HRU Feedback (2020-01-05)

Really, Ron?

In a previous post I stated, contrary to Mr. Gurfein’s comment, that buying groups are good for the sport (full story here). It is my belief that although it has increased prices at sales, it was also decreased participants bidding for stakes horses .and that a very select group of wealthy owner groups control those major stakes. I used myself as someone who has now limits participation in yearling sales. Does he really think I’m alone? I don’t know the statistics, but I have a feeling there are considerably fewer members of the USTA today than 10 years ago and five years ago. Maybe I’m wrong and Ron should look it up. I’d be happy to apologize.

His rebuttal was to say my comment (2019-12-29 HRU Feedback) was socialistic and that the cream comes to the top.

He comments that the thoroughbreds are no different, stating the best few trainers get the best horses. Notice he says trainers, not buying groups. This is not about trainers. Of course the most talented trainers get the best horses. That’s a whole different conversation that I think if people care I will write about.

Mr. Gurfein also had a lame comeback about fewer tracks. He asks “When was the last profitable track closing?”

I’m still laughing. Tracks don’t close because they are profitable. Tracks close because no one goes there anymore.

He states there are good purse opportunities at various tracks and he included Kentucky and Pompano. Really?

One only has to watch the broadcasts of the Pennsylvania tracks. Harrah’s and Pocono both operate a track because they have to. It’s only a matter of time when they circumvent that. Didn’t the Meadowlands once operate five days a week ? Didn’t Chicago once have 3 tracks?

I’m also concerned about the future of racing at Yonkers. If you believe Pompano, once a very popular venue, will still be racing in a couple years, I have a bridge you can get your girlfriend to buy.

I realize it’s part of the job to put a positive spin on harness racing. One does not like negative comments which may even speed up the decline. However, calling me sinful or calling negative comments sinful, is not the way to go. Calling my comments socialistic is silly. I refrain from calling you names and I sure have a lot of them.

We need to come up with new marketing ideas to get people to want to go to the track.

I applaud the attempts to increase betting and attendance at Woodbine Mohawk. I believe it is possible to improve the sport in many ways. The issue is very few are willing to change. Believing what worked 25 years ago still works is way off base. One needs to change with the times. We need a progressive leadership. it’s just not there now.

I love the sport. I’m still in it, even with all the issues. Everyone who reads this knows what I’m speaking about.

I wish I was 20 years younger. – Richard Young / Boca Raton, FL

— Richard Young / Boca Raton, FL

Defending Bettors Wish

While I will make no comment on Richard Young’s pejorative opinion on horse partnerships, the future of harness racing and the cost of yearlings created by free market buyers, I do take exception to his written statement, “Sure, every once in a while a lessor bred horse falls thru the cracks and becomes special. Thank you, Bettors Wish.”

Bettor’s Wish is an exceptional-bred horse that didn’t fall thru the cracks. For starters, he was a typical Bettors Delight in that he was small plus he was a ridgling. BUT he had conformation and a PEDIGREE and his dam was by Western Ideal and even though I do not necessarily subscribe to crosses, Moses would know that Bettors Delight on a Western Ideal dam is a niche that works often. And now for the best, his maternal family runs true to form, his 2nd Dam produced Allstar Legend 1.48 ($543,423), his 3rd Dam produced American Ideal p ($786,055) and his 4th Dam, Three Diamonds (2 and 3 year old pacing filly of the years ’81 and ’82), produced Life Sign p 3 1.50.3 ($1,912,454).

A more remarkable pedigree you will seldom find and if you did, it probably would be in a Brittany Farms consignment. So, hopefully, I will be fortunate enough to find a yearling with a similar pedigree and catch it when it falls thru the cracks!

— Craig Birchard / Holzhausen, Germany

More response to Richard Young

This is in response to Richard Young’s letter to HRU on Sunday, Dec. 29 (full story here).

In it, Richard laments the fact that many of the high priced yearlings are being purchased by partnerships, in effect driving people like him with a ceiling price of $200K out of the ballpark.

I couldn’t disagree more with Richard’s view regarding partnerships for a multiplicity of reasons.

I’ll list my own experience as an example.

I have owned parts of horses including broodmares, sucklings, weanlings, yearlings, 2-year-olds and racehorses for the last 61 consecutive years.

I can say without reservation that I would not have owned a single horse alone if not for these partnerships.

The main reason of course is that I could not afford to.

There are other reasons as well. I enjoy the camaraderie of joint ownerships. I have had partners with whom I have made great friendships. I’ve also had some whom I’ve never met.

I’ve played at the top (rarely), usually in the middle and rarely at the bottom.

Most of our owners do not play in the six-figure ballpark.

I would venture to say that the majority are middle to upper middle class folks who are in the game for the fun involved, with a few hoping to maybe make a profit ot maybe to lose just a little.

With specific reference to Mr. Young, from my observation, his buying for as long as I can remember has been almost entirely focused on pacers.

The majority of the yearlings bringing astronomically high prices have been trotters.

According to my possibly incorrect figures, there were only a total of 18 $200,000 or more priced pacing bred yearlings sold last year — 10 at Lexington and eight at Harrisburg. That certainly leaves many, many more high quality pacers available.

There are several options available to Mr. Young:

1. Adopt “if you can’t beat them join, them”. I’ve found partnerships to be enjoyable. You might as well.

2. Raise your sights and spend some more.

3. Lower your sights and spend less, there is plenty of value to be found at less than $200,000.

4. Do as you have apparently decided to do. Stay on the sidelines.

— Murray Brown / Florida

Greenshoe: greatest trotter ever?

I read with great interest The Guru’s recent explanation for Brian Sears’ ultra-conservative drive behind Greenshoe in the Breeders Crown: because Sears had to warm up a runaway Bold Eagle before his drive on Greenshoe, Sears “had to jump on Greenshoe when he wasn’t near to 100 per cent himself.” This reminds me of the excuse given when Bret Hanover, whose sportsman owner Thurman Downing had the guts to race him at four, lost his final race, finishing third at Hollywood Park to 3-year-old True Duane and 10-year-old Cardigan Bay. The excuse: Bret’s trainer/driver Frank Ervin had just undergone major dental surgery, was in intense pain, thus was unable to properly rate Bret during the race. Bret went a world record 1:54.3 for the mile; unfortunately the race was for a distance of 1 1/8 miles. As for Greenshoe, I keep thinking of legendary football coach Bill Parcells’ maxim: “You’re only as good as your record says you are.”

Yet, a number of harness pundits have claimed that Greenshoe is the greatest trotter ever, or at least close to that. Dr. Jablonsky of Hanover: “He is the horse of a generation” and “his gait is a thing of beauty.” Anders Strom, one of the owners, stated that Greenshoe “is the most capable and technically most perfect gaited horse since Muscle Hill.”

A few facts regarding Greenshoe: His trainer, Marcus Melander, exclaimed, “I’m always nervous when he races” and proclaimed that early on he could not bear to watch the start of the horse’s races. Most often, drivers of 1-5 shots that have been heralded as super horses will make a bold rush to the front at the start of a big race or later make a bold move down the backside to avoid trouble. Sears in the Breeders Crown, admittedly under very bad conditions, lacked the confidence that the horse could make a bold move without exploding. At the greatest of trotting stakes, the Hambletonian, Greenshoe, the prohibitive 3-10 chalk, looked very uncomfortable at the start and brought up the rear in much of the race, eventually closing well but failing to catch the longshot winner, Forbidden Trade. Having questions regarding Greenshoe’s durability, his trainer gave him three weeks off before the Hambo. The Guru later blamed the layoff for the loss. To be honest, this horse has been micromanaged like a thoroughbred from day one, only racing four times at age two and breaking in all four starts. When the horse had a chance to redeem himself late in the season in the TVG 3-year-old trot or the TVG open facing older horses, his owners chose to act like hedge-fund managers, and not courageous sportsmen, by ducking both those races. Their stated reason: Greenshoe needed time at the farm to work on his sperm count!

Look, as an owner, I know it’s a business, too, and I understand the huge investments made in yearling purchases and stakes payments, private property rights, ROI or return on investment, and such, but imagine how much greater the night of the TVG races would have been with Greenshoe racing, perhaps against older horses. The entire Greenshoe scenario screams out one basic truth: the sport and its diminishing fan base would be in a far better place if the sport still had the act of utter genius that was the Gural Rule.

Greenshoe is clearly a great horse. But the greatest trotter ever? Not even close. Consideration for that title is reserved for champions with near perfect records at two and three, some of whom had owners with the courage to race at four and also in some cases participate on a world-class level in the Prix d’Amerique or the Elitlopp or the International. Again, to quote Coach Parcells: “You’re only as good as your record says you are.”

— William Waters / Gloucester City, NJ