by Ron Gurfein
Tidbits: Talk about ridiculous. I got a text last week from Yonkers race office. Only trainers and caretakers that have a positive antibody test for the COVID-19 virus will be admitted to the paddock.
Whoever thought this one up was definitely not a science major. Literally, by those standards, there would have been no racing. My guess is that somewhere around 10 per cent would have met the criteria.
It gets better. I texted Joe Faraldo to inform him of the blooper. Joe in turn contacted the powers that be that had erred in an attempt to be ultra-cautious. Sure enough, for the next three days I get the same text every morning.
For the few of you that have read this far and don’t understand what I am ranting about, in order to be tested positive for antibodies one must have been exposed to the virus.
Hopefully my 10 per cent was a logical figure. In the end, Faraldo published a statement that all was well and the problem was solved.
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It’s way too early to tell, but as of now there is little that surprises me in the 2-year-old ranks. Muscle Hill has had more than his share of winners as has Chapter Seven. So far, I am a little disappointed in Southwind Frank, but as I said, it’s very early and he only had 49 foals. Captaintreacherous and the new kid on the block Always B Miki are the big leaders on the pacing side. Betting Line is a major question mark to me, simply because he has nearly 50 per cent of his foals racing and not that many winners. That would tend to tell me the foals are quite sound and not that fast. Stay tuned.
Sara Connelly asks: I remember a time that you, Chuck Sylvester and Per Eriksson ruled the roost. Jimmy Takter was usually an also ran with few exceptions. How did he become the end all to the sport? Do you think his private veterinarian had a part in it. He was the first trainer that had his own vet since I have been in the game.
STOP right there. I am not big on conspiracy theories. Don’t you think a man that won every major race under the sun would be caught if he was doing something illegal at that level. Jimmy is without question one of the finest conditioners that ever lived. When it’s all said and done, in this writer’s opinion he was the best. But the best on the totality of his performance. His performance winning almost half the Breeders Crowns a few years back with the assistance of David Miller was worth watching over and over.
However, think back to that night, which to me was symbolic of his dominance.
There was no Per Eriksson, no Chuck Sylvester and no Ron Gurfein.
That evening was so great and such a time of change in the sport that I must pause and explain something not previously discussed. Ron, Chuck, and Per were not in the business of training pacers.
Think for a moment if you can train a top trotter you surely can do the same with a pacer. Jimmy was smart enough to figure this out and it immediately catapulted him to the top of the class.
Jimmy’s secret to success is something he shared with both me and Per. However, Charlie was just super good. He didn’t need to learn from the Scandinavian.
Takter secret was teach the 2-year-old to go with pain.
“If they can’t learn to overcome it they will never be great,” he would always say.
I was blessed to have both Jimmy and Per as owners on my first Hambletonian winner, Victory Dream and I will tell you they were by far the most supportive owners I have ever had. Every night on the paddock bus one or both would be patting me on the back and saying don’t change a thing you are doing a great job.
The trotting game in those days was so different than anything I had ever experienced. All of us, including Chuck, fed off one another. There were many times when questions would be raised by all of us. It was like a wonderful club. We could be racing for $650,000 in the World Trotting Derby and one of the above came to me and asked, “Do you think I should switch from steel to aluminum in the final.”
We were close. Imagine Chad Brown asking that question of Bob Baffert. I don’t believe it would happen.
As I have said many times before, the draft is the secret to success in harness racing. Unlike the major class sports, it is better to end the year on top than on the bottom when it comes to the selection process. The better you perform the more money you have to spend. Does it always work? No, but it does help. Having George Segal, Jerry Silva, Deana Frost and too many others to mention give you a huge edge. Chuck had Perretti, Goldman and Liverman enough to draft a championship team and Per had a very powerful duo of Margareta Wallinus-Kleberg and Ted Gewertz. At the beginning, Jimmy had little power, but at the end he had it all.
Then came “baby trainer” Marcus Melander who not only has a great team of yearling selectors but mucho dinero. I truly hope my answer has not in any way demeaned the Takter legacy, as to my mind he is by far the greatest trainer in the history of the sport and a wonderful man to boot.
Add to his legacy that the Apple fell more than close to the tree with the stable of his very talented daughter Nancy. I have a hunch that the name Takter will be around when my grandkids go to the races in 2075.
Paul Arondes asks: Please watch the replay of the Roll With Joe Sunday at Tioga Downs and explain to me what Richard Still was doing aside from getting in everybody’s way?
I don’t need to watch the replay, as I am a big fan of Bettors Wish who is owned in part by my best friend.
I am also very close to the Bier family that races his mount Highalator. I will start with I know that Still would not be driving if the family didn’t believe he was good. And anyone can make a poor drive. That said, he was well aware he was done going to the half and it would have been a correct move to grab hold of the horse and retreat then and there.
Instead, he kept his horse in the mix long enough to destroy the chances of most of the trailing horses and seriously affected the outcome of the race. I refuse to speculate as to what the result would have been if Richard was more judicious in his drive. I will say that if he retreated at the half the order of finish in my opinion would have been radically different . That’s why they call it horse racing.
After all is said and done, if you like to gamble you may get 2-1 on Bettors Wish in his next start. You can bet the house.
Joel Kravet asks: Belmont Stakes winner Tis The Law is being promoted as a New York bred, I don’t believe that the horse ever stood in NY. What is the gimmick? Can a Muscle Hill race in the New York Sires Stakes? What’s the scoop?
Unfortunately, the answer is not so simple and as you implied there is a little gimmickry going on.
When the farms in a state start losing their stallions, something must be done to attract mares to the farms. Thus, New York came up with a new rule. If a mare, as in Tis The Law’s case, is bred in a state outside of New York (i.e. Kentucky) and after she is pronounced in foal is shipped to New York to foal, the resulting colt or filly is considered to be New York-bred.
No, a Muscle Hill cannot race in the New York Sires Stakes. However, our sport has its own share of gimmicks. Muscle Hill is a New Jersey stallion, but his offspring can race in the Kentucky Sires Stakes and also the New Jersey Sires Stakes.
It’s called dual eligibility, a new term of the times like social distancing.
It’s basically the same type situation the mare is bred in New Jersey and sent to Kentucky, but it is just a six-month residency requirement and unlike the case with the New York thoroughbreds it is not necessary for the mare to foal in Kentucky.
Thanks again for all the kind words. I am on route to Pennsylvania and just in the nick of time. I just heard an announcement that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have ruled 14-day quarantines for any travelers from high-profile pandemic states. Governor Wolf in PA will not be far behind.
To this writer, it should have been proposed as a voluntary request as in my wildest dreams I cannot fathom how they could ever enforce it. As I write this, Governor Cuomo has stated the fines will range from $2,000 to $10,000 if you are caught cheating. Maybe they will be handing out GPS ankle bracelets at the airports and EZ Pass toll booths.
Have a wonderful week…..
Have a question for The Guru?
Email him at GurfTrot@aol.com.