by Ron Gurfein
Tidbits: It’s truly refreshing to see how far our little online magazine reaches. On my story of an odd happening on my way to Florida last week, I got so much mail from folks in that area of South Carolina explaining the cause of my dilemma. There were multiple deaths in a bizarre accident that occurred causing my two plus hour journey that should have been five minutes. From Maine to Key West there are harness racing fans. Thanks for the information.
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Due to numerous questions sent in about Ontario’s new whipping rule, all by horsemen that would prefer to remain anonymous because of fear of reprisal, I must bring up the serious part of the matter, which is: why should anyone be afraid of reprisal? Canada is not George Orwell’s 1984.
I have no power whatsoever on the happenings across the border, but I have been made fully aware of the overbearing fines and penalties for the new rule.
In the United States, I can make some waves as I am friendly with many judges and commission members. Unfortunately, I do not know one official in Canada. Hopefully mentioning the dissatisfaction of both Canadian and American drivers to the new rule will bring some changes to what seems to me to be an untenable situation.
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Fabulous Saturday program at the Meadowlands tomorrow. If you can make it to the track, it looks to be an evening to remember. Great horses and many year-end honors on the line.
For those of you in South Florida now, my favorite restaurant ,Trattoria Romano, has a pasta special for the next 30 days. If you like truffles it’s called Calamarata and is not ridiculously expensive ($38) and is as good as it gets… Please call for reservations or the wait will be unbearable.
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I am not dreaming. The Miami Heat are really 9-3 the third best record in all of the NBA. All this with two of their projected starters out, one on concussion protocol and one a 10 game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. On the other hand, my Wildcats (Kentucky basketball) have started the year in strange fashion. They defeated no. 1 Michigan State convincingly in game one and lost to Evansville, a 25-point underdog, at Rupp Arena. The Wildcats followed it up limping to a win over another 25 point underdog in game three. Either the bookmakers are misjudging the betting line or the Cats need some major improvement. Stay tuned.
While on the subject of sports, does anyone realize the World Series is over?
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Tanking for Tua is over in South Florida as well as Washington DC and Cincinnati. In one of the saddest moments in sports of recent times Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama’s famed quarterback, who had been playing hurt to begin with, was still on the field in a 35-7 blowout and ended his year with a broken hip falling awkwardly at the end of play. No matter what the prognosis, I can’t imagine him remaining in the discussion for the number one draft selection. I am sure that he has some sort of insurance, but incidents like this speaks volumes in the proposals for financial compensation to amateur athletes.
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Richard Conte asks: What ever happened in the Richard Zeron case and when will the Meadowlands loosen up their exclusionary policy? Kap Singh (owner of the great filly When Dovescry and owner of many horses in the Rene Allard barn also asked similar questions)…
To begin, with I must enter a statement that the answer to this question comes entirely from this writer’s thoughts and in no way intentional or otherwise reflects the opinions of anyone else at Harness Racing Update.
In the Zeron affair, the powers that be lessened the term of the penalty, lowered the fine and dismissed a few of the charges. Basically a vanilla situation, as I said it was in the first place. The most pressing problem involved more of the way Rick handled the situation and not the incident itself. Although there was a slightly smoking gun (Zeron offered to pay his veterinarian’s fine) this is just another case of chasing someone who is doing well and thus suspected of evil doing — with no real proof of anything approaching sinister. To me it reminds me of the situation with Lou Pena. The commission has a person that they believe because of the many form reversals is guilty of using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Even The Guru was inclined to agree. However, the hammer cannot fall without proof and the commission had none. So just like in the movies, they made up proof, using his vet records for a lengthy period they showed he was treating his horses too close to race time. Sadly, these records are entered in a less than formal fashion and there will be multiple records that are totally incorrect. Anyone could have fallen victim under those circumstances.
I would venture to say that there isn’t one trainer racing a major stable that could pass that scrutiny without some crazy penalty.
In fact, if you train a large stable, the environment is bound to get you in hot water, and these discoveries should be given a whole lot less credence.
Bicarb and EPO are not in that category, and there is no way I can stress any more than I have that there is where our inspector Closeaus should be spending their time and effort.
As for when the Meadowlands will be loosening up their exclusionary policy, I hope NEVER. My problem is not with the policy but who gets excluded. I tried to get a reversal on my friend Rene Allard and I still await a decision. The guy has been in the penalty box for a misdeed of seven years ago. That’s too long to punish any horseman and at the same time deprive the fans of seeing When Dovescry on the greatest track in the land. I am not saying all this off the top of my head. I went directly to one of my closest friends Mike Lachance and had a lengthy discussion on Rene and he agreed that he should be reinstated ASAP. Recently, I have read many articles that major horseman have voiced the opinion that he should be back at the Big M.
There are a few trainers that I know well and have known for a very long time racing in the east and midwest. I remember when they couldn’t win a race, now they win them all. Will I accuse them of cheating? For sure. Can I prove it? Unfortunately not. I am privileged to have a hotline to the industry and when the proof comes across the wire I promise the hammer will fall. Remember, if you see something say something in the interest of our sport.
Bob Marks asks: Did you expect Continentalvictory to be a top broodmare and what were your thoughts on Continental Man her first foal?
When you are privileged to break and train a filly of that caliber you certainly expect she will produce a great horse. However, it has been my experience that what you want and what you get are not always the same. Having trained many great mares previous to Continentalvictory — like Imperfection, Cayster and Franconia that produced little or actually nothing that resembled their talents on the racetrack I was not exactly shocked at the failure of Continentalvictory to produce a great foal.
I will say in her defense, she never had a foal that was an outstanding individual. The fact that I never even bid on one of her foals goes a long way in explaining what I feel she never had much chance.
As for Continental Man he was not a good looking colt by any means and was so crooked in front he looked like he could hit a knee on the way to his feed tub. Add to that he was small and very narrow behind. He was a son of Malabar Man who was not on my radar as a sire to have in my shedrow.
If I have been unkind, I am sorry but I have only offended those who are no longer with us. The purchasers of the $425,000 colt were my friends and my clients, your old boss Wild Bill Perretti and Big Jim Wheeler — may they rest in peace.
Craig Gordon asks: I counted 60 2-year-olds in the Alagna training roster. Not one made the Governor’s Cup. Where are all the world champions you raved about from The Deck?
First of all I don’t ever rave about a 2-year-olds till they have beaten someone, especially pacers. How you continue to demean one of the finest trainers of our time bewilders me. Tony’s stable comes off a world class performance at the Breeders Crown, his 2-year-olds will surely be under discussion for year-end honors with the exception of trotting colts that if he had any it may have been one.
He is doing what I believe is the right thing to do with 2-year-olds, put them away before the first frost. In Philadelphia, where I live, that was in early November and the Alagna barn is about 60 miles north of me.
Someday, you may want Tony as your trainer. I would ease up on the questioning if you want a stall or two in his outfit.
Joel Kravet asks: (as usual, Joel wrote a novel, so I am leaving most of the question on the cutting room floor) I have visited European racetracks and find their trotters to be heavier and bigger boned than the American version. Can you buy an American bred colt and train them to be competitive for European Racing?
I am not so sure that to be successful in Europe a colt has to be on the style of the typical French trotter. Two of the fastest European performers in recent years were Propulsion — bred and raised in Kentucky by Elizabeth and Rickie Caldwell’s, Cane Run Farm, and Delicious bred and raised at Lindy Farms of Connecticut. The former trained at 2 and 3 by Tony Alagna in the U.S. and the latter trained by yours truly at 2 and 3 in the U.S.
Neither one would I describe as being a Euro-style horse. Is a matter of fact, Delicious was about 14 hands and 800 pounds. A great horse comes in all shapes and sizes. Pedigree is far more important than size.
Someone out there is going to say that Delicious is out of an Italian-bred dam, which is true, but the Italian-bred yearling is similar or lighter-boned than his American counterpart and in no way near the bulk of the French trotter.
Thanks to everyone for their kind words. Please keep the questions coming in. If you have submitted a question recently and haven’t seen it published, yet, it still can be forthcoming, I basically answer all the queries unless I feel the answer will be offensive to someone. I was asked about rigging on a filly and thought about running afoul of PETA, but I no longer feel intimidated by them and will print the answer next week. The $1.1 million yearling show is about to begin, pull up a chair and get comfortable. It will be a story worth listening to. Have a wonderful week.