Disparities between our game and the runners never more apparent

Disparities between our game and the runners never more apparent

November 13, 2020

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by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: The difference in financial power between our industry and the thoroughbreds was never more evident than displayed in the sales and dealings last week.

Sister Sledge and Guinevere Hall, both very nice trotting fillies, changed hands in the low three figure range. Sister Sledge was exported to Sweden by Robert Lindstrom, a very astute horseman, and Guinevere was sold privately by Martinez Bloodstock.

On the other side of the street, Monomoy Girl and Got Stormy two fancy thoroughbred girls brought $9,500,000 and $2,750,000, respectively.

Two absolutely top 3-year-olds were also retired almost simultaneously.

Authentic, owned in part by Spendthrift Farm, will start stud service there in 2021 for a fee of $75,000.

Tall Dark Stranger, to this writer one of the most impressive stakes colts I have ever seen, will retire to Hanover Shoe Farm at a fee of $20,000.

I am not saying the disparity is wrong but it definitely seems out of whack with the potential return on investment (ROI). Which, once again, points out how much better your chances are of making money in our business than the runners.

True, you hit a home run in the thoroughbred sport and you may be set for life. That said, buying a lottery ticket may be easier.

* * *

I am not big on statistics. For my part they are a total waste of time and effort. The best is the best and who cares by how much. Some of the greatest horses always won by very little. Captaintreacherous and Tall Dark Stranger come immediately to mind. That said, something struck me as interesting this morning while looking at the USTA website. Dexter Dunn is the leading money winning driver in 2020 after coming to our shores just a short while ago. That is amazing enough. But that’s not all. Tim Tetrick the second leading money winner is $1,100,000 behind and he has had about 425 more drives. There is still a month and a half to go. Stay tuned.

* * *

Bob Baffert keeps rolling. Gamine and Authentic were awesome in their respective Breeders’ Cup events. When asked about the positives, that I will reiterate were sheer nonsense, I could tell he was annoyed but didn’t dodge the questions at all.

I don’t understand the reasoning of bringing attention to a negative on a nationally-televised event with a huge worldwide audience. Sadly, it has become evident that the new normal is to knock the winners no matter what the cost.

* * *

My apologies to Hollywood Heyden. I was wrong about going two-for-two in the 1992 Breeders Crown because I just remembered that surreal evening at Pompano Park where in fact I did record a two-for-two record winning both Crown 3-year-old trots.

That said, the older Breeders Crown was not on the same night that year and also at a different racetrack. My friend Gordon Waterstone points out that I was second in the older trot Crown at Mohawk with Charlie Ten Hitch.

For an older fellow that has trouble remembering a lot these days, that would have been a real stretch expecting me to remember those details. That was almost 30 years ago, and in my own defense the Mohawk race was Oct. 9 and the Pompano races were on Oct. 23.

Howard Shultz asks: Have you heard anything about any new indictments or have any update on what’s going on in the drug
investigation?

As I said a few weeks ago, I have heard from a very substantial source that there were many more indictments on the way. The virus has obviously stalled the court dates so the where and when is impossible to forecast.

There was however a update last week when the owner of Tailor Made Compounding, (not to be confused with the famous Taylor Made thoroughbred operation ) Jeremy Delk, plead guilty to federal charges of illegal drug distribution. This was made clear in a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office of the Eastern District of Kentucky. The drugs were designed to mimic the effects of anabolic steroids. The pharmacy will be forced to forfeit the proceeds from sales of the illegal drugs to the tune of nearly $2 million.

Delk faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

There have been many visible ties between Tailor Made and MediVet, the company that produced the drugs Jason Servis was accused of using in the earlier indictments.

There is truly a plethora of possibilities involving the ongoing FBI investigation. Not the least of which is the possibility of the formation of a choir made up of many indictees.

Richard Holloway asks: I remember seeing you at Monticello Raceway in the ‘60s in the old fashion long belted colors. How did you end up with the brown and white Captain America motif?

In those early days, the powers that be were much more strict as to colors being proper than they were in later years. If you applied for colors, the lady in charge would redesign them as well as add or delete a color to insure you didn’t look like another driver on the track. My color card, as received from the USTA, was orange, white and brown. I looked something like a burnt creamsicle.

In the mid-‘60s, there was a massive change from the no style belted colors to what was called the Eisenhower jacket that a few years later with white pants attached became today’s driving suit.

My good friend Mike Metcalf R.I.P. knew how much I hated my colors and gave me a 30th birthday card and a gift. The card read you are 5’11” 220 with no future as a driver. No one cares what a trainer wears. Happy Birthday. In the box was a knit Eisenhower jacket with the Captain America design in brown and white, just like Mike’s colors were in red, white and blue.

Mitch Myrin first points out the quality of the horses and drivers at the Red Mile Grand Circuit meet are so superior to the norm but the handle is never commensurate with the product. He then asks, why don’t they have the sales during the day and the racing at night?

In the scheme of things, the bottom line on the sales has more impact on the purses than the racetrack handle.

Just like our neighbors across town (Keeneland ) the sales company’s profits go a long way to helping out the purses. The situation at the Red Mile is very similar on a smaller scale.

It’s not that the handle is unimportant, but prime time for the sale takes precedence.

Please take note that in previous years they have had the first week of Grand Circuit at night when the sales fell on the second week. I personally don’t know the figures but few people I know are better with numbers than the management of the Red Mile and I am sure if it was in there best interest they would have left it that way. The change to all daytime was a calculated choice.

Another thing you must take into your understanding is the fact that night racing does not produce the records that day racing does and that would lessen the attraction of shipping questionable horses to Kentucky.

Tom Santoro asks: What is your take on Lasix? Is it more effective in the winter or the summer? Would you consider it a performance enhancer?

Lasix ( Furosemide ) is a human drug that relieves the body of excess fluids, swelling in the abdomen and extremities. It is not a stimulant or a sedative. It is mainly prescribed for patients with high blood pressure.

I have been on Lasix for many years and find its diuretic value amazing. Aside from have totally normal blood pressure, it removes all the bloat from my body.

After reading my previous comments, one may think that it is not a performance enhancing drug. On the face of it you would be correct. However, as a result of the body’s reaction to the drug, I would classify it as a great PED.

It is more understandable to reference the thoroughbreds in this discussion to begin with as they are so weight conscious. There are handicappers that would throw out a horse where the jockey was three pound overweight. How about the fact that a horse can lose from 10 to 20 pounds of water after Lasix is administered? In and of itself, that would be considered a drug that will enhance performance.

Now take into consideration that the lack of fluids in the body lowers that blood pressure and volume and thus lessens the chances of a horse bleeding.

I am of the thinking that all horses bleed when they race to some extent. Lasix will, in most cases, prevent a severe occurrence.

As far as winter or summer, I can make a case for both, but I am basically not a fan of the drug. Using summer for example, think that if a colt loses 15 lbs of water from Lasix and races on a 95-degree day and loses another 20 lbs from the heat, this cannot be a good thing.

When trying to formulate a reasonable opinion as to whether we should keep, or ban the drug, please take into consideration that most venues throughout the world do not permit the use of Lasix in race horses. That includes many major racing areas.

That said, racing is alive and well on the continent.

Bob Marks and Fred Hudson ask: Why not revamp the Triple Crown so that the Breeders Crown is the last leg?

The idea is good, but the time logistics are terrible and the change in venues will not be equality for all.

Right now we have a small track, Yonkers Trot, and two mile tracks the Meadowlands (Hambletonian) , and the Red Mile (Kentucky Futurity). By dropping the Yonkers Trot in favor of a larger oval which has been the norm it creates an easier scenario.

The additional time of close to a month insures the fact that the Hambletonian winner is beaten up a little bit more.

The positioning of the Breeders Crown in and of itself has always presented me with a less than fit horse at that time of the season when it is necessary to have a colt on his A game. This year is a great example. Look who was fabulous earlier in the year and where they were at Crown time. Ramona Hill was a non-starter, Tall Dark Stranger was defeated and retired, Party Girl Hill’s winning streak was ended.

These are not three good horses, they are three great horses.

Keeping a horse in top form for five straight months is difficult to say the least but to have an elimination and a final with the importance of the Breeders Crown at the end of that long period of time is very challenging.

As for the pacing Triple Crown, the question raises a more realistic chance for change. With our present format, the pacing version is basically a non-factor. Due to the demise of Roosevelt Raceway and the lack of formidable stakes programs at Yonkers, a change in the races on the pacing side is well worthy of consideration.

To me, the Pepsi North America Cup, the Meadowlands Pace and the Little Brown Jug would be a perfect match for the trotting version. Two big ovals and a half-miler.

Once again, using the Crown to replace any of the aforementioned would stretch the timeframe to the utmost.

Please take note that the entire thoroughbred Triple Crown takes place in a five-week period. The Kentucky Derby is followed in two weeks by the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes is three weeks later.

Thanks again to all of you for all the kind words. I met a very nice fellow in Lexington that supports my column with his advertising. Matt Franklin of Wooster, OH is the CEO of Wire To Wire Wealth.com if you are in need of a wealth advisor give him a call. Please keep the questions coming in. Stay safe and hopefully I will see you in Florida. Have a wonderful week.

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