Answering an Alagna critic, thoughts on drivers’ posture and speed bikes and my take on Dexter Dunn

Answering an Alagna critic, thoughts on drivers’ posture and speed bikes and my take on Dexter Dunn

June 14, 2019

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by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: My apologies for stating that Pilot Discretion was unraced at two. He won his only two starts at the Red Mile in early closing events.

On the subject of enforcing the no-holes-given-in-the-first-turn rule at the Meadowlands, I have been in contact with Jeff Gural. He said he has been in touch with Peter Koch the presiding judge who said that he wanted to wait until July when all the drivers are back so he had the entire driving colony as his audience when he addresses this matter. Once again, STAY TUNED.

I consider myself somewhat of an ardent sports fan, and have witnessed many odd sports happenings but the horrendous display of poor sportsmanship by the Raptor fans cheering when Kevin Durant injured his right leg in game five in Toronto takes the cake. What were they thinking? All the announcers on the show were shell shocked and tried to no avail to just let it go, but over the next few minutes found it impossible. There is no doubt that the display created a fire in the Warriors that lasted to the buzzer and gave them the victory. Karma does extraordinary things.

Lots of noteworthy happenings last weekend. Congratulations to Tim Tetrick for winning his 11,000th race in fine fashion with the brilliant Brian Brown speedster Workin Ona Mystery in a NA Cup elimination, and then the following afternoon taking three of the four graduate divisions at Tioga on the way to a five-win afternoon.

Similarly, congratulations to my buddies in the Bettors Wish camp who in winning the other division of the NA Cup showed the harness world he belonged in with any 3-year-old around right now.

What a training job by Ronnie Burke with De Los Cielos Deo. I loved this colt when he sold as a yearling and last week I asked my readers if anyone could explain why he had been so dull. Then he qualified in 1:48 and came back to finish a huge second in the NA Cup elimination on Saturday pacing his last quarter in 25 seconds, Amazing turnaround.

Greenshoes’ amiable owner Anders Ström wrote me a note explaining that there were two reasons they changed the name of the colt from Rifleman. First he said “we try to name all our horses in a certain year with a different letter of the alphabet and his year it was G.” He went on to explain that Rifleman was sort of an improper name at the time, as the horrible Las Vegas shooting had just taken place.

Craig Gordon asks: Where are all the Alagna monsters that you told us were so great all winter? It’s the middle of June and his horses haven’t earned a dollar yet.

First of all, I will repeat that Tony doesn’t need me to defend him, his ability will speak for him. That said, it will be my pleasure to watch you EAT HUMBLE PIE when I have completed my essay on the subject.

I rarely write about 3-year-olds, so you are wrong to start with. I had great praise for Captain Ahab as to me he was a man amongst boys. His poor performance last week was a result of a minor physical issue and hopefully he will return shortly to the top contender I know he is.

As for the Alagna Barn not showing up, let’s go over the weekend activities. Pilot Discretion won the fastest division of the Goodtimes and marked himself the favorite in the final as he remains undefeated. Tall Drink Hanover was second in her elimination of the Fan Hanover to Warawee Ubeaut the 2-year-old champion. Treacherous Reign won her elimination of the Fan Hanover from post 10.

Then on Saturday morning we saw the results of a long winter of training in the debut of the first Alagna babies. All winter I said that Chief Mate was the best horse in Florida. (One thing about HRU we have an archive so if you want to check up on my writing, every column I ever wrote is available for your inspection).

Chief Mate won wire-to-wire in 1:55.1, last quarter in :26.3. Also from Tony’s barn, It’s Showtime was another wire to wire colt in 1:54.3, last quarter in :26.4.

The next time you want to throw someone under the bus make sure your timing is a little better.

John Kelley asks: How much does a driver’s posture in the bike affect the outcome of a race? How much has the advent of the $5,000 race bike helped the sport?

The drivers posture in the bike creates a tremendous advantage when he is laid out at 180 degrees. Number one, it eliminates all wind displacement (i.e. no drag from the air hitting his body) and , number two, with the distance the new bikes seats are located so far from the horse the added distance a following horse has can be close to a length.

Now multiply that by nine horses and it places the 10th horse in the field more than two seconds or eight lengths further back than he should be.

These race bikes are worse than automobiles. When new cars come out you don’t NEED to buy one or be out of luck, when a new and faster bike appears you are forced to buy one or be non-competitive. The only thing new bikes are good for is speed records and making the manufacturer more money.

However, we are in a free enterprise system and telling trainers what equipment they can or can’t use is a slippery slope. I personally would stay away from these kind of confrontations. Jeff Gural leveled the playing field and took the “bike edge” away from the sharp gamblers by color coding the various brand of sulkies, that is enough regulation for me.

As for the posture in the bike, I can’t get the judges to fine drivers for ripping their horses faces to give their buddies a hole, so how will they ever listen when I tell them the driver should remain erect through the race?

I remember the first bikes I had in the ‘60s. In my Houghton Faber I could pat a horse on the side of his butt. In the new bikes I can’t get within two feet of the tail.

Neil Zelkin asks: I remember reading a story about the arrival of Dexter Dunn less than a year ago. His expectations at the time were modest. Do you think he has succeeded? How high is the ceiling for this kid?

In all fairness to you, I will point out to my readers you asked this question before the amazing weekend Dexter had in Toronto last Saturday night winning a division of the NA Cup with Bettors Wish and a division of the Fan Hanover with Treacherous Reign.

Without question this young phenom is here to stay. His driving style is much like his quiet almost shy demeanor. He reminds me a lot of Catello Manzi, but a smaller version. I don’t think anyone was quieter in a bike than Cat.

Dexter can race on top and off the pace and seems to have that special knack of being in the right place at the right time a la John Campbell.

He had the advantage of the fact that we have so many great Down Under trainers who used him initially and then with his success the floodgates opened and the world became his oyster. I think his friendship with Andy McCarthy has helped him adjust also. Andy himself has blossomed into a first-rate reinsman and seeing their interaction in Florida leads me to think their friendship has been more than productive.

One thing for certain, when the dog days of summer are with us, along with all the stakes conflicts that confront us at that time of the year, the presence of Dexter and Andrew will be of major help to the training colony.

Once again, I thank all of you for your kind words. Please keep the questions coming in and a Happy Father’s Day to all of you. Please don’t miss the amazing racing at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday night. Have a great week.

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