HRU Feedback (2020-07-05)

Don’t put all the stink in Allard’s basket

Although the related article (full article here) slips in innocent until proven guilty, Allard is crucified as if he is. Trying to level the guessing game of ownership groups and the person behind a horse’s trainer, beyond what’s listed in the program, is a race office nightmare. Yet this flagrant problem rottens Yonkers because Allard is in a tight spot. Sure, there’s something always rotten when wagers and purse money are involved. But don’t put all the stink in Allard’s basket when he’s facing the race of his life.

—Vincent Lee

Wake up New York

After reading the story about Yonkers allowing entries from Allard-owned horses (full story here) (editor’s note: the horses are listed as being owned by Rene Allard’s mother, Danielle Henri, not Allard himself) all I can do is shake my head. Really NY, are you really this stupid?? Come on wake up!! I know for thoroughbreds that every state that has a horse trained by the indicted trainers, they tested them, made sure no drugs were in system. They sure would not allow anyone connected with the trainer to race them. I realize in harness racing that some trainers also own horses. But if you get caught drugging them, all your horses must be sold to someone not connected to you. Yonkers is really trying to destroy harness racing. Don’t allow it. Refuse entry to any horse owned by any of the indicted trainers. Rene Allard supposedly killed horses. Do not allow an entry. If the horse has the name Allard tied to it, mom must sell all these horses. Apparently harness racing didn’t learn a lesson from the David Brooks affair. We must do better.

And speaking of integrity, Alan Leavitt needs to tell us what his accusations are against KY racing. No veiled hints that someone needs to look at it.

—Shari Hazlett / Hillsdale, NY

Excellent article on Allard family horses

An excellent article on the Allard horses racing at Yonkers (full story here). Since this is hardly unprecedented, I wondered what happened previously to horses running under the same ownership for different trainers while the original trainer’s status was unresolved. I don’t know if USTA rules, state rules, or individual track management has the final say. I realize that space limitations preclude an exhaustive discussion. Looking forward to updates.

—Jay Brooklyn

BS baffles brains

My first horse bet of any kind was $2 WPS on #8 (TEMPO MELODY) at 70-1 at Mohawk in 1966, which finished last by 20 lengths. Thus, I offer this guest column for what it is worth.

I won’t be quoting anybody ultra-famous, but I will quote my dad: “Bryan, remember, (in society & life), that ‘bullshit baffles brains” and he laughed. He was point on!

Most of you men and women in harness racing from track and horse owners, trainers, drivers, grooms/caretakers, horse vets, racing (ahem) officials/administrators/integrity overseers, et al, seem to be “tilting the pinball machine” to suit your hopefully successful attempts at obtaining money and benefits to survive and thrive, but, the “bullshit train has run out of steam,” even to the common/foolish denominators out there called “the degenerate gamblers” on whom there is a need for our cash, right?

I am not shocked that a notorious trainer like Rene Allard has simply zigged around “ownership names” or then zagged “trainers of record” to keep on with his nefarious racing life. Did you expect these suspected felons to go after the Presidency or become sedate and prim librarians? They allegedly abused and in some cases KILLED INNOCENT HORSES, arguably — and I am biased here — the MOST MAJESTIC creatures GOD created!

I would like to take a whip to all of you hundreds of corrupt morons who allowed and are still allowing these alleged criminals to do their best to screw everybody for that pot of gold — like smiling dead-eyed sharks with all their bullshit lines spewing forth, “I am innocent” and “that isn’t my voice on the 2,200 tapes you have — that’s my stunt double.” Or, my fave, “it was a double blind test and my dead horse should have got the placebo. It was his fault. I love horses.”


Having sat twice behind trotter Armbro Knox at Argyle Farms long ago and recalling that thrill, my votes for a North American Harness Racing Commissioner (and let’s be frank here — IQ-wise — it is achievable, if you dismiss the liberal thinking BS mechanisms):
John Campbell / Bill O’Donnell
Adriano Sorella
Jimmy Takter
Tim Twaddle
Tim Tetrick
Trevor Ritchie
Dave Palone or…
… any person renowned (without doubt) for loving horses and harness racing with an IQ of 135 and up and has staunch skills and integrity.

—Bryan Boughton / Toronto, ON

George Teague

It was such a pleasure to read Murray Brown’s article on George Teague (full story here). Any person who trains 10 millionaires and 2 Horse of the Years should get some kind of HOF recognition immediately!

Also, Harrington casino buffet offers chitlins???? That’s going all out to get customers into the joint. The people who run harness racing need to go all out! Their customers are getting older (like baseball) and they need young people to support the product in the future. The tracks can start by letting bettors download track programs for free. A lot of betting is done online now.

Don’t let the gravy train slow down and stop when you least expect it. That’s what happened in Chicago.

—David Marshall / Chicago, IL

Sports betting using a home computer

I am all for the DANCER BILL allowing NJ residents to bet on horses using their smart phones while out of state. But, it is more egregious to deny NJ residents to bet on sports using their computers located in NJ. I have yet to read any law maker give a rational explanation for this ban. Is there really any difference between using my home computer to bet on horses, or to bet on a baseball game? Maybe, one of your writers might like to tackle this situation in an article? I sure would love to ask Governor Murphy, or the Republican leaders in NJ for a response. To make an analogy, the present situation is like allowing one to buy ham at the supermarket but not cheese. Could I afford to buy an Apple Smart phone? Sure, I could. But, I see no real need to spend a grand on a phone which I use maybe once a day. My $12.99 Samsung cell phone works fine.

—Al Gatto / Roselle Park, NJ

Rule change proposal

The purpose of my post is to ask for support in a USTA rule change. 2020 has been a very challenging year for harness racing. The COVID-19 epidemic, as well as the federal investigation into the integrity of racing, has put a significant strain on harness racing. At times like these, we should acknowledge and encourage the owners that are persevering and improve the environment for new owners to get involved. Are we doing all we can to protect the small-time owners? My proposed rule change is just one needed remedy to start a process of change.

I am a small-time owner, trainer, breeder, and (terrible) driver. Over the last 10 years, I have often felt as if the deck was stacked against me. From the obvious gas trainers that our industry has actively protected and heralded; the appearance of an inner society that is allowed special privileges, has often made me feel as if I was racing for 2nd or 3rd money at best. PT Barnum said a sucker is born every day, and like a fool, I keep returning. Not because I like to be cheated, but because I love the sport and the challenge of racing standardbreds. A rule change will not fix all the issues we face, but I think this rule will add a level of fairness and transparency that will alleviate one frustration in ownership. My rule change targets the new electronic draw system. How many of us, and how many times have you heard people complaining about drawing strings of outside post positions? When the draw was done from the pill shaker, you had the option of going to the draw to witness the process. The new system is computer driven and, in cases, executed from the laptop of the race secretary at whatever time is convenient.

A few years ago, I submitted a similar rule change that was rejected. Rules 14.06 through 14.09 are designed to ensure the integrity of the entry process. I appreciate that “Entry Box” is defined as a secure process, no longer a physical box that accommodates our exceptional online entry tools. Rule 14.09 calls for a horseman as a witness, but the industry is switching to a ship-in model with random draw times based on finding enough entries, and there are often issues getting horsemen witnesses. I would also guess that most tracks have moved to the electronic random draw system provided by the USTA. In researching the electronic draw system, I found that there was no oversight or auditing capability available, and no mechanism to report whether the draw was manipulated, or horses handicapped to specific posts. Questions arise as to how many times was the draw executed? Was it re-executed to accomplish a preferred order of the operator? Where any of the horses handicapped in the race to pre-select which posts they would race from? These are all valid concerns, that are remedied by rule 14.09 if the draw is an old fashioned pill draw with a horseman’s witness. The remedy is to create a rule that drives the USTA to modify the electronic draw system to allow transparent auditing of the draw transactions. Auditing is a simple and common mechanism built into almost all software-driven business processes. Here is rule 14.09:

14.09 Opening of Entry Box and Drawing of Horses. At all USTA member tracks the entry box shall be opened by the presiding judge at the advertised time and the presiding judge will be responsible to see that at least one horseman or an official representative of the horsemen is present. No owner or agent for a horse with an entry in the box shall be denied the privilege of being present. Under the supervision of the presiding judge all entries shall be listed, the eligibility verified, preference ascertained, starters selected and post positions drawn. If it is necessary to reopen any race public announcement shall be made at least twice and the box reopened to a definite time.

My proposal for a new 14.09 & 14.09a:

14.09 Opening of Entry Box and Drawing of Horses for manual draws. At all USTA member tracks the entry box shall be opened by the presiding judge at the advertised time and the presiding judge will be responsible to see that at least one horseman or an official representative of the horsemen is present. No owner or agent for a horse with an entry in the box shall be denied the privilege of being present. Under the supervision of the presiding judge all entries shall be listed, the eligibility verified, preference ascertained, starters selected and post positions drawn by a manual witnessed process or via a USTA approved electronic process. If it is necessary to reopen any race public announcement shall be made at least twice and the box reopened to a definite time. Draw processes executed via a USTA approved random draw USTA approved

1409a USTA Approved electronic process guidelines. To achieve approval, the system must use a random number generator. The system must record the entries and time of entry, the number of times the race was drawn, the reasons for the re-draw(s), the handicapping assignments for the race, and the number of times in total the member track drew for the race date. The system should report the audit to the USTA or member tracks entries report for publication with the entries sheet.

This change is a communication to our owners, and potential owners, that we are striving to bring integrity back to harness racing. Wouldn’t it be reassuring to see a note at the bottom of the draw that state, “Drawn 1 time, no posts handicapped”; “drawn 2 times (entry missed and added), no posts handicapped”; or “Drawn 1 time, posts 7-9 handicapped”. The purpose of the member track draw count is to assure that if ten events all reported one draw, that the race office totaled ten uses of the draw system that day, and no races/draws were manipulated in a different manner. Why let the suspicion of corrupt post draws affect our ownership experience.

—Ivar Hyngstrom / Boca Raton, FL

A friendly tuck

While I am very happy to have harness racing back after a long, long hiatus, I see some things have returned to the old norm quite quickly.

I was watching a race the other evening at Yonkers, where a prohibitive favorite drew the dreaded 8 post. I will not say what race or the horse because it’s not really relevant to my point.

Into the first turn and heading to the quarter the 8 was on the outside in about fourth or fifth. Now what was the driver going to do, brush to the lead or become parked the mile? However the decision was made for him by the 2 horse, fourth along the rail very conveniently eased back and allowed the 8 a very comfortable tuck.

Coming to the half mile the 8 popped first over and ground his way along till he collared the leader on the final turn and eased away down the lane for a comfortable win. What would have been the result if the 8 had to brush to the lead going to the quarter? Would he been able to cruise to a nice comfy win? We will never know.

I see that there was over $106,000 bet on the race. Was this friendly act for the benefit of the bettors? Were all horses in the race to win? What on God Green Earth was the driver of the 2 doing allowing the 8 to tuck? Usually less than $600,000 is bet on the whole Yonkers card with 9 races. It made me take a second look.

I believe I had read somewhere in the past that this situation was mentioned by Mr. Gural. He was going to talk to drivers and possibly fine them for doing so.

Just my thoughts, I shall go back to my corner.

—Bill Hartenstine / Farmingdale, NY