Tales from the road, thoughts on next fall without the Big M and Europeans beating up on U.S. trotters

Tales from the road, thoughts on next fall without the Big M and Europeans beating up on U.S. trotters

November 15, 2019

All this and much more from The Guru of opinions.

by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: I could not resist telling you this story. It is too ridiculous not to be true.

Shortly after Harrisburg, I packed up and started on my trek to Florida. The first of the two-day venture was wonderful. I-95 was basically empty and I breezed to within two miles of Florence, SC, my midway stopping point. Southbound traffic was at an absolute standstill. I was at mile marker 162 and my hotel was at 160A, two miles to go. Then I see a sign saying, ‘incident at exit 157.’ Okay, not my first bumper to bumper event. I finally get to the exit 160 A & B, that’s the good news. The bad news is that there are three state troopers blocking all of 95 south except 160B, which of course is a big highway that goes in the exact opposite direction from my hotel. In essence, I was within a five minute walk from my destination when the rerouting occurred. It gets better. Now going 3 MPH in the wrong direction, I have no idea how far I have to go to an exit where I can turn around.

After a half-hour, big pickups and SUV’s are starting to drive across the grassy median to make a U turn and escape. I was afraid my car was too low so I continued to plod along. “Exit 1 Mile” brought a smile to my weary face. However, the closer I got I could see flashing lights in the distance. As I crept closer to the exit, sure enough two state troopers were blocking the exit. I was surely on the road to HELL. About 5 minutes later and out of the troopers view I headed for the grass and made my escape. When I pulled in the driveway of the hotel it was a 2 ½ hour journey that should have been five minutes. It gets better.

I check in, shower, shave, and go out to a local steakhouse for dinner. I get back to the hotel, turn on the TV and get in bed. I notice the bed is vibrating. I investigate and it seems to be coming from the floor. I tried to put it behind me, but after I turned the TV off it was pervasive and I tossed and turned and couldn’t sleep. I call the front desk and they immediately send up an ENGINEER. Mind you the floor was vibrating so much that water would have spilled out of a full glass. This dolt walks all around says he doesn’t feel a thing. I am thinking he is brain dead. He calls the manager to join the party. It is now midnight. He comes bouncing threw the door and before anyone says a thing he claims “I don’t feel any vibration.” I am thinking,
THIS MUST BE GASLIGHT…

They offer me another room that I graciously accept, on a higher floor.

The new room had a similar vibration, but I wasn’t leaving the hotel so I took a sleeping pill and crashed.

The next day as I hit the Florida line, the sun was shining and my horrid experience was on the back burner, my phone rang and I looked at the number and it was familiar but I couldn’t think of why. “Mr. Gurfein, this is the Hilton Gardens Inn in Florence. We have a problem. Our computer has lost all your credit card information. Would you please read me the details of your Visa card?” I replied, “I am terribly sorry. I am driving a car at 80 MPH and cannot think of risking my life to give you that information at this time.”

* * *

There was a very touching piece by Bob Adams from London, ON in the feedback section of HRU last weekend. I really feel for Bob and his buddies, but we need to address this problem first hand. Bob Adams is just one of many on both sides of the border that are victims of losing owners because of dishonesty. This is a problem not discussed enough when trying to clean up the sport.

Not that I think these piranhas have enough heart to care, but maybe someone will feel bad for the Adams family and come forward with some valuable information.

Unfortunately, I know so many honest great trainers that lost their clients to PED trainers and were forced to give up racing as a livelihood. Let’s stop pointing fingers and get down to business. I cannot name names in this column without proof, but unless you are brain dead you know who the devils are. Let’s do something now to weed them out and get the Bob Adams’ of the world the owners that their talents deserve. We all know there are guys crushing the competition all over that should be behind bars.

* * *

I received an interesting email from Bas Crebas a trainer/driver from the Netherlands. He writes in regard to driving Greenshoe, “I don’t think he is as hot as he looks. Brian Sears drives with his lines way too long and then he cannot hold him. If Svanstedt drove him he never would have lost a race.”

We will never know if my friend from the Netherlands is correct, but in my heart he could not possibly be more wrong.

Richard Ronish asks: What will happen (to the Fall Freshman Final Four) if the Meadowlands doesn’t actually have a fall meet in 2020. Will it be an early ending to the 2-year-old season?

I really don’t think so there are definite alternatives. WEG seems to always be available to bail us out. I contacted Clay Horner in regard to their picking up the 2-year-old year-end stakes in the fall and he was non-committal. However he had a positive tone and I feel like the discourse was encouraging. Also, with all the money churning in the Midwest there are a number of other possibilities. Personally, I would like to see the stakes in a longer Red Mile meeting so the 2-year-olds could be put away in a more reasonable time frame. In this writer’s opinion, 2-year-olds should be on the grass when the first frost comes. Judging from the power of the recent sales there will surely be a savior somewhere, but the cost of admission may become a little more challenging.

Craig Gordon asks: (first he sends me the printout of the Nancy Johansson positive for Gabapentin on Manchego in Ohio) Was this in the feed as usual?

I am not saying it was in the feed or from a human urinating on the hay. Both are in question. It’s just another case of a rash of positives for the same substance which in the opinion of the experts creates a serious doubt into the presence of foul play.

If one person is accused of a drug it’s likely serious, if many are caught it becomes a big question of origin as well as whether the test itself was properly done. I am tired of defending the innocent. If you have a question regarding a bicarb positive or an EPO positive I will be happy to address it, otherwise let sleeping dogs lie where they may.

By the way, from my understanding of Gabapentin, it is way more likely to put a horse to sleep than make him run faster.

Mel Cheplowitz asks: Buyers pay serious money for American-bred trotters. Why do we continue to get beaten up in our big races by the European-bred horses. A French horse beat our best in the Breeders Crown and an Italian horse cruised in the $1 million Yonkers International?

Mel, this is nothing new. Foreign horses have always won here, if they didn’t ,why would they come? Racing in America is not as much of a sport as it is on the continent and there is so much money in the racing of younger horses in the States that it totally dilutes the aged product.

There is little racing opportunity for any real money for a 2-year-old in Europe. And not much more for 3-year-olds. Therefore, they are building a strong, fit and sound aged group of equine athletes. On the other hand, our best are raced out and sore before the reach the 4-year-old season.

With the speed we are witnessing today, the problem is more evident. We have seen a bunch of 1:49 3-year-old trotters, how sound can they be at five? The bones of a 2- and 3-year-old are far more porous than a 4-year-old, so the constant speed tears them apart.

I have said all that and I still haven’t even mentioned the money aspect. With top yearlings commonly bringing $400,000 to $1 million the value of a top 3-year-old is amazing. With shares of these stallions bringing upwards of $150,000, we are valuing some stallions over $18 million. Hanover paid $14 million for Greenshoe before the Breeders Crown. An older horse at the top can race three lifetimes and not approach that kind of money. To have horses in the U.S. that would be competitive on the national stage we would have to change the entire dynamic of racing. It is so obvious that speed kills and is far worse today. The last top international horse in our country was Moni Maker, that was 20 years ago, she was born in the same year as a filly named Continentalvictory. “Connie” was trotting vicious miles in 1:52 while Moni Maker was easing her way through the Sires stakes and was victorious in the Hambletonian Oaks in a pedestrian 1:55. That set her up for a career netting $5 million while the fast miles set Continentalvictory up for the breeding shed.

Thanks to all my readers for the kind words. Please keep the questions coming in. Unfortunately only one of the four year-end 2-year-old stakes at the Meadowlands has eliminations this weekend. I am sure the cards will fill with good races. Enjoy the weekend and have a wonderful week.

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