More on Bill Robinson, defending The Deck, Libfeld loves Cherry’s idea and much more!

HRU Feedback (2019-04-07)

April 7, 2019

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Bill Robinson debate continues

I read with interest and agreement Andrew Cohen’s cogent note on Bill Robinson’s HOF re-nomination (full story here). Then it occurred to me. How many millennials know of Pete Rose, one of the greatest baseball players in American history? But for those among us who know, as memory fades away, just as many will never find out visiting Cooperstown. I favor Rose’s induction; no one can say Rose’s accomplishments are not HOF worthy. The question then becomes can one be recognized as a milestone contributor to his or her profession while tarnished with transgressions. Tough question because integrity is integral to our moral compass, and any act to undermine “doing the right thing” ultimately undermines the profession itself. Is there room for balance? Maybe. If a man is willing and wanting to stand on his honor, his accomplishments and his contributions to his profession, let him also stand on his sword with the transgressions that followed him along the way. Accepting a nomination is voluntary, or it should be. If Mr Robinson wishes to accept a nomination, let him do so with the full panoply of his life’s work on display, the accomplishments and the disappointments. All of them.

— Larry Sultan / Chicago, IL

Murray Brown defends The Deck

In response to Mike Campbell’s Letter to the Editor in the March 31 issue of HRU (2019-03-31 Feedback), please be advised that The Deck at Sunshine Meadows is not an exclusive club with access limited to a so called elite group.

Attendance to the Saturday morning (or any other day), sessions is and has always been OPEN TO ALL!

As a matter of fact, as you enter Sunshine Meadows, virtually the first thing you see is a billboard welcoming everybody to attend.

If you come on a Saturday morning, you are welcome to have as many a bagel or flagel as you want, but there is nary a crumpet to be found. On days sponsored by HRU, you can find a plethora of foods and beverages supplied by that media source.

Please get your facts straight Mr Campbell, before you label things which are not true as being factual.

— Murray Brown / Hanover, PA

PS — My good friend, the Guru said in his Friday column (full story here) that the crowd is made up mostly of owners from the Alagna Stable. Although there are certainly some of them, the crowd on Saturdays is as diverse as you are likely to find at any training center or harness gathering.

It’s made up of people from various stables both at Sunshine Meadows and elsewhere, media types and, perhaps most importantly, fans of the sport and people who just like to watch horses and fraternize.

Mr Campbell, any time you might be in the area we’d love to meet you and get the opportunity to schmooze.

Agreeing with Mike Campbell

Reading Mike Campbell’s response to a Ron Gurfein article I totally agree with Mike (2019-03-31 Feedback). Why has the sport decided that it was in the best interest of the game to award these entry level races these inflated purses? This is full blown capitalism where the big owners get to limit their risk because of their stature in most cases for over-paying to get that yearling. I don’t even bother to read what Gurfein has to say about the days spent on the patio at Sunshine Meadows and all the bagels and lox consumed with good banter. I believe as Mike does, the game should be that it doesn’t matter what you paid for your yearling you have to earn your way to the bigger purses so these entry level purses should be the very lowest carded. If racing keeps going, believing that it only matters to keep the big owners and ownership groups happy racing will eventually no longer exist. The small guy will be gone and there will go what race secretaries depend on horses to fill out a field just for the big boys. Ego is not only a stature thing it’s an only thing, so the big boys after awhile some will just figure why bother and then now there is a massive shortage of horses. Greed and supporting greed like the 30’s Depression if you don’t correct how it happened then it surely will repeat. In Harness racing or for racing in general we are heading for that Depression and unfortunately it won’t survive.

— Bob Adams / London, ON

Libfeld loves Cherry’s breeding idea

I loved Eric Cherry’s idea about two foals per year per mare, utilizing embryo transfer (2019-03-31 Feedback). As Eric stated, and everyone knows, there is a shortage of horses at our tracks. As a breeder, we have been utilizing embryo transfers for as long as it has been available. I am convinced that the resulting foals do not miss anything in performance capabilities, subject to being raised properly. Their genetic makeup is as pure as a carried foal. One change I would like to suggest is that the two foals possibly have two different sires. This is more important for trotters over pacers as the inbreeding is increased in trotters. As a breeder of primarily Grand Circuit horses, this gives me a chance to experiment more quickly in our quest to breed great horses. The additional benefits are that other than the very top stallions we will fill and increase their books. Diversity is increased through this. Wouldn’t it be fun and very interesting to have full or half brothers and sisters race against each other? Not only pitting the horses, but the trainers and the drivers against each other. This will move the breed forward and create more and better horses. Trainers, drivers, tracks, vets, farms and breeders all win. There are no losers by following this simple great idea!

— Al Libfeld / Pickering, ON

Feedback on Mike Murphy story

Thank you for the update on this story (full story here).

Since I read about Mike’s need for a kidney and Jacob, his grandson, being a match last year I have often wondered about the outcome. I was so pleased to read that at this time all is good. Having had kidney problems myself, the story really hit home.

Sometimes just having a good family and good health is all that really matters in this crazy world, and yes I get a little crazy about the “little things” in my own life, but this is really grounding and so happy to read this happy ending for this loving family.

— JoAnn King / Harrington, DE

Bets offered

I thought it was nice to see Woodbine Mohawk handle $2.8 mil on the Jackpot Hi 5 payoff last Saturday. But I wanted to know in more detail what do those number equate to?

I think we can agree for harness racing, those are big numbers. Probably as high as we can imagine for one bet in today’s landscape. Does that make Jackpot/Rainbow bets one of the answers to the return of the good old days?

Let’s analyze. The bet was carried over for about 90 betting days, of which, there were card cancellations. Since I didn’t check every day, I think it’s fair to say they ran 85 days. Also, I didn’t see if there were nights where no one had a winning ticket and 100 per cent was carried over that night. So I took the $525,000 carry over and double it (since they pay out 50 per cent nightly) and added 15 per cent back in for takeout. Now add in the $2.8 mil and you have a little more than $4 million generated for that bet in its entirety. Divide that by 85 nights and you get an average of $47,000 per night. Which is nice, but not earth shattering numbers.

Please don’t get me wrong, this is a nice try to generate handle, but jackpots are not the answer on their own. I won’t even get into the argument that “is this type a bet a good bet”. Like bettors busting out trying to catch it. Or that $525,000 was taken out of circulation.

What I want is to see new bets or expanded bets.

The only new bet in years has been the Survivor at the Meadowlands. As far as expanded or additional offerings, I would consider the Can-Am Pick 4. Otherwise, I’m not aware of anything else.

Maybe I don’t understand the reasons or legalities, but with the Pick 5 at Woodbine Mohawk doing so well, why not offer a second one? This Monday they handled over $120,000 in the Pick 5. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that a second one may generate half? $60,000 is still more than that Jackpot Hi 5 generated on average. I understand there is only so much gambling money to be spread out, but the bet that handles the most is the bet that people want! If Apple decided to take the iPhone, their best-selling device and sell one, do you think they’d be where they’re at today? Offer more of the bets that handle the best!

Meadowlands, your premier bet is the Pick 4 and you only offer it once a night. Why?

I bet the mandatory payout at Gulfstream this Saturday. T-Breds are not my thing so I only invested $20, but I loved the fact that it started with a Pick 6, then the next race was a Pick 5, then Pick 4, then 3, and Daily Double. Get in the heads of a gambler. It gives us options. So if it’s too expensive to cover all my combinations for the Pick 6, I can make a Pick 5 or 4 as a saver. What if I’m out the first leg, I’ve already done the handicapping, might as well try Pick 5 or 4. I think it’s a great hook to get me to continue betting.

Bottom line, the numbers show the multi-leg bets generate high interest nightly. Usually the other top handle is the Exacta. How about a “Pick 3 Exacta” or Quinella? How about the “Graduate”? First leg pick the winner, second leg Exact, third leg Trifecta. OR how about “Show, Place, Win!”…first 2 legs finish show or better, next two legs second or better, last three legs have the winner. You would get people engaged for 7 races on that bet.

Outside of that box is a world of possibilities. Let’s try thinking there.

— Manny Guagliardo / Hoffman Estates IL

Faraldo: Lasix is not juice, it is a therapeutic medication

Exercise-induced Pulmonary Hemorrage (EIPH) has been a recognized condition in horses since the early 18 century. While the amount of bleeding in horses varies, it is universally recognized that the vast majority of horses in training and racing do indeed bleed.

The advent of the flexible endoscope confirmed in studies that in thoroughbreds the stress put upon them, proved that up to 75 per cent of them bleed in training and more so in racing.

Other studies done on standardbred and thoroughbreds, after running three races, showed that 100 per cent of these horses bled at least once, evidenced by blood in the trachea. The cause of the bleeding is the amount of pressure experienced that racing puts on the pulmonary veins, four times the normal pressure. The pressure causes fibrosis and in turn Pulmonary fibrosis scars and thickens the tissue around and between the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs, which decreases the lungs ability to function and decreases the racing life of the horse.

I have attended multiple-day seminars with experts from all over the globe on the topic of the race day administration of Lasix. In North America, Lasix is the most popular medication for treating EIPH because studies have shown that it is the most effective treatment in decreasing the amount of bleeding and therefore the scarring and thickening of the tissue around the lungs.

In many of the English speaking countries around the world conducting racing, where race day use of Lasix is prohibited, it is nonetheless permitted up to race day because it is acknowledged to have the desired therapeutic effects in controlling EIPH. One has to ask if it is recognized as necessary in training because of its control of this problem, when the stress is not as severe as when a horse competes in a race, then what is the rationale for withholding it on race day, where four times the normal pressure in the racing environment exists?

It has been said that when our horses, mainly thoroughbreds, go overseas they compete quite well without Lasix. That is indeed true, perhaps because they have a least had the benefit of controlling pulmonary hemorrhage long enough to achieve success over their foreign competitors. Overseas competition is against horses that are using something far less efficacious than Lasix, or worse nothing at all, to address the long term effects occasioned by the increased stress in racing.

Those who want to join the community of Lasix-free racing point to the alleged masking of other substances, but the controlled administration of the substance; the hourly limitation on its use pre-race( 4-4 1/2 hours); the testing for threshold overages of the substance, has put that argument to bed.

Now the newest mantra for the elimination of race-day Lasix, is the horrible, horrible loss of life at Santa Anita Racetrack. The false claim being, that while the rest of North America continues to help the horse racing on Lasix, without nay correlation to catastrophes, Lasix is being inexplicably blamed as the proximate cause of those catastrophes. The problem, is the potential for the elimination of a recognized effective tool in controlling and minimizing, EIPH that helps the horse cope with the effects of stress.

Santa Anita should be shut down immediately until the true causes of these catastrophes can be accurately determined and corrected. The factors point initially to the track’s surface and under-footing, but the more precise answer must be determined by analyzing all of the multiple possible factors, Lasix, being clearly not the culprit.

Without closing down Santa Anita immediately, the industry, thoroughbred and standardbred alike, comes under tremendous pressure from all those looking to eliminate the industry anyway. Santa Anita is providing fuel to a fire that threatens the game, by racing more in the face of its undetermined cause of these catastrophic breakdowns. Allowing continued suffering at Santa Anita is intolerable and unacceptable and should not continue.

Enough is enough and if one is looking to blame Lasix, it is suggested that one look elsewhere. Every industry organization needs to be heard on any and every false narrative out there. No benefit can be achieved by being silent on issues that threaten our existence.

— Joe Faraldo / New York, NY

Letter to Gurfein about Down Under breeding, blood doping

Dear, Ron Gurfein, great to read your recent comments on negative impacts of blood doping and your suggestions re discovery or investigation.

On another point, you recently were a tad critical about NZ racehorses coming to USA and pointed out a potential loss to USA market, and suggested some fee or levy at time of import.

On other side — looking at it from NZ viewpoint — perhaps consider the approximately $5 to $6 million each season which is exported in cash from NZ harness breeders to USA stallion owners’ percentage of stallion fees each season (plus more from Aunt to USA).

Suggest you might talk with Blue Chip, Diamond Creek, Hanover and others about this income stream flow each year back to them. Over past 10 years, it is probably about $60 million (NZD) solely from NZ and another added annual cash parcel from Aust.

My guess is a sire like Bettors Delight (BD) earns more for this USA owners from NZ and Aunt breeders, than from all services sold each seasons in North America.

One reason is the stupidity in NZ and Aunt of having no limit to stallion service numbers each season. BD often served over 300 mares a year in NZ and about another 150 in Australia. Soon about 50 per cent of all NZ pacing mares will be by BD.

Also BD in Sth Hemisphere now stands for $25,000 +15 per cent GST, yet in NZ our total annual race stakes based on average stake won per horses raced in a season, are about 1/3 of Nth American same calculable stakes.

NZ breeders cannot reduce semen costs by buying into sires like in Nth America; nor are leading sires services publicly available in NZ at big discounts, like many are in Nth America? Max 20 per cent discount applies if same NZ breeder sends four or more mares to same NZ stud.

Fair? I don’t think so.

On trot side, Muscle Hill fee has risen to over $20k in NZ, while Father Patrick and Trixton are each at is $9,000… all plus 15 per cent GST. Plus, these trotting sires are frozen semen which add about $2,000 in NZ as vet or insemination fees per annual attempt to get a PT. Frozen semen fertility rates are much lower than with fresh semen and in NZ trotters race for much less overall stake money than pacers.

Result is that total mares bred in NZ has been falling dramatically in past 30 seasons and soon could reach point where our NZ harness industry five years hence may become unsustainable for race side.

Then the point you raise about import tax into USA may become irrelevant, as we may not be breeding here in NZ from imported semen at all, certainly not for re-export and USA stallion owners (who are primarily culpable for destruction of NZ breeding market (due to greed and overpricing of semen fees in this small market) could lose a $5 to $6 mill annual income from NZ.

Perhaps it is time for NZ to put a NZ breeders tax of say 50 per cent on all semen fees exported as cash back to USA?

FOALS REGISTERED IN NZ 1987/88 = 6,203
FOALS REGISTERED IN NZ 1992/93 = 4,265
FOALS REGISTERED IN NZ 1995/96 = 3,623
FOALS REGISTERED IN NZ 2000/01 = 3,409
FOALS REGISTERED IN NZ 2007/08 = 3,013
FOALS REGISTERED IN NZ 2009/10 = 2,882
FOALS REGISTERED IN NZ 2011/12 = 2,226
FOALS REGISTERED IN NZ 2013/14 = 2,132
FOALS REGISTERED IN NZ 2014/15 = 1,945
FOALS REGISTERED IN NZ 2015/16 = 1,798
FOALS REGISTERED IN NZ 2016/17 = 1,781
FOALS REGISTERED IN NZ 2017/18 = NUMBER NOT YET RELEASED — BUT AS ABOUT 230 FEWER MARES WERE SERVED IN 17/18 c/f. 16/17, expected to be about 1,600.

Further reductions is suggested of mare numbers bred in NZ in 18/19 season; WITH RESULTING LIVE FOALS EXPECTING TO BE DOWN TO ABOUT 1,500 IN 2019/20. If at 1,500, this will be at a dramatic 1/4 level (decline) of 1988 live births of NZ harness horses… and a continuation of 1,500 or less is in some commentators view below level for a sustainable race industry in both islands of NZ. It costs about $800 to move a racehorse by land from South Island of NZ to North, involves a sea crossing, and can take about 24 hours+.

So the relatively few race exports from NZ to USA, create a minor and welcome cash inflow to NZ owners, but need to be balanced/compared to the major NZ breeders annual cash outflow.

Back to blood doping.

Agree it is one of greatest challenges facing our breed internationally — as well as creating uneven playing field on race day, and making breed records unreliable, if one is trying to assess comparative horse abilities.

“Great” word cyclist Lance Armstrong eventually admitted his successes were contributed to blood doping — spun blood enhanced with EPO pre spinning, then injected back intravenously in race week. His interviews with Oprah were eye-openers for all involved in policing sports. See here:

And here is Armstrong in 2018/2019… a position some harness participants might be in in the future if proof of dishonesty is obtained (full story here).

Here are a few more web sites or links about EPO. Probably you are already well aware of these. See here:

Joe Rogan Podcast #277 – Victor Conte on performance enhancing drugs in athletes – 2012

Is there testing in horse racing for CIR (Carbon Isotope Ratio) tests – to check if testosterone is introduced artificially.

“As soon as an athlete starts to use drugs they become a liar” — Bill Romanski

“If I had to pick a single drug that would be the most powerful performance enhancer it would be EPO” —Victor Conte, 2012 (see

“It (EPO) turns you into a machine” — Dwayne Cambers

Answer: is to implement reasonably-successful testing.

Lance Armstrong mentioned here on 2.38 into this video… and track and field in Olympics on drugs- where most on drugs.

Also says how L Armstrong may have got around tests. Armstrong passed about 250-500 tests. And how those controlling cycling/tests were corrupt as well, by not checking on L Armstrong…Question asked: Were many people in on it?… Of course says a lot of others in charge were looking the other way.

Article on Chris Froome cyclist.

The positive A sample test of Tom Danielson, 37, admitted doper.

EPO in regular micro tests boost ability, and not necessarily testable.

In NZ our leading trainers, who dominate all group racing in NZ, publicly advertise ‘their’ Blood Solutions services. One can only guess what might happen should they have a blood solution client trainer who was competing again their own trained horses in $100k to $1,000,000k races. This top trainer partnership have the monopoly on public blood solutions service in NZ horse racing. No one in our NZ harness horse policing division seems prepared to challenge this.

Our NZ policing divisions also do not publicly declare that blood spinning is lawful and permitted. Yet it is permitted in NZ, as our industry controllers (HRNZ) passed a rule that enables spun blood to be jugged back into a racehorse 2 days before racing. This is in lay terms is what HRNZ prohibited substance rule says, viz:

The HRNZ regulations relating to Prohibited Substances (see copy of 2014 HRNZ Regulations here on this stated web site) and note that clause 7.11 enables some aspects of blood spinning, where it says excluded from those regulations re out of competition banned practices are administering:

“platelet rich plasma (PRP) and interleukin 1 and interceptor receptor antagonists protein (IRAP)…”

The same prohibited substance rules prohibit a trainer using Vicks on a horse’s nose pre-race — or rubbing muscle soreness lotion onto muscles pre-race? Seems that something is rather imbalanced.

As well, out industry’s chief vet advisor is also a multiple player/participant in our NZ industry, with serious perceived conflicts… so suggested changes from that quarter are unlikely.

— David W Phillips / Pokeno, NZ

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