Thoughts on Ohio’s microchip fiasco, the role of race secretaries, fining drivers for a slow pace and more

Thoughts on Ohio’s microchip fiasco, the role of secretaries, fining drivers for a slow pace and my take on hay cubes

May 17, 2019

by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits:I mistakenly named Woodside Charm in my Road to the Hambletonian, not knowing she was not eligible. I apologize for the error. It is sad she is not eligible. Checking out last year’s fabulous performances she would be more than competitive.

To all you Raptors fans, consider how kind the last bounce was to you on Sunday night. The one man Leonard Show cannot carry you over the super talented Bucks.

Congratulations to the powers that be in the NBA for introducing a much-improved format to the draft lottery. It is a certainty that reducing the chances for a number one pick down to 14 per cent for the three worst teams will lessen the tanking policies of recent years. It’s sort of like the half empty / half full scenario, but no one pointed out that if you have a 14 per cent chance to win you also have an 86 per cent chance to lose. As it turned out, the winner of the Zion lottery was New Orleans, the team that tied for seventh worst. So, the new design works. The Knicks with the best chance in the old format were reduced to the fourth overall pick on the 20th of June when the official draft will be held. Sadly, It seemed that Zion Williamson, the great Duke star, was either perplexed by the result or unhappy as he was not all smiles after the announcement.

One way or the other, he is on his way to a LeBron or Michael bank account. There have been first picks in the draft that refused to play for the team that chose them, but Zion seems much to class a kid to head in that direction. The bottom line is that this may just solve the year-long turmoil in the Big Easy, and get Anthony Davis to reconsider his desires to find happiness in another venue. Word on the street has it that the lottery meant nothing to Davis and he still wants out of New Orleans, but please don’t quote me. Only time will tell.

Fabulous weekend of racing at the Meadowlands starting tonight, with the first round of the NJSS and then tomorrow with the Graduate, the Rainbow Blue and the Mr Muscleman. See the likes of Atlanta, Six Pack, Phaetosive, Kissin in the Sand, Youaremycandygirl, Caviar’s Ally and Gold Orchid N perform.

I saw a very good movie on demand last night. If you can watch a film with subtitles I have a good one for you. EVERYBODY KNOWS with Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz is very entertaining. Takes place in Spain where a wedding is attended by Cruz’s large family and ex-lover Bardem (her real life husband both from Barcelona). During the festivities her teenage daughter is kidnapped. Great story.

Paul Robinson asks: What is your take on the microchip fiasco in Ohio? Was the decision a proper one?

I equate the mess in Ohio with the mess in the Kentucky Derby. Although I maintain that both decisions were beyond wrong, I have little problem understanding how the results were achieved. “By the Book” is commonplace among robotic employees. It’s easier than the alternative. When you have to think to come up with the answer it is quicker and less provocative to do what the rule says. You can get fired for thinking but they can’t or won’t can you for abiding by the rules.

In both these cases, the powers that be went “By the Book”. It’s safe and easy. However, that doesn’t mean it was right. In retrospect, I think some steps could be taken to right the wrongs. I think it would be nice for the Ohio Commission and or Miami Valley to refund the Kings and their owners all the money paid into the race as well as all the expenses as a gesture of good will for the mistake in judgement that transpired.

I can’t go there in Kentucky because that is worse than a lost cause. The commission has given Luis Saez (the jockey on the disqualified horse) a 15-day suspension. Not because he deserve it, or any days for that matter, but to cover their butts after an egregious error in judgment precipitated by going “By the Book”.

I have read a multitude of opinions on the race and unlike the Ohio situation where 95 per cent of the opinions are the Commission was wrong, the Kentucky affair remains at 50/50. There’s little chance when these decisions go to court that they will be overturned, and although in this writer’s opinion it is nowhere near 50/50, deep down inside I feel that there is a small chance of a reversal. Maybe just wishful thinking but I have seen it happen.

I will say one thing in closing. If the judges in Kentucky had put up a stewards inquiry immediately after the race I would feel a lot better, but the foul claim by a totally uninvolved jockey (who just happened to have finished second) precipitating the DQ makes me crazy.

Thomas Brown asks: Is the racing secretary solely responsible for setting race conditions at each track? Is there any oversight from the USTA? Sometimes the conditions are so broad it allows the better class of horses to fall into a race they shouldn’t be allowed in. Another question, years ago the judges fined drivers for slowing down the pace. Why don’t they still do that?

The answer to you first question is yes. The racing secretary sets the racing conditions for each track. The USTA has nothing at all to do with it. The secretary or director of racing has the knowledge of the horses he has available to race and the amount in the purse account that may be used on a program to program basis.

The lack of horses available at most tracks of late is the main reason that some of the conditions seem so wide open. The racing office wants to provide the customers with the best available product as well as the fullest possible fields. Five or six horses in a race is not attractive to any gambler. It is also the job of the racing secretary to place the fields that you call too broad that have an odds-on favorites, or very short fields, in a place where they don’t affect the handle as much, for example the second half of the early or late daily double.

As far as drivers being fined for slowing the pace, it certainly still exists but with the speed we are racing and the higher purse structure it is not as prevalent as it was in years past. When I was a kid it would take a 33 or 34-second quarter for a judge to evoke a penalty. Today, if I were in the booth I could see a fine for going 30 seconds, especially after a 27-second previous panel as the slow down would cause confusion behind the lead horse.

Toni David asks: We feed the best hay we can get but I know a lot of barns feed hay cubes. What hay do you like the best to feed racehorses and how do you feel about cubes?

I trained horses for 60 years in the first half rarely if ever did we know that a horse “tied up” (severe muscle cramps i.e a swimmer or basketball player). The second half it seemed to happen way too often. I think that from the beginning I learned that alfalfa hay or a rich Timothy and Alfalfa mix was best for the racehorse. Whether it is breeding or an increased amount of certain elements in the feeding program, today’s horse does NOT flourish on rich hay. At the end I found that straight Timothy was best.

To be honest, I hated feeding any hay at all. Most of the time I would buy a few bales to appease my caretakers because they loved giving it to their horses in the morning when they are waiting to be jogged. I do on the other hand love hay cubes.

For certain, there is no waste, especially if you bed on straw where half the hay gets mixed in and is discarded every morning. Any trainer that is the slightest bit cost conscious should be aware that cubes are the way to go. Most of the good cubes are from Canada and a nice mix of hay that is not to rich, although you can but straight alfalfa cubes.

While on the subject I would also suggest that high protein, low fat feed should not be your preference. Your horses will be more relaxed and keep their weight with lower protein and higher fat content feed. There is nothing wrong with oats and sweet feed. I don’t think pellets are a must, although I do prefer them mainly because your horse will have a more nutritious and more balanced diet.

I prefer not to name products in my column but if you are interested in what brands are best for you ask any top trainer they will be glad to help you.

Thank you all so much for the kind words. Please keep the questions coming in. Have a wonderful week.

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