What were some USHWA voters thinking?

What were some USHWA voters thinking?

January 10, 2020

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Plus, thoughts on Aaron Merriman, why the Big M does not provide a free live stream and which million-dollar yearling I graded higher.

by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: I hate to sound like a broken record, but what were the USHWA voters thinking when they went to the polls for year-end honors (page 4 in 2020-01-05 edition)?

How does Papi Rob Hanover lose 2-year-old pacing colt to Tall Dark Stranger?

Some ghost of Christmas past in another venue claimed I was unfair saying that the voting was corrupt. If this doesn’t prove me correct, nothing will.

If the votes were cast Aug. 15, I would tend to agree but the only mark against Papi Rob Hanover from the middle of summer to the Governor’s Cup was a highly questionable DQ in the Breeders Crown that was handed to a beaten Tall Dark Stranger on a silver platter. After that fiasco, Papi went on to literally crush the competition in the Matron and Governor’s Cup, just as he had crushed Tall Dark Stranger in the elimination to the Breeders Crown. Tall Dark Stranger only raced in one Grand Circuit stake in the U.S. All his other starts in stakes completion were in mostly indigenous races in Canada.

As for the rest of the voting, complaining wears thin, something must be changed to make the outcome more reality based. The fact that someone voted against Shartin N or Bettors Wish blows my mind and their privilege of voting should be rescinded immediately.

To remain somewhat politically correct I will end my award comments here and now but I will add, some left me scratching my head.

I got a lot of emails about the Driver of the Year selection, all of which were positive about Dexter Dunn. The consensus of my readers was that he was so dominant the second half of the
season that they found themselves watching many races they ordinarily would not have cared about just to follow him and see the improvement he could create in a horses performance. Congratulations to Dexter he has done a tremendous job and has immediately created a huge fan base.

Please don’t take anything away from Tim Tetrick. The new Hall of Famer had a spectacular year, as well.

Greg Houle asks: I am Canadian and would like your take on why Canadians are barred from racing in most U.S. tracks, because the tracks use conditions to exclude Canadian trainers and owners?

I am sorry Greg but this must be something someone told you that was quite misleading for sure. There are not now and never have been rules of exclusion for Canadian trainers or owners. One of my closest friends, Albert Hanna, came to Monticello to race every summer from St Bernard De La Cole in Canada. Michel Lachance, Herve Filion, Ron Waples, The Remmens. I could go on forever. I myself trained Hammerin Hank for NLH Stable of Montreal and raced in the U.S.

Just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken in some aspect I asked Clay Horner of WEG to give me his thoughts on the question. His reply was “ He is flat out wrong. Obviously there are immigration laws as they do in Canada as well, but Canadians aren’t restricted by any track rules to my knowledge. I have heard that it is difficult to race in Pennsylvania but it certainly isn’t a bar.”

Pocono, Dover and Yonkers have been difficult in the past, but Canadians were not singled out, it was anyone the race secretary didn’t want. Dover especially always protected Delaware horseman. One of Pocono’s leading trainers is Rene Allard, a Canadian citizen, and his brother Simon is one of the leading drivers.

Please tell me of a particular occurrence that pertains to the exclusion of a Canadian and I promise I personally will look into it and unless it pertains to the law will try to have it rectified.

Tom Santoro asks: What is your take on Aaron Merriman?

Aaron Merriman is a superbly talented reinsman and a workaholic to boot. He has just won 1,000 races in 2019 for the third year in a row. Aaron is the Dave Palone of his generation. A kid with a ton of ability that doesn’t want to globe hop for a living and likes to sleep in his own bed. In actuality, Aaron has it better than Dave did because the money available in Pennsylvania and Ohio is far greater today than it was in the early Palone era. However there is no question that the driving colonies at The Meadows and the Ohio tracks are far more competitive today than in years past.

As far as Merriman numbers are concerned my editor pointed them out clearly in last week’s column that you may read here.

Michael Larsson asks: Why doesn’t the Meadowlands do free live streaming to promote the sport? According to Jeff Gural and Jason Settlemoir, it is in the contract they have with RTN. However, to begin with, it really isn’t necessary. Anyone living in the modern world has cable in their home and 99 per cent of the time TVG is on that cable, and it broadcasts every race at the Meadowlands, sometimes a bit late at most five or 10 minutes, but usually one or two. However, there is little amount of color. In order to get the full program with ongoing comments and race information there are many free outlets where you can see the races on a phone, tablet, or computer. I cannot tell you the sites to look for as they are all gambling sites and I do not want to show favoritism, but any one of your friends will give you the information needed to see the entire show for free anywhere there is WiFi. Add to that if you want to see the show on your big screen television it is easy to attach your phone or tablet to the big screen to view.

Phillip Deluca asks: Look back at the 2019 sales and tell me which one of the two million dollar yearlings you liked best?

Unfortunately there is no way I can answer that question definitively. I have three viewing criteria that combined give me a thorough appraisal of a colt. Most important of which is how he performs in the paddock, then how he looks on the floor and lastly do I find any faults in his gait on his video. Due to the extreme value of her product, that being the colt Damien, his owner Elizabeth Caldwell of Cane Run Farm decided it was not worth the risk to have him run loose in the paddock and under the circumstances I really couldn’t argue the point. Therefore, it is impossible to make a fair and complete evaluation.

That said, after reviewing my notes when I received this question I would lean to Maverick as my choice between the two. Let’s say Damien would have been fabulous turned out in the paddock, his total number in my system would have come to 30 where Mavericks was 31 1⁄2. That was more than the $100,000 difference in my book. They both are in fine hands so a year from now you can beat me up if I am wrong. It won’t be the first time nor the last.

James Grosse asks: I have a yearling filly that is having a gagging reflex to the bit. She is fine jogging but when asked to slow down she makes a gurgling noise. Why not go bit less?

To begin with you are under some severe misconceptions. I am certain that a horse is unable to throw up. So I doubt if there is any possibility of a gag reflex. To make sure of the facts I called Dr. Richard Balmer DVM, and asked about the situation.

“The bit is a foot or more from the throat of the horse which would make gagging impossible aside from the fact that a horse has no gag reflex,” he said.

Rick went on to say there are many fancy overcheck bits that if not used properly can pinch the horse’s nostrils and cause a major breathing issue. Please also remember that a horse doesn’t breathe through his mouth so nostril size is important in buying a colt.

Taking all this into consideration my feeling is that a tongue tie will most likely solve the problem. The filly is most likely balling her tongue up behind the bit. She may also have a problem displacing her palate or an entrapment, all of which can be determined quite easily by a veterinarian. I am sure you are correct about the noise, but the bit is not causing the problem. Just as a note, I am not 100 per cent sure but I do believe that it is against regulations to have a horse race without a bit in his mouth. I have heard of trainers training colts with sore mouths without a bit but never have seen one race.

Thanks to all of you for the kind words. I would be interested to hear from you on your thoughts on improving the method of selecting year-end honorees. Have a wonderful week.

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