Remembering the day Benoit Cote raced Delmonica Hanover in Montreal

(Editor’s note: This email was sent to Murray Brown by Tom Charters after Brown’s HRU column about Benoit Cote. It is reprinted with Charters’ permission).

Thanks for your wonderful column about Benoit Cote. I will never forget that race in Montreal when he drove Delmonica [Hanover].

I had gone to the paddock with Bernie Dufour that day — Delmonica’s caretaker most of her career. I was rubbing Spitfire that summer. It was the first time I ever met and saw Benoit drive and I recall that when he climbed on the bike going to the racetrack he clicked his heels together to get the dirt off his boots which I thought was pretty cool. I guess it was indicative of his “neat as a pin“ approach to life that you referenced. Funny, sometimes it’s the little things you remember.

I also remember that particular race as vividly as I can remember few other races of Delmonica’s. Going down the backstretch, Delmonica was sitting second behind Stanley [Dancer] who [was] cutting the mile with the very fast Speedy Carlene. Killbuck Mary (Dick Buxton) was first over, trapping Delmonica. Benoit took a big hold of Delmonica, and surprisingly gave Buxton a huge hole. Dick probably couldn’t believe his good fortune and took the bait. Benoit immediately then pulled his right line and pinned Mary and Dick on the rail. It was a brilliant move that these days would probably get a driver days from the judges, or at least incurred the wrath of the management at The Meadowlands. Delmonica and Benoit went on to run down Speedy Carlene and set the world record.

Over the years, I got to know Ben fairly well through Mr. [Aime] Choquette. The last time I saw him was when [my wife] Sue and I attended Aime’s 100th birthday party in Sherbrooke in 2014. He was the only other person that I recognized in the room and it was a wonderful reunion.

Tom Charters

Gural: What we should learn from golf and women’s basketball

I find it interesting whenever a columnist comes up with an idea as to how to increase interest in our product. For the first time in my life, I watched a women’s basketball game because of one player, Caitlin Clark, who created a huge amount of buzz for the sport. Incredibly over 19 million people watched the women’s NCAA basketball final because of her, which is more people [than] who watched the men’s final, the NBA Finals or the World Series. One superstar was able to completely transform the sport of women’s basketball.

We do the exact opposite by making sure any superstars we have retire after their 3-year-old season. If that wasn’t bad enough, we then drag out the races for five hours to make it almost impossible for anyone to watch a full card of racing. I learned the hard way when I built The Meadowlands that by trying to do everything right it is simply impossible to get customers to come to your facility without having the right product. The simple reality is that we are totally relying on subsidies from slot machines and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.

As far as the comment last week about my decision to not allow certain people to race at The Meadowlands and how it will hurt the breeders is quite offensive since I doubt anyone has done more to help the breeders than I have. Without The Meadowlands I am not sure the breeding industry would even exist as I built a beautiful new facility that caters to owners and yet very few of them come because it is so much easier to watch on TV.

I appreciate all the suggestions people have, but the reality is in order to get people to come you need a product that they want to see. I wish I had the answer. I think my idea to force our best horses to race an extra year was a good one but obviously the breeders disagreed. Hopefully getting our product on TV will help. I’m glad we are able to continue to increase the exposure and I just wish we had a better product to present.

Jeff Gural / owner The Meadowlands racetrack

Horner: Thanks to Adam Bowden

Congratulations and thanks to Adam Bowden for taking on the leadership of the Breeders Crown Charity Challenge. This is the most significant linkage the industry has to the communities where we have our most significant event. Every sport and consumer-facing major business has a charitable arm essential to generating community goodwill. Adam will do a great job.

Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld deserve the highest commendation for initiating, personally supporting, and growing the Challenge since its inception. Thanks to Marvin and Al.

Clay Horner / Toronto, ON

In response to John Chambers’ letter

RE: John Chambers’ last letter.

As a former driver and trainer, I have a deep understanding of driving strategies. Yet, as a bettor, I feel disheartened when the favorite underperforms without any explanation from the driver about the cause of the poor performance. I believe that like in other sports, winners and losers should be briefly interviewed to provide details about the race. Why did a 20-1 win and a 1-5 lose? This essential information is critical for developing betting strategies for future races.

Moreover, I suggest exploring races beyond just one mile. Trying out something new will bring a healthy change in the sport. Additionally, I recommend simplifying the overnight conditions by using class ratings such as A, B, and C instead of complicated terms like N/W of 1501 last five starts. This will make it easier for both new and experienced bettors to understand.

I hope these suggestions are taken into consideration and implemented to make the harness racing experience more enjoyable and informative for all.

Marc Abramson / Buffalo Grove, IL