Also, contemplating the Breeders Crown at Red Mile, breeding American stallions to top Down Under mares and thoughts on whether Balmoral will reopen for racing.
by Ron Gurfein
Tidbits: The amazing program put on by the Meadowlands last Saturday night certainly didn’t disappoint. The problem with the timing of my column and Saturday night racing is that by the time you read Ask The Guru, last Saturday is old news. So, reviewing the winners is a waste of time, but I will throw in some comments. On the positive side, Bret Pelling has returned to our shores with the same talent he left with. I don’t think he has lost a step. Ake Svanstedt at age 61 is setting the world on fire, Yannick Gingras did his usual big night thing and the two Andy’s, McCarthy and Miller, as they normal do, put themselves in the right place at the right time.
On the negative side, I think we are racing our horses too much. In the eight stakes races Saturday five big favorites went down to defeat, all arguably the best of their divisions a month ago. We are definitely going too fast too often. It was 43 degrees and the track was downgraded to good with a -1 variant and the pacing mares went in 1:48 — crazy.
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BETTORS WISH IS THE HORSE OF THE YEAR. No discussion of what races he won or lost. He was never back of second the entire year and was 19 13-6-0 with $1,650,000. He was second Saturday against older horses after a brutal trip.
I studied the top horses carefully and the only one that were in the mix were Shartin N who dominated a very mediocre group, and Papi Rob Hanover who could have gotten the vote if he wasn’t DQ’d in the Breeders Crown.
Greg Gangle (Racing Manager, The Raceway at Western Fair District) asks: How do you think the Down Under mares will do in the American breeding shed, and at the sales?
I personally am a lover of distant outcrosses. We have seen, of late, American trotting mares bred to European stallions with great success. International Moni, a son of the great Moni Maker is by Love You a European stallion. International Moni was a top stakes horse in the U.S. and with better racing luck may well have won the Hambletonian. He stands stud at Hanover Shoe Farm. There are also some sons of Ready Cash, also a stallion from the continent ,doing good things on the Grand Circuit. Ready For Moni was a game second in the Valley Victory Saturday night at the Meadowlands pushing his 2-year-old earnings to nearly $300,000.
Delicious, the good trotting filly I exported to Sweden, broke records all over Europe. She is by Cantab Hall out of Ipsara LB an Italian mare. Unfortunately, I paid little attention to Down Under broodmares, but I will tell you one thing for sure, I would love to be selling a Captaintreacherous colt out of Shartin N in the near future.
The sample as of this writing is too small to make a positive assessment but I would definitely take a chance if I liked the individual.
As for sales, the foreign pedigree will definitely hurt unless it’s the first or second foal of a great race mare.
John Deters asks: Do you ever hear of any discussion of having the Breeders Crown at the Red Mile?
To Lexington addicts like myself and many others this would be a dream come true, but there are so many things to take into consideration, the biggest of which is money.
If we could solve that problem, the logistics are also tough. It means sending a horse with your caretakers and trainers to a place that is, for the most part, seven to 11 hours away for another three weeks — or if you are already there for the Grand Circuit, it would mean staying an additional period. The expenses would be a problem, but the reward of having the races earlier in the year and on a great racing surface would make much of the headaches go away.
I have heard other problems with the plan that included the weather being a factor as there is limited sheltered seating for an event of that magnitude and the clubhouse itself is too small for the food service and seating they would need.
After surveying the situation to the fullest I find that all the stumbling blocks can be overcome if the money was there and some have even told me the money could be there under the proper circumstances. The expense for the event itself is $900,000 to the racetrack. That does not include any money for the onsite changes that are needed in order to make the patrons comfortable.
Could it be done? YES. Will it be done in the foreseeable future? Probably not in a year or two. But after speaking with the people that are the most important in this endeavor, my feeling is that down the road it will happen. There have been discussions about building a hotel on the property and if the antiquated clubhouse area becomes the attachment point of the hotel and the property, a major new dining room would be in the works. Trackside tents in the first turn are also a possibility. I could bore you to death with scenarios. Instead, I will just keep my fingers crossed.
Bob Stewart asks: Is there any validity to the story that Balmoral could reopen?
I got the question and immediately went to the best source I know for Chicago information, Eliot “Doc” Narotsky, who was director of racing for most of Illinois for the past 30 years.
It is a possibility, but lots must change for it to become reality.
The company that owns the property is more than willing to sell. However, there are two major obstacles. One, Balmoral is not in a county named in the gambling bill for an approved casino. This can be overturned, not easily, but it is possible. The second and most difficult situation to overcome is that when the forced sale of the property occurred there was a caveat that there could be no gambling on the grounds for a period of 10 years after the sale. That would bring the possibility of a casino to the year 2026 which is a long time to wait while others are trying to secure a license to open in other areas. According to Doc the possibility does exist but there would have to be an almost perfect storm for it to succeed.
No one loved Illinois Racing more than I did and I might think of putting my colors back on if Illinois stakes returned.
Bob Marks asks: Did you look at hip #88 Take This Society (Muscle Hill—Thatsnotmyname) at Harrisburg? How did he compare to the siblings that recently sold?
Yes, I looked at him as well as his sister the previous year. He brought $475,000 and she brought $500,000 last year.
I think they were very comparable, but not worth anywhere near their selling prices. Both got high marks from me, but not nearly the highest. Obviously, the pedigree is impeccable, but my marks were less than the half-million dollar range. Remember $500,000 today is the $250,000 yearling of a few years ago. We are in the midst of a great horse inflation. When you can sell a stallion for $14 million, the value of yearlings increases.
Concord sells a lot of high-profile horses and David Meirs told me that Take This Society was his favorite and I respect his opinion. If a colt like that has a big 2-year-old campaign, people will be knocking down the door to be in the winner’s circle come Hambletonian time next year. One thing is certain, that if he doesn’t have a great year Adam Bowden will be back next year to try again.
I will add that I found more minor faults in the colt than the filly, but I also thought he was the better gaited of the two.
I wish both Adam and SRF, the buyer of the filly, the best of luck on the racetrack. When you risk that kind of cash it’s always good to reap reward.
Thanks again to all of you for the kind words. Although the stakes season is over there are still a number of tracks still going and will throughout the winter months. I hope you all support your local tracks during this time, it’s when they need you most. Have a great week.
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