and done again. Just like the Candyman scenario I will eventually have to pay or let this insidious disease control my life. Sorry for the ranting but that’s the way I feel. If you can find a drug with out that ridiculous price tag, try it before you get hooked on a train that leads to nowhere.

John Ashton asks: it’s been a long time since you have suggested books to read in your column. I read some of your previous suggested novels and liked them all especially Shantaram. Please give us an update.

This was one of the worst years for me in book entertainment. I have had terrible trouble finding novels or non fiction that I want to read. Exposé books on “The Donald” and his sexual exploits are a total waste of time. It’s like reading the Inquirer, a privilege I have yet to accept. The publishers today are like the movie makers. They stack the deck with all the best films coming out in time for the awards and all the top shelf novels appear in October and November. Many of the authors that I follow are stale and some are dead, so it’s definitely a challenge. There were some books that I could recommend from this past year as well as some new novels that I will mention.

I have a system that is not perfect but it works fairly well. When an author is popular, like a John Grisham, his new offerings are always number one on the New York Times bestseller list of hardcover fiction. Don’t run out and buy it yet. If it remains in the top six for five weeks go for it. Many go from one to nothing rather quickly.

I said it was a weak year so I will give you the best of a bad group, but these are all at least four or five stars a worth reading: The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah, The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille, The Rooster Bar by John Grisham and A Woman In The Window by A.J. Finn (my favorite of a bad year). Books just out and coming soon you should watch the list for are, The Reckoning by John Grisham, The Long Road to Mercy by David Balducci, Past Tense by Lee Child, and Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly. My tip for the new year to my reading friends: When a popular writer dies and a contemporary tries to keep the run alive as in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series DONT fall in that trap, it’s a waste of time and money.

Thanks to all my readers for their kind words. I hope to have a list of the coming 2-year-olds in training at Sunshine Meadows shortly. Have a wonderful week.

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