Manchego or Ubeaut be HOY? Should foreign horses win year-end awards? What if Lachance had driven Greenshoe?

Could Manchego or Warrawee Ubeaut be HOY? Should foreign horses be eligible for year-end awards here? What if Mike Lachance had driven Greenshoe?

November 8, 2019

That and much more in the latest installment of harness racing’s most popular advice column.

by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: There is no question the standardbred business is more than alive and well. After a marvelous sale in Lexington, the ball kept right on rolling through Harrisburg. The yearling sale was up almost 15 per cent in average from a great year in 2018 and had fireworks galore from the opening bell.

There were five $100,000 horses sold on Wednesday.

I like to declare my selections after every sale just to leave myself open to abuse. Some oddities were there was no pacing colt I loved. I thought, overall, the pacing colt selection was far below what was offered last year. I loved three pacing fillies that were all bought by Dana Parham. How strange is that? My favorite and everyone else’s was hip #47 Panda Hanover (may be the best looking yearling I have ever seen), second was hip #85 Takeway Hanover (I didn’t misspell it that’s how they named her) and the third was hip #139 Sofineublowmy mind. I hope for Dana’s sake I was on to something.

In the trotting fillies, I loved two I couldn’t separate hip #151 Derailed Hanover purchased by Paul Kelley and hip # 286 Piper Hanover purchased by Jim Glass for Marvin Katz and Brittany Farm. Last, but hopefully not least, my favorite trotting colt was hip #164 Goodashim Hanover bought by Lindy Farms. There is a good chance that all these yearlings could end up training at Sunshine Meadows along with the $1.1 million Maverick from the Lexington venue.

Thanks to all my readers that came by and introduced themselves at the sale. It was a pleasure to meet all of you. It was nice to match a face to some of the questions I have replied to in my column.

I got a great quote from Brett Pelling in reference to the disqualification of Papi Rob Hanover in the Breeders Crown. Being so perfectly politically correct — as you all know me to be — I will simply give you the quote and not elaborate on the matter. Brett said, “From now on in the school for judges they should use the tape of Papi Rob Hanover’s Breeders Crown, and it will be known as the STRANGE DECISION.”

A play on words by a bright man…

I had the pleasure of a call from the founder of Kentuckiana Farms the colorful Tom Crouch who asked: Why do all the people that write in to me criticize the drivers? He went on to say that “Brian Sears is the best. Greenshoe is not an easy horse to drive and with all the good horses available in the breeding shed I would be more likely to breed to a stallion that wasn’t hot and needed all that rigging. I would prefer to breed to Gimpanzee. I think he is the better horse.”

He added, “Staying Together passed away at the Kentucky Horse Park last week, I was the breeder of his sire and his dam.”

Chris Ryder informed me that his brilliant three year old Bettors Wish will race next year and not retire to stud as anticipated. I think that is great news to all his fans and lovers of the sport.

Steven Katz asks: It all comes down to the Breeders Crown, NOT. What is your feeling on the chances of the filly and mare that won Breeders Crowns, Manchego and Warrawee Ubeaut, becoming Horse of the Year?

Manchego is great now, but never hit the board in her first five stakes. In reality, she has only won two major races this year and is not, in this writer’s opinion, in anyway in a discussion for Horse of the Year.

Warrawee Ubeaut is a totally different story. She is great right now and while she was a little off her game early in the year she has never been off the board her entire season.

All things being equal, the top cannot collapse enough for her to get the nod. My understanding now is that Greenshoe will not race in the TVG. If they quit with him altogether they, in essence, throw in the towel on year-end honors at the top. I would think that the prize must go to Bettors Wish or Shartin N. The one that finishes the year best will be Horse of the Year. It’s pretty hard to beat what they have accomplished.

Frank Antonacci asks: Do you think foreign horses should be eligible for end of the year honors?

I am assuming you mean horses coming from outside the United States and Canada. If that is correct then I say horses bred elsewhere should absolutely not be eligible.

The only real financial gain to year-end honors goes to the breeder. That means that if we award the prize to a horse bred in a foreign country we are cheating the farms on our own soil of the proud distinction of breeding an end of the year champion.

Perfect example, if It came down to Shartin N and Bettors Wish, it would do much more for Brittany Farm to have another Horse of the Year than some Down Under breeder. As for the owner, it’s nice to win but there is little or no financial gain. If Shartin was to be sold when her racing is over, year-end honors wouldn’t add 5 per cent to her value. Just one man’s opinion.

Thomas Santoro asks: If Mike Lachance drove Greenshoe, would he have won the Hambletonian and the Breeders Crown? If you trained Greenshoe, would you have done things differently?

Mike and I had a good laugh at this question in Harrisburg. It’s basically impossible to answer. Mike and Brian are two of the greatest drivers that ever lived, but totally opposite in their approach to strategy on the racetrack. Marcus Melander is a very capable trainer and I won’t get into comparing our ability.

Mike has the ability to make a horse do what he wants, Brian is a finesse type driver and lets a horse find a rhythm before stepping on the gas.

All that said, we are talking about a very difficult horse. I am not only a fan of Marcus and his horse, but he is also quite friendly, and I have listened to the pain he has gone through training that speedy colt. Personally, I would have liked to see more of him, but when you have deposited $14 million in the bank you must protect the investment. Just look back and remember what a tough 2-year-old year he had. Marcus got him 95 per cent better at three. The 5 per cent that was missing was what cost him the two major races.

As for the second part of the question, I have written it before and I will say it again, I would never have given him as much time between races because fractious colts are far worse when they are too fresh, they are better off a little tired.

Thank you so much for all the kind words. Please keep the questions coming in. There still is plenty of great racing on the horizon. The year is not over, yet. To all of you that bought horses at the recent sales I wish you the best of luck. If you are in South Florida, you are always welcome to see the show at Sunshine Meadows home of some Breeders Crown champions and quite possibly some horses with year-end honors. Have a wonderful week.

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