Has the governor of Florida lost his mind, why is Red Mile not more popular and would McClure have given McCarthy room if the Shes A Great Lady had been an overnight?

Has the governor of Florida lost his mind, why is Red Mile not more popular and would McClure have given McCarthy room if the Shes A Great Lady had been an overnight?

October 1, 2020

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by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: This marks my 150th Ask the Guru column and never once have I made reference to politics so please don’t think that my bashing of Ron DeSantis the Governor of Florida is in anyway politically motivated.

That said, the man is Bat Shit Crazy. He has just announced the opening of everything to normal in the entire state.

Not only does this do a dangerous disservice to the entire population, but may in fact be a detriment to the economy which is more than likely the reason for the announcement. Personally, I find social distancing and utilizing a mask reasonably safe. Even in May, I was going to my favorite restaurants in Boca Raton where they were practicing safe methods of operation. The popular venues all have very limited space in comparison to their popularity and all have lines at bars 3 and 4 deep and tables on top of one another and mostly indoors.

For someone that has been patronizing these places and pictures a scene with a full house, no social distancing and no masks the desire to partake will diminish significantly.

Please note I am not predicting gloom and doom, however his actions are dangerous to say the least. Hopefully it will not take a disaster to convince him of the stupidity of his actions.

I am not certain who has the power in these instances, but I have heard more than one local mayor in south Florida vehemently oppose his measures, and thank God they are reacting accordingly.

* * *

Talk about irony in life. I have been coming to Lexington for nearly 60 years and never have I seen the number of top yearling prospects, as you guessed it, the year of the pandemic. I have only seen local horses and have seen more than double the amount of good ones in each consignment.

The Keeneland September thoroughbred sale grossed 34 per cent less than last year. There is no question that this will be the year to take home a horse with value at a reasonable price at our sale, as well. But don’t think cheap because good horses always sell well and cheap is cheap.

I have seen top horses in every category of sex and gait.

Do yourself a favor, if you are not comfortable making the trip to Kentucky make sure you have a capable representative here to check out the offerings. This is the first time in this writer’s memory that there are more horses in the Kentucky Sale than in Harrisburg (Timonium ) 860 to 818. This, among other factors, will truly work in your favor. As “The Voice” says BE THERE…

* * *

The IHHA (Illinois Harness Horsemen Assn.) came out with a statement they are in “staunch opposition” to the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) based purely on the fact they oppose the elimination of Lasix.

I don’t understand why people just don’t get it, but remember 10 years down the line you heard it here first. Harness racing taking part in this endeavor is tantamount to our virtual ability to rid ourselves of the demons that have aided in ruining our existence for decades. Didn’t the FBI arrests and then the indictments of 30 alleged criminals in our midst teach you anything? Without signing on to this act we are on our own and we all know how well that has gone. The FBI findings are monumental and will prove to be much more far reaching in the not too distant future.

I am not a fan of Lasix, but the existence, or non-existence, of the drugs used in our sport should have nothing whatsoever to do in determining our support, or lack thereof, of the impending bill. Now as I write this, the SOA of New York has joined the march against the bill. Their objections are ridiculous. We won’t have to pay $50 a start, we will have to sit down and make different ground rules for our sport, but everyone is taking the situation at face value instead of discussing compromise.

Tom Santoro asks: A lot of bettors believe that if the She’s A Great Lady was an overnight race McClure would have given McCarthy room so as to not cause an accident (replay here). Do you think here should be a passing lane on the bigger ovals?

First of all, no driver considers the purse in a race when I comes to safety. So don’t think Bob took an chances by not yielding more room to Andy. The cutthroat days of harness driving ended in the 1950’s. All of the drivers I know are fierce competitors but they are all gentleman. There is no “next time I will put you over the hub rail” anymore — mainly because here are no more hubrails.

As for passing lanes, I am not now and never was a fan. I think they make for very boring racing and gives an unfair advantage to non-competitive horses.

Murray Brown asks: I have never been able to reconcile the fact that, as great a place as it the Red Mile is, it’s historical importance, the greatest racing in the world, and the fact it is basically in downtown Lexington, that it’s drawing power is insignificant when compared to Keeneland. Can you explain?

To begin with, let’s go way back to when you and I started in the sport. Blue Bonnets, Yonkers, Roosevelt, Pompano, Greenwood, Sportsman’s, Hollywood etc. were packed every day or night. Personally, I remember nights of 50,000 fans at Roosevelt Raceway. The same was true of a short meet at the Red Mile. It is a tiny plant, but had 5,000 in the stands on a given day.

Unfortunately, harness racing had a steeper demise than our thoroughbred counterpart when sports teams and the lottery expanded their horizons.

Let’s not kid ourselves, the only venues that are questionably viable at best in this era are Woodbine Mohawk Park and the Meadowlands. The rest would be gone in a heartbeat without the existence of slots.

Yonkers is the best example. They have the best purses in the industry and basically zero attendance. Same holds true of Pocono and Philadelphia. You could virtually open fire in the grandstands and not harm a sole.

However, there is much more to the answer of your question. We look at Lexington as a wealthy metropolis. That is true for the one per cent. That one per cent is a highly old money elitist society who’s roots are firmly imbedded in thoroughbred horse racing and breeding as well as polo, eventing, and other horse-oriented sports. Sure, there were a few fine standardbred nurseries in the good old days, but for the most part they no longer exist.

Walnut Hall and Dunroven Stud are all that is left of the old guard. The new wave farms are wonderful but have a long way to go to get heritage value in the elite world called Lexington. That said, in comparison to our handful of breeding farms, there are at least 50 top thoroughbred farms and hundreds more small breeders.

Trying to get a table in the clubhouse for the Keeneland meet it is as difficult as getting a transplant. Add to that you must be a member to reserve space, and be wearing a tie and jacket and NO blue jeans.

The one per cent are almost 100 per cent horse lovers, and the entire economy revolves around the sport. The stores, restaurants and hotels survive on the horse industry.

In our heyday, our purses were actually better than the thoroughbred purses at the very top. We had several races including the Hambletonian and Meadowlands Pace that were well over the million-dollar mark before the Kentucky Derby reached that plateau.

In today’s world, our purses continue to tumble and theirs grow by leaps and bounds. Thoroughbreds now have many multi-million-dollar events, including one for $10 million and one for $20 million, both in oil-enhanced countries. The Derby purse is now $3 million dollars, while the Meadowlands purse shrunk to $630,000.

I have long tried to elevate the appearance of our sport to little success. If we want to appeal to the elite money we do little to help ourselves.

An owner has far less risk and far more chance to make money buying a standardbred. Buying a financially-successful runner is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But we don’t help ourselves at all. Let’s start with wearing shorts and flip flops in the winner’s circle. I realize it’s not practical for a trainer in our sport to wear a tie and jacket after warming up five horses in 100 degree heat, but at least leave your colors on, They look great in winner’s circle interviews. If you are lucky enough to have a job on camera I won’t say a tie is necessary, but a sport jacket should be.

Last but not least, management has lost control over announcers. I am sick and tired of race callers pronouncing horses, drivers and owners names wrong. If you don’t know, ask. And most of all, call the races and don’t editorialize with extraneous comments as to a horse being on a line, that’s the last thing a trainer or owner wants to hear. To me, not having an announcer, as Keeneland did for many years, is far more appealing than the self-impressed verbal diarrhea.

I know many will read this and say it’s way too late. That’s wrong, it’s never too late because improving image is always a plus and none of us know what’s around the corner. Good things will happen when you present an appealing format.

Paul Blanchard asks: I know you are a nutty Miami Heat fan. When you predicted a great season for them this time last year did you think they would go this far?

Hang on now, it’s not over yet. We still have a date with King James and the Lakers. Truthfully, I thought they would be in the playoffs. I did think they could beat Milwaukee, but Boston was a different story. They just seem to rise to any occasion.

I am just as big a Wildcat (Kentucky) fan and love Bam Adebayo and then the draft of Tyler Herro was amazing. Riley and Spoelstra are both basketball geniuses, so anything is possible.

They started game one of the finals like a house on fire but fell flat on their face thereafter giving up a barrage of three pointers to a team that never does well from three point range.

The horror of the night was not the loss but the injuries to three starters and the three leading scorers. They need more than a miracle to turn it around in game two tonight.

Thanks for all the kind words and please keep the questions coming. The Red Mile Grand Circuit is underway and the sales are coming next week. Come and join us if you can and bet online if you are unable to attend in person. Have a wonderful week.

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