Thoughts on Jimmy Freight, girl power, second trainers, how syndicates work - and will Greenshoe be the fastest ever?

Thoughts on Jimmy Freight, girl power, second trainers, how syndicates work and will Greenshoe be the fastest ever?

June 28, 2019

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The Guru opines on this and more in this week’s installment.

by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: If there was any doubt in your mind who the fastest trotter in history is it should have been dispelled Saturday night at Pocono Downs in race 12. Greenshoe with his talented pilot “The White Knight” Brian Sears at 1-9 chose to race from off the pace in his elimination and Yannick Gingras with Osterc, took full advantage slowing the half to :57.1 setting up what was expected to be a challenge to the overwhelming favorite. It just didn’t turn out that way. Going past the half, Sears pulled on the right line and what appeared to be the start of a head and head struggle turned into a drive by, five-length romp. Greenshoe went by Osterc as if he had gone the half in :53 and was exhausted. Osterc is not your average horse having just won a PASS at Harrah’s Philadelphia in 1:52.2 last week. I am sorry to admit that I have run out of superlatives to describe the ability of this great colt. I hate to sound dramatic but just watching him score down takes my breath away. I just hope that Sears keeps him under wraps till the first Saturday in August where he can show his untapped ability to the entire racing world.

How good is Atlanta right now? AMAZING! Yannick Gingras knew it all along. The drive in the Graduate was amazing. He didn’t want to cork her trying for the top from the far outside so he floated from the gait, purposely got parked and sat without asking until the time was right and then just overwhelmed the competition. A very rare performance in a FFA event. You can see this in a NW class as a horse can be that much the best but in the top class it was fabulous.

Paul Archer asks: I see where you had a different opinion than others on Facebook last week as to whether or not Jimmy Freight belonged in the Hambletonian Society Top 10. What is your underlying reason?

Phillip W Tully (R.I.P.) one of my best friends and arguably the greatest horse salesman of our time made a more than profound statement: “Nobody has a higher opinion of a horse than the owner.” I am sorry if I offended Adriano (Sorella) and his friends, but my statements were based on fact, not theory. Every one of the horses listed above Jimmy had won a major stakes race. I had no intention to demean a top horse like Jimmy, just totally surprised at the upheaval the harness writers caused by his omission. The only accolades of any importance are those at the end of the year and to this writer they have been so erratic to say the least I don’t hang my hat on them either. The longer you spend in this business the more you learn you can’t be thin skinned and you should take most things with a grain of salt. If you are happy that’s what matters. What others think or wish is not of any importance. Jealousy abounds, if you pay too much attention you will soon learn that at some point someone will claim every driver, trainer, owner and horse has a major flaw. Don’t listen, go on with your life.

Joe Todisco asks: I have followed standardbred racing for 50 years and I noticed that female trotter can hold their own against the males but the female pacers struggle to beat their male counterparts. What is it about the trotting gait causes this difference?

I have two theories on this subject. The first one is simple mathematics. The trotting gait is basically much slower than the pacing gait. There is much more parity in the fastest female or male trotters. As a matter of fact, the fastest miles starting with Beat The Wheel 1:51.4 in the early nineties to today with Plunge Blue Chip and Atlanta have been world records for both sexes. So to begin with, they basically start out equal.

I don’t ever recall a filly or mare pacer approaching the 1:46 barrier.

My second theory, and the one I think is quite logical, is that fillies don’t like hopples, and therefore are much more relaxed on the trot and can stretch out more. A filly has to have a ton of grit to battle with her legs tied together. This idea has been with me for at least 50 years and if anyone remembers me from Monticello in the ‘60s and ‘70s I was always putting this theory to work. I would watch claiming fillies train all week and if I thought there was a good chance they could go without hopples I would claim them. Then qualify them free-legged and go from there. Did it always work? Of course not, but it worked enough to make it a successful endeavor.

Robert Yohn (note: he was second trainer to Del Miller and drove Delmonica Hanover in several of her two year old races): Back in the day, Dancer, Haughton and Miller would have their second trainers qualify and sometimes race their horses. Today second trainers are seldom allowed to drive. Why is that?

The business has totally changed. There were 150 horses qualifying at the Meadowlands on Saturday morning. Only two driver trainers, Ake Svanstedt and Trond Smedshammer. Most trainers and second trainers don’t drive at all. Off the top of my head Tony Alagna has Matt Krueger drive once in a while and Marcus Melander uses his brother Matias and Marcus Shoen and that’s about it for the bigger outfits. Ake‘s wife Sara drives, but not often.

Most of the smaller stables don’t have second trainers.

The business is so different today. Stanley and Billy were bigger than life and could do whatever they wanted to without a peep from an owner. Today’s owner wants a true professional behind his high priced colt, no assistants needed.

Paul London asks: Many of your answers to questions on high-priced yearlings are relating to the fact that the owners are investing for a future sire. I understand that one future sire will pay for a lot of future prospects. How do these syndications work? Let’s use Greenshoe as an example. He looks like a future superstar. If he keeps improving and wins the Hambletonian in 1:48.3 what value would you put on him as a sire? How does the syndication generate monies for the owners?

I will use a very successful syndication as my model. Muscle Hill was syndicated as a stallion for $12 million. Shares in him were sold as a racehorse at the end of his 2-year-old year, but I mention that only to prevent unwanted emails and don’t want to confuse the issue with extraneous facts.

There were 120 shares in the syndication at $100,000 each and the Stud Fee was set at $30,000. Each share would provide one breeding per year. You can readily imagine the financial windfall to the ownership that paid $50,000 for him as a yearling.

Subsequent to his original offering shares have traded for as low as $62,000 in his second year (before his foals raced) and many sold as high as $180,000 recently.
It is of interest to note that 25 per cent of the colts still eligible to this year’s Hambletonian are sons of Muscle Hill, a fact I find astounding considering the other top sires available.

As far as estimating a value of Greenshoe as a sire, it’s really improper for me to guess. Using your scenario it would definitely be in the same ballpark as Muscle Hill. He has a major pedigree advantage going for him as he will be a nice outcross to most Muscle Hill and Chapter Seven mares.

Owners are financially rewarded in a variety of ways. First, they have the option of selling their percentage of the horse at the syndication price to share buyers. They may choose to maintain their interest and breed to the stallion, or they can sell their yearly breeding to a mare owner that needs a breeding for the advertised stud fee in this case $25,000 at today’s price. This too is up for discussion as it becomes an instance of supply and demand and there are times when the breeding could be sold at a greater amount than the original price because of heightened interest.

My sincere thanks to Art Zubrod who furnished me with all the details of the Muscle Hill syndication.

To all my readers thanks again for the kind words. Your questions keep on getting better week after week for which I am very thankful. Enjoy the great finals of the Sun Stakes at Pocono tomorrow evening and have a wonderful week.

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