Saratoga Race Course - Saratoga Springs, NY
Saratoga Race Course
Horse Racing

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY--Opening Day at Saratoga Raceway was picturesque with brilliant sunshine and temps in the 50s. And, the crowd, buoyed by $1 hot dogs and $1 PBR drafts was in a good mood and surprisingly, fairly big. And, this despite the fact that there was nary a mention in the local media that Opening Day was approaching. Had this been the flat track across the street there would have been live reports and live broadcasting all day long. We know that the region fauns over the SRC and while that's certainly valid, why not throw a little love at the harness track, which began season number 76 on Sunday?

Be that as it may, the betting windows were busy and the raceway generated over $469,000 in total handle for the 12-race card. The feature was a $12,000 Open Handicap Pace that saw Better Rock On N rally from off the pace to win in a fine time of 1:53.3. My pick, E Z Noah started from gate 7 and was second, with Roethblissberger third.

In the 11th, crowd favorite Blazin Benny led from start to finish to win the $5,500 Trot in 1:58.2. I was told by some trainers that Blazin' is the ultimate warrior when it comes to racing. The nine-year gelding by Angus Hall often struggles between races, but when it is show time, he is always ready to go and the veteran clearly outclassed the field.


All in all, it was a good day, but there were some issues. One, they ordered 504 long-sleeve t-shirts and they were gone 15 minutes before the first race began. Why not order 2,500 and give them out until they're gone whether that happens on opening day or one week later? They also didn't shovel out the walkways so people could sit out on the benches. I guess they thought it would be too cold to be outside. One might have gotten the feel that harness racing was the second-class citizen to the gaming machines located inside. We know that the carpets get vacuumed before the next day; why not do some shoveling?   And, let's admit, the racing is second to the casino, but does it have to be that obvious?

On the good side, the races were competitive and the buzz was palpable. Who knows how many more people would have shown up had the opener been marketed just a little bit? Service at the bar was solid and with $1 draft beers to be had, that can be a challenge.

I was fortunate enough to meet and talk to some trainers and certainly learned a few things during the day.   Since the track was banked, the times have been much faster, but that sometimes comes at a cost. Obviously, banked tracks put more stress on the left legs and that can result in more injuries to the pacers and trotters. Another positive was that every race was won in under two minutes; the best time was 1:53 and the slowest time was the aforementioned Blazin Benny's 1:58.2

Saratoga is a racino and one can't go to a harness track without bringing up the impact of VGMs.   Most agree that VGMs saved the sport from a certaon death, but that has also led to more money in purses which, in many ways, has squeezed out the "little guy.". Saratoga paid out $89,200 in total purses yesterday.   In comparison, Monticello paid out $31,700 on their card last Thursday. If you want to race at Saratoga, it is tough for the $5,000 horse to run and win against the $50,000 one. The racing secretary will enter you in these races, but winning is more than a tall order.

Both Monticello and Vernon Downs got good reviews from the horsemen I talked to and one trainer in particular was looking forward to sending a couple of his horses there to Monticello to race in the near future.  Monticello is a step down in class while Vernon Downs features a 7/8 mile track and is owned by Meadowlands owner Jeffrey Gural.

Saratoga will race several Thursday afternoon cards this spring with 12:15 post times. It will be interesting to see how this compares/conflicts with Monticello, which races Monday-Thursday with 12:25 post times.   Monticello has always had the afternoon harness slot in New York State, but now they'll have some competition.   And, despite lower purses, Monticello's handle is as good or better than both Saratoga and Yonkers. The trainers told me that Monticello cares the most about the local guys and the smaller purses would reflect that. There has to be tracks that offer something for everyone.   Nobody wants to see harness racing become all-corporate like thoroughbred racing is; there has to be a place for the little guy to train and race at and right now, Monticello seems to be the track for this.

New York harness offers top end racing at Yonkers, which has seen its purses increase substantially in recent years.  After Yonkers, the purses drop with Saratoga, Buffalo/Batavia, Tioga and Vernon ranking very close to each other.  Monticello offers the lowest purses and clearly, each track serves its unique purpose.

Six of the seven harness tracks offer VGMs, which are open just about every day of the year and some of the revenues are given to the horsemen.  Tioga Downs is now a full-fledged casino, meaning that in addition to VGMs, table games are offered.  Amazingly, 92 percent goes back to the gamblers, but it is that 8 percent that gets cut up with some going to education and some to harness racing.

New York is experiencing casino growth. In addition to racinos (there is also one at Finger Lakes thoroughbred track), there are full-fledged casinos at Del Lago (Tyre, NY), Rivers (Schenectady, NY) and Tioga Downs (Nichols, NY) with a fourth one coming to the Catskills later this year. The Rivers Casino is just 26 miles south of the Saratoga casino and in the first week, Rivers took in $23.1 million while there was a drop of $800,000 at Saratoga Hotel Casino.

When I visit racinos, I wonder aloud, "where do people get the money to gamble away here?"  Is there that that much wealth in New York State, or are people coming here in the hopes of tripling their pay check?  How many casinos can New York handle?  In addition to the racinos and the soon-to-be four casinos, there are Indian casinos at Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Salamanca, Vernon and the Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. How many more can the state allow?  When will the appetite decrease and when it does, will New York look like Atlantic City with boarded up palaces?

For now, harness racing moves forward. They will still get their money from the casinos and the bettors will continue to make their wagers. For one day, Saratoga looked radiant with a festive, lively crowd and some good action on a brilliant sun-splashed day. Let's hope this is not a one-time event.

Until next time.


Opening Day is upon us.  No, not the one that brings out sundresses and seersucker suits.  It is the 2017 opening for harness racing at Saratoga Casino Hotel.  Now, based on the name of the venue, many might think that harness racing no longer exists in the Spa City, but 2017 will be season 76 for the half-mile oval on Nelson Street.  Many harness tracks now offer more than harness racing, but they have referenced harness racing in the venue name.  To the west, we have Vernon Downs Casino and to the southwest, we have Tioga Downs Casino, but for some reason, the folks at Saratoga have tried a different marketing approach.  The good thing is that there 169 racing dates for 2017


This Sunday, there are 12 races with a post time of 12:15 pm.  The feature race is a $12,000 Open Handicap.  This pales in comparison to day one at the Saratoga Race Course, where the feature race is the $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes.  And, there are those who will never be fans of harness racing, but the good news is that both harness and horse racing have co-existed in Saratoga since 1941. 


The Empire State is home to plenty of harness racing.  In addition to Saratoga, the state has tracks in Buffalo, Batavia, Tioga, Vernon, Monticello and Yonkers.  Yonkers and Monticello run all year while the others vary.  Out west, Buffalo runs from January through July and then Batavia picks up from July-December.  A NYRA rotation if you will. 


What will the crowd be like this Sunday?  A few hundred?  Less?  More?  We know that the gaming floor will have plenty of patrons and it's too bad that some of them won't venture to the harness track to make a wager and watch some solid work from pacers and trotters. 


Too many casinos? 


New York State wants your hard earned money.  In addition to lottery, scratch-offs, Quick Draw, horse racing, harness racing, there are now plenty of casinos available to help New Yorkers strike it rich.  Is there a saturation point?  How many more gambling options can there be?  I always wonder where people come up with the money to venture to casinos and gamble away, but it seems like New Yorkers appetite for gambling continues to grow. 


And, we might have a victim.  The del Lago Casino opened in the Seneca County town of Tyre, 30 miles east of Finger Lakes Race Track, which in addition to racing has video gaming machines.  The folks that run Finger Lakes racing are upset for several reasons.  One, they didn't want a full-blown casino that close.  Two, they think that the casino or state should guarantee purses for racing.  This is an ongoing feud to the point where the track--which normally runs an April to December calendar--hasn't released its 2017 schedule.  The track has been complaining about this for quite some time, fearing that a casino would seriously dent their revenues. Some say that if something isn't done, the purses, which are already on the low side, will drop so significantly that the track might have to close. 


Nobody wants to see horse racing suffer, but the folks at Finger Lakes (owned by Delaware North) have done very little to support the horse racing game.  When VGMs were allowed, they had to be at horse racing tracks.  The thought was that revenues would prop up purses in horse and harness racing and while they have, those that run the racinos think of racing as an afterthought.  The relationship between the horsemen and Delaware North has always been rocky and obviously, this hasn't helped the situation. 


I don't think Delaware North would shed many tears if horse racing disappeared but that is short-sighted.  There are many that work in the horse racing operation at Finger Lakes and those jobs would go elsewhere if racing ceased.  And, Upstate New York needs people who earn incomes because income earners pay taxes.


Most of the racinos have done a poor job of marketing horse and harness racing to people.  Saratoga Casino does plenty of advertising and marketing, but harness racing is rarely--if ever-- mentioned.  Racing is there if you need it, but very little is done to attract people to the racing portion of these centers. 


That's too bad, because the Race Course does a fantastic job of marketing racing.  They sell the experience, from racing to picnicking to partying and for years, people have responded.  When you have 35,000 patrons there, how many really know anything about horse racing?  They are there for the fun and good times.  The racing helps, but it isn't everything. 


Both Finger Lakes and the harness tracks have an opportunity to market the entire experience to younger folks.  Why not reach out to the hipsters, the ones with disposable incomes and market the night out, the experience?    Saratoga, for example, has live entertainment, a night club, two restaurants, a hotel AND harness racing (at least 160 plus days).  Why can't they do more to attract new fans to the sport of harness racing?  Why not offer some betting vouchers to force people to the track for at least a race or two?  Is that too hard to do?  Are they afraid of giving away their product? 


There has to be a better way to plug the sport.  I still remember the 11 pm sportscasts where the daily double was given.  The words, "finally, the daily double of 4 and 2 paid $36.30 at Buffalo Raceway tonight, here's hoping you had it," still resonate with me.   


Harness racing is not an easy sell.  Last August, the Hambletonian, the most prestigious race in the harness racing world drew about 75,000 viewers on the CBS Sports Network live telecast.  In fairness, the race was on a Saturday in August when people are out enjoying the last month of their summers, but as Tip O'Neill once said, "all politics is local."  There were over 20,000 in attendance at Meadowlands for the day, which to me, indicates that Americans like one-off events.  They will support some things once a year, yet what is done to keep them coming back? 


What can harness racing do to attract the locals to the venues to watch some racing?  Last year, 2015 Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit came to Saratoga to race in the $250,000 Jim Gerrity Memorial.  There were a couple blurbs in the local papers but nothing substantial.  With newspapers the way they are now, there aren't enough reporters to go out and find the stories and as a result many of the stories you see are written by public relations agencies.  Why wouldn't The Albany Times Union run a story written by the marketing department of the Saratoga harness track?  If the track doesn't care to market itself, should the media care? 


Here's hoping the weather is good for this Sunday as season 76 begins at Saratoga Raceway (sorry, I have to use racing in the title) and that the crowd is better than 100 or 200.  The pacers and trotters will put on a good show and I'm sure they'd appreciate some love from the local community. 


Until next time. 




The year in horse racing is coming to an end and what a year it was.  Last year we saw American Pharoah capture the Triple Crown and for a few moments the sport of horse racing captured the fancy of America.  This year there was another Triple Crown winner in harness racing as Marion Marauder captured the three legs--Hambletonian, Yonkers Trot and Kentucky Futurity-- to become the ninth trotter to achieve this and first since Glidemaster in 2006. 

Marion Marauder did not get the attention that Pharoah did as harness racing will always be a distant second in the sport of horse racing.  When I bring up harness racing, the most common--and immediate--comeback is that it is fixed/rigged.  Some even bring up the movie Uncle Buck where Buck and his buddy fix races so Buck can "make his living." 

Those days are over and with the advent of casinos/video gaming machines many harness racing tracks are on solid ground.  The Meadowlands remains the most well known of tracks, but it suffered a blow when voters in New Jersey voted against the building of two "Atlantic City" style casinos in Northern New Jersey.  Had they been built, harness racing would have received some of the revenues to further secure the long-term health of the sport.  Jeffrey Gural owns The Big M and was understandably disappointed with the vote.  Casino operators in New York and Pennsylvania who rely on New Jersey residents to patronize their facilities largely funded the "vote no" campaign.  And, Gural himself owns casinos in New York and Pennsylvania, including Toga Downs, which recently added table games to its video gaming machines. 

Even though things seem to be going well, it remains an uneasy marriage, horse racing and casinos.  In a perfect world, horse racing wouldn't need revenues from machines, table games and video slots, but the reality is, they do.  Plainridge Park in Massachusetts is the perfect example.  When the state granted a gaming license, both a casino and a harness track were built, and if not for casinos, Yonkers and Monticello raceways might be apartment buildings or commercial plazas.

Casinos have also "saved" thoroughbred racing at Parx (PA) and in Maryland (Pimlico and Laurel) and as long as both horse racing and casinos can co-exist, things should be okay going forward.  As a fan of the sport, I do realize that people like to gamble and many prefer the short term fix that blackjack and roulette can provide as compared to studying a racing form, picking several options to win $4 back on a $2 bet. 

Many states think building casinos is the panacea; that it will provide states with endless revenue for now and the future.  In addition to four thoroughbred tracks, New York State has seven harness tracks and will have four full-fledged casinos in addition to lottery, scratch offs and Quick Draw.  How much is too much? Are there that many gamblers in New York to sustain all of this?  Apparently there is, but one wonders how long can the train ride last?

Thoroughbred racing remains the focal point of this column and if you love the sport, 2016 did not disappoint.  We saw three competitive Triple Crown races with three different winners; we saw Arrogate break the Travers record with a 1:59.36 clocking and then we saw him run down crowd favorite California Chrome in a scintillating Breeders Cup Classic.  And, in perhaps the best single race performance, Frosted blew away all-comers in the Met Mile, winning by 14 lengths.  He then came back to take the Whitney in early August. 

I did take the time to write a bit about harness racing in 2016.  As a kid, harness racing was always around.  In the Buffalo area, we had Buffalo Raceway and 45 miles east, Batavia Downs.  When I moved here in 2001, there was Saratoga Raceway.  I always paid brief attention to it, tried to watch and read about the big races like the Hambletonian and Little Brown Jug.  I took my young kids there a few times and we had fun.  Unlike thoroughbred tracks, there is less time between races and for young kids, that's a good thing.  I would give each kid $2, read the names from the program and let them pick one.  It was fun for a bit, but like most kids, they got bored and decided that watching "vines," was a better way to spend a Saturday night. 

For some reason, I decided to give harness racing a legitimate try in 2016, and to my surprise, I liked it.  It will never supplant the thoroughbreds, but is a nice diversion.  The horses are the stars and unlike the thoroughbreds, they race much more often.  Horse of the Year Always Be Miki won 12 of 18 starts with his main nemesis, Wiggle it Jiggle It running 24 times and over 50 the past two.  Fans of the sport tend to root for the favorites almost in a cult-like way. 

The 2016 Hambletonian, contested on the first Saturday in August drew over 20,000 to the Meadowlands and featured 10 stakes races, and the Breeders Crown at the end of October featured eight more high stakes races. 

The tough part is trying to keep track and follow both sports.  I think there is room for both and my goal for 2017 is to follow them as closely as I can.  Check out to learn more about harness racing.  The site has daily updates, entries, results and stakes information.  As they say, there is something for everyone.

The road to the Kentucky Derby will commence in January as will the inaugural Pegasus World Cup, which will be contested January 28 at Gulfstream Park.  The $12 million race is the brainchild of Frank Stronach and will have 12 entrants each paying $1 million to secure a sport in the 1 1/8 mile race. 

Buying a spot gives the connections a chance to secure the $7.2 million prize for winning, but it also guarantees those connections a percentage of the handle, media rights and sponsorships.  The Pegasus World Cup will not supplant the major races, but it might entice horses like American Pharoah, Frosted and others to delay their retirements for one big, last pay day.  The January race date leaves plenty of time to run the race and then get ready for stud duty.  There is no doubt that California Chrome would be done racing, but the Pegasus World Cup is keeping him around for one more race and anytime that happens, it is good for the sport. 

Until next time.

Yonkers Raceway did it right.  On Saturday, October 15, the International Trot was contested along with the Yonkers Invitational Trot and Yonkers Invitational Pace.  And, kudos are in order for the raceway to start the festivities at 1:10 pm so those in Italy, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland could see the action live. 

Harness racing continues to get better and better with showcase races and Saturday's card at Yonkers Raceway was no exception.  Along with the $1 million trot and the two $250,000 invitationals, the card featured a $45,000 race and no race had a purse of less than $21,600.  That's the way to do it if you want to get fans out to the track.  Simulcasting will always be there, but the best way to attract fans to your venue is to give them something to get excited about and that comes in the way of high stakes races with good purses. 

The International Trot did not disappoint. Resolve was one of three U.S.entrants, and the 6-year did the job in spectacular fashion.  Leading the entire way, he set a world record for 1 ¼ miles on a half-mile track in 2:23.4.  The field behind him was solid, but simply put, nobody could catch Resolve.  He cut fractions of 28.1, 57.1, 1:26 before hitting the mile in 1:54.4.  His driver and trainer, Ake Svanstedt said the colt did it all by himself and could have gone faster.

In the $250,000 Yonkers Invitational Pace, Wiggle It Jiggleit won and won easily.  Usually a horse that comes from behind, WIJI went to the front and was never headed, winning in 1:50.2. Some thought that Yonkers might see its first sub 1:50 mile, but with no pressure, WIJI cruised home to win for the 15th time in 23 starts this year.  For his career, he has 38 wins in 50 starts.  The gelding is owned by George Teague, driven by his son, Montrell and trained by Clyde Francis.  The sport would love to see WIJI in the Breeders Crown on October 28 at The Meadowlands, but the connections would have to supplement his entry.  When asked about the Breeders Crown, driver Teague said that he doesn't want to tip his hat.  As we know, Marion Marauder had to be supplemented into last week's Kentucky Futurity and all he did was win the race--and the trotting Triple Crown--in the process.  I hope and expect to see WIJI at the Big M in a couple weeks. 

The Yonkers Invitational Trot saw Bee a Magician come back from a five month layoff to win impressively in 2:25.1 for 1 ¼ miles.  The 6-year old filly is four-for- four this season and for her career is 45 for 69 with earnings just shy of $4 million.  Known for being ornery, the filly handled the track--and the distance--easily for driver Brian Sears.  In harness racing, the winner gets 50 percent of the purse, so both Bee a Magician pocketed $125,000 each with Resolve adding $500,000 to his career earnings. 

In the $45,000 Open Handicap Trot Svanstedt steered Bourbon Bay to victory in 1:54.1 returning $11.00.  The $35,000 Open Handicap Pace saw Rock N' Roll World take the lead at the half mile to win in 1:51.3 for driver George Brennan.  He returned $6.20. 

Yonkers Raceway will be dark on Sunday but will be back at it Monday with a 12-race card beginning at 7:10 pm.  

Last year, American Pharoah captured America's fancy when he rolled to the Triple Crown.  Later, he capped a brilliant three-year campaign by romping in the Breeder's Cup Classic and then, like most dominant thoroughbreds, was sent off to stud. 

Last Sunday, another Triple Crown was won, when three-year old trotter Marion Marauder captured the Kentucky Futurity at the Lexington race course known as The Red Mile.  In thoroughbred racing, we have sprinters, distance horses, dirt and turf horses, while in Harness racing, there are two types--trotters and pacers. 

The Trotting Triple Crown consists of the Hambletonian, the Yonkers Trot and the aforementioned Kentucky Futurity.  The Hambletonian is the most well-known and prestigious of the three.  Raced at the famed Big M (Meadowlands) before a national TV audience (CBS Sports Network), the Hambletonian is the Kentucky Derby for trotters.  Driven by Canadian Scott Zeron, Marion Marauder won the Hambo by the slimmest of margins.  He then cruised in the Yonkers Trot before needing a photo finish for his win in the Kentucky Futurity. 

Triple Crowns in Harness racing are not as revered as they are in thoroughbred racing.  Because Standardbreds race much more frequently, winning a triple crown is not always planned for.  In fact, because Marion Marauder was not nominated for the trotting crown, his connections had to come up with $47,000 just to get him into the Futurity field.  Nevertheless, with the win, Marion Marauder becomes only the ninth horse--and first since Glidemaster in 2006--to capture the Trotting Triple Crown. 

On the pacing side, there have been 10 horses to win their Triple Crown, the last being No Pan Intended in 2003.  Pacers, because of the running style can run faster than their trotting counterparts, but trotting, because of the Hambletonian is probably the more well-known of the two "sports-within-a-sport." 

Is Marion Marauder going to capture the attention of one, American Pharoah?  Of course not, but his win puts him in the history books forever. 

Harness racing continues to make positive inroads.  The sport has been buoyed by the installation of casinos at most of its parks, meaning fans can do more than just watch pacers and trotters run.  In fact, at most racetracks, most of the people are playing the casino games, but every time they play, the sport of harness racing gets a cut. And, the sport has always had its loyalists.

This November New Jersey residents will vote to see if two casinos will be built outside of Atlantic City.  If the referendum passes, it will bolster the sport of Harness racing immensely. As of today, the polls indicate that the referendum will fail, but optimists claim there is still time.  Those in favor claim that most of the opposition comes by way of neighboring states that have casinos.  The casino owners in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware want those in New Jersey to keep making the drive rather than keep their monies in-state.   We know there is a more significant election on the cards in November, but as a harness racing fan, this is an important one.  And, it's not only about racing.  Two casinos will greatly aid the breeding farms in the Garden State.

In racing, the International Trot takes place at Yonkers Raceway this afternoon.  This is truly an international affair with trotters from the United States, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Italy.  The American contingent consists of Resolve, Obrigado and Hannelore Hanover and the $1 million race will be run at 1 ¼ miles, longer than the classic distance of 1 mile.  In countries like Sweden, where Harness racing is revered, this is a big deal, hence the afternoon post time at Yonkers. 

In two weeks, the best pacers and trotters will head to the Meadowlands for the Breeders Crown, where they will compete for $5.8 million in prize monies.  Like thoroughbred's Breeder's Cup, the meet will be contested over two days, with the older colts, gelding and mares competing on Friday and the two and three year olds on Saturday.  The four races for the older horses will begin Friday at 7:15, while the eight races for two and three-year olds will begin at 6:35 on Saturday.  Sportsnet NY (SNY) will have live coverage both nights from 9 to 10 pm, giving Harness racing a nice little boost. 

Locally, Saratoga Harness (aka, Saratoga Casino Hotel) continues to churn, providing live racing through Sunday, December 18.  For most weeks, there is live racing Sunday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  By racing on Sunday, Saratoga Harness is trying to do what many tracks won't--compete with NFL football-certainly not an easy task. 

Like its thoroughbred counterpart, breeding and selling remains a vital part of the sport.  Morrisville State College, which offers both Associate's and Bachelor's degree programs in equine breeding and management, recently had its 2016 Morrisville sale.  There were 81 yearlings sold with the average price being $13,656.  The lowest purchase price was $1,700 with $55,000 being the highest, making Harness racing a sport that many more can get involved with. 

Harness racing never sleeps and the month of October has been a good one.   

Until next time.






When a horse dies at Aqueduct, it is sad. When a horse dies at Saratoga, it is sad--and noticed. At this year's Saratoga meet, nine horses have died while racing or training and the meet is not even at its midpoint. When this happens, everybody shows concern. Those that love the sport defend it and cite how rare racing deaths are. Those that think the sport is inhumane jump to criticize it with some even calling for it to be banned.

The question at hand is simple. Did horse racing do the right thing? Today, every sport says that they are concerned about their athletes. The NFL says that it is trying to reduce concussions by establishing protocol before a player can return to action. The movie "Concussion," highlighted how CTE affects some that have played the dangerous game that is football. In the 1960s and 1970s, nobody cared about leading with your head so as long as the devastating hit was made. Times have changed.

Horse racing says that they, too, care about their athletes, but do they? In the early 2000s, it appeared so. Several tracks across North America replaced dirt with synthetic surfaces--either Polytrack or Tapeta--with the hope of reducing equine fatalities. It seemed to be working, but there was bellyaching. Trainers didn't like it, owners didn't like it and the claim was that neither did the bettors.   Places like Keeneland concluded that owners and trainers wouldn't bring their horses to race there because synthetic was not the same as dirt. The Blue Grass Stakes, Keeneland's Kentucky Derby prep race was diminishing in quality with star 3-year-olds taking their talents to places where the horses ran on dirt; at least that's what was said.

For a time, it looked like synthetics would stick around. The California State Legislature passed a law that required all of its tracks to install a synthetic surface by the end of 2007 and they all complied.  Del Mar, Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Golden Gate Fields would now run on polytrack. It appeared that safety was placed first and foremost in the horse racing game.  In addition to the California tracks, Woodbine, Presque Isle, Arlington Park, Turfway Park installed either polytrack or Tapeta.

When a Barbaro gets injured and eventually has to be put down, it gets noticed.  His story was chronicled from the moment he took a bad step at Pimlico until he died from laminitis.  For the older set, the image of Ruffian collapsing in her 1975 match race against Foolish Pleasure still resonates.  When this happens, the question for the leaders of the sport is "what are you doing to make your game safer?"  The immediate reply was the installation of synthetic racing surfaces.

From 2009 thru 2014, it seemed like synthetics was working.  Equine fatalities are based on per 1,000 starters and during this time, dirt surfaces saw 2.07 deaths; turf (grass) saw 1.65 and synthetics saw 1.22.  At Keeneland, deaths went from 1.98 on dirt to only 0.33 on synthetic.  Joe Drape of the New York Times reported that field sizes didn't decrease, betting didn't decrease and on-track attendance didn't either, but for some reason, that wasn't satisfying enough. The thought of bucking tradition and not running on dirt was too much for many to absorb.

Drape also tracked Santa Anita.  He reported that in 2009, when Santa Anita ran on polytrack, there 0.90 deaths per 1,000 starters.  From 2010-2013 when they went back to dirt, equine deaths were 3.45, 2.94, 2.89 and 2.11.  Clearly, running on synthetics was safer than running on dirt.

From 2009-2013 there were 1.22 deaths per 1,000 starters on synthetics compared to 2.08 per 1,000 on dirt.  Those numbers don't jump out at you, but there are significant.  In 2014, there was an average of 24 deaths each day at America's thoroughbred race tracks.  For some, that's 24 too many.

Summertime is the time where people head to race tracks.  Saratoga averages 25,000 fans per day and Del Mar is where the turf meets the surf.  Del Mar had dirt, switched to poly and now runs on dirt again; Saratoga, the oldest race course in America has always run on dirt.  That's where horse racing went wrong.  If those tracks would have made the switch and explained to its droves the reasons why, then the sport would have moved forward with a much more accepting audience.

To say that horses die because of the surface is a bit unfair.  How many horses are not sound when they head to the starting gate?  The answer:  plenty.  How many horses are placed in claiming races with an injury just so the owner can rid themselves of it?  The answer again:  plenty.  But, I'll make the conclusion that more injured horses ran on synthetic because it was perceived as safer.  Horses don't offer any value if they don't race. Sure, an American Pharoah won't run at less than 100 percent in a big stakes race, but Old Senator will surely run in a $17,000 claiming race if it is physically possible. Because synthetics were deemed to be safer, my hunch is that a lot of horse that shouldn't run, did and the number could have been lower than the stats indicate if proper protocol was followed.

The sport dropped the ball.  If all tracks would have switched to a synthetic surface, then the playing field would be even.  The Kentucky Derby would be run on synthetic, making the Blue Grass Stakes a viable option as a prep.  If all tracks would have switched, the number of equine fatalities might have dropped more.  The historians and traditionalists would have balked, stomped and cried, but the younger people--critical to the future of the sport--would have applauded the move without thinking of nostalgia. Today's kids are much more aware of the environment and of safety than their moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas.   They grew up with seat belts, bike helmets and car seats; safety first is their only reference point.  They cry when dad kills a mouse because they actually feel bad for the critter that is eating through your attic walls.  The sport surely doesn't want to have the younger generation see horses break down in races.

But, that didn't happen.  The Breeder's Cup wouldn't award you their event unless you had a dirt track and as result, by switching back, Keeneland, Santa Anita and Del Mar have or will be hosting the two-day world-class event.  Woodbine, a previous host, knows that by choosing to replace polytrack with Tapeta, the Breeder's Cup won't be coming north anytime soon.  In a stunning development, Woodbine actually put safety ahead of monies.

There are five remaining synthetics remaining in North America.   In addition to Woodbine, we have Presque Isle (PA), Golden Gate Fields (CA), Arlington Park (IL), and Turfway Park (KY) as the last bastions of putting safety first.  The rest will enjoy their racing seasons, have their big races and if lucky, secure a Breeder's Cup or two going forward.

If it appears as if I am ripping the horse racing industry that really isn't the case.  What perplexes me is that the industry had a blueprint in place that was working.  Synthetics were installed and fatalities were decreasing.  One would think that it would catch on and more tracks would move to synthetics, but for many reasons that didn't happen.  And, as a result, the industry has provided more fodder to PETA and those who despise the sport. To me, that doesn't make sense.The Kentucky Derby is watched by over 10 million people.  Of that, 9,750,000 don't know anything about the sport and couldn't tell the difference between dirt or fake dirt.  Those are the people that the sport needs more than the 250,000 die-hards that watch no matter what.  When you get all of those new people watching, you want to be as safe as you can.  Synthetics was working and rather than expand it, they get rid of it.

Until next time.  









As the Saratoga meet is more than underway, let's not neglect or sleep on harness racing.  Recently, I was explaining the difference between harness and horse racing to my girlfriend's mother.  I compared it to eating filet of sole versus mussels.  That might not be fair, but I will preface by saying that I enjoy eating mussels, particularly if they are swimming in marinara.  That said, there are some that would never eat mussels, just like there are some that will never indulge in harness racing.  My angle is try it, you might like it. 


Harness racing is on a slight rise.  That might be because the whole VLT and casino movement began at many harness racing tracks.  Places like Buffalo Raceway, Saratoga Casino/Hotel and Batavia Downs were the first to couple racing and video gaming machines.  For every quarter dumped in to a video gaming machine, a portion went to harness racing. 


Buffalo Raceway just concluded its 2016 meet with handle up over 3 percent.  That may not seem like much, but consider all the betting options for those with discretionary incomes?  In Buffalo alone, there are two casinos operated by the Seneca Indian Nation as well as Finger Lakes Race Track, which offers both horse racing and video gaming machines.  And, because of New York State government's recent fascination with opening as many casinos as they can, more options are on the way.  Saratoga Casino and Hotel has always done well and this year, opened up a hotel as well as a Morton's Steakhouse.  In 2017, Schenectady's Rivers Casino will open on the banks of the Mohawk River, a full-scale casino that is less than 20 miles from Saratoga.  More places, more options to take your money. 


There might not be decided advantages in harness racing over horse racing, but there are some things that harness racing has over horse racing.  One is that the animals--the pacers and trotters--are more durable.  The standardbred can simply race more than the thoroughbred.  Most standardbreds can race at least once a week, and sometimes they will race twice on one day.  Consider the plight of Mohaymen, the fourth place finisher in this year's Kentucky Derby.  He hasn't raced since and his entry in to this Saturday's Jim Dandy will mark 83 days between races.  In that time, a standardbred might have raced at least 6 to 10 times.  Compare that to the Hambletonian, which requires horses to run an elimination heat and then come back a few hours later for the final. 


Let's give the sport of harness racing some love here.  Last Saturday, the reigning horse of the year, Wiggle It Jiggleit came to Saratoga Casino and Raceway to run in the $260,000 Jim Gerrity Memorial.  He certainly didn't disappoint, winning in 1:51.  The 2015 Little Brown Jug winner was pressed and pushed, but in the end, he came through with flying colors. 


Harness racing is doing a much better job of having what I deem significant races. For years, as the sport struggled, race cards were littered with 13 races and $2,500 purses.  That has changed, mainly because of VLT and casinos, but also because gambling has become much more mainstream than ever before.  In the old days, one had to sneak out to the betting parlor to wager and people who often gambled daily scorned upon.  Now, sports shows talk openly of betting lines for NFL games, and casinos seem to be within 150 miles of everybody and online wagering is easier than online grocery shopping.  As more people wager, the better the purses, plain and simple. 


When I study racing cards, I look for big races/stakes races and races with purses that catch your attention.  In horse racing, a race with over $100,000 is an eye-catcher and in harness racing, I look for $40,000 and over and this weekend, there are a few that caught my eye.


On Saturday, The Meadows (Washington County, PA, near Pittsburgh) offers two races for pacers:  the $110,950 Adios Volo for three-year-old fillies and the $400,000 Adios Final for males.  In the Volo, Dismissal is the morning line favorite.  In 2016, she has nine starts, with seven firsts and a third.   In the Final, Racing Hill is the early favorite.  He has three wins, four seconds and a third in eight starts and just finished second in the $750,000 Meadowlands Pace on July 16. 


Speaking of the Meadowlands, the $150,000 Anthony Abbatiello Classic is Saturday with Boston Red Rocks, the early 3-5 favorite.  He owns the fastest time in the field with a 1:50.35 for a mile and will face four others. 


Yonkers Raceway has two races on its Saturday card, each with $45,000 purses, so if you're looking to plunk down a few dollars on harness racing, there are five options here for you.  There are plenty of websites to gather information and I would suggest as well as  Never go in blind before making a bet and these sites will give you enough information to make at the very least, a half-baked educated guess. 


The big day in harness racing is Saturday, August 5; Hambletonian Day at Meadowlands Racetrack.  The Hambletonian (for trotters) is the most prestigious and well-known standardbred race in the world and it will be featured with nine other stakes races on the final Meadowlands card of the summer.  In addition to the $1 million Hambletonian, the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks will be run as well as the Cane Pace, part of the Triple Crown for pacers.  The cheapest purse of the day is $110,000, so it behooves you to get a program before heading down or making bets online.  And, like they have done in recent years, CBS Sports Network will cover the Hambletonian live next Saturday.


So, while we enjoy the sites and the quality thoroughbred racing that is Saratoga and Del Mar, it certainly is not a bad thing to pay some attention and throw some love to the world of harness racing.  It may not be as glamorous, but there is something for everybody.  And, if you can one watch one harness race this year, check out the Hambletonian next Saturday between 5 and 6 pm on CBS Sports Network. 


Until next time. 



As the Saratoga season gets underway, the Cuomo Administration continues to catch heat for not allowing NYRA to once again, become private.  After years of corruption, inflated salaries and perks to executives and other shenanigans, the state stepped in 2012 and took control of the New York Racing Association.  They pulled the plug on excessive salaries and bonuses and tried to make the NYRA more accountable.  The public had had enough and so too, did the state. 

And, guess what?  For the most part it has worked.  The NYRA has done a better job.  Rather than pay the CEO millions, Chris Kay's salary was set at $300,000.  In 2015, he received a $250,000 bonus, and that didn't go over well with people who follow both the NYRA and state politics.  Imagine if Kay wasn't under state watch?  How much would his bonus have been?  How much would his base salary be?  Definitely more than $300,000, that is for sure. 

Since 2012, racing has improved and New York remains the most lucrative circuit in the country. The Saratoga meet has 69 stakes races with a total purse of nearly $19 million.  Del Mar, the other summer place to be won't touch that number.  Kay, love him or hate him and his testy personality has added stability to an organization that was rife of misdeeds and mistakes.  The NYRA brought in Martin Panza as racing secretary and he has enhanced New York racing.  Belmont Stakes week features plenty of top quality stakes action as does the Stars and Stripes Racing Festival.  Panza has tried to create a big-time atmosphere with special events on the calendar.  Only Breeder's Cup Saturday offers more big-time races than Belmont Stakes day. 

The state said in 2012 that they would have control for three years, and recently they denied the NYRA's request for privatization until at the least, October 2017.  That means the state will have control of the NYRA for over five years and many are saying, "enough is enough." 

It's funny; in 2012, many were upset at the graft and corruption that faced the NYRA and were calling on the state to not only take control of New York racing, but to take control and sell it off.  Three years later all seems to be forgiven and now the state looks like the bad guy with NYRA coming off as a victim.  Do people forget that fast what was going on before the state took over? 

So, why has the state been reluctant to allow the NYRA to go private?  Simply, the NYRA is not ready.  They need oversight, period. 

NYRA claims that they are profitable and their accountants show black.  The state, led by comptroller Tom DiNapoli claims that the only reason is because of revenue that the NYRA gets from VLT money.  Both have a claim here.  VLTs were established to help the horse racing industry and most of the VLTs are headquartered at harness tracks and thoroughbred tracks, so why shouldn't those figures count towards NYRA profitability?

On the other hand, both the comptroller and the governor would like to see the NYRA be profitable without the aid of VLT money.  The state's ultimate goal would be to take away VLT monies from the horse racing industry altogether so they can use it for other purposes.  I'm not sure that is fair, but that state has their agenda and so too does NYRA.  I'm not sure why the NYRA can't count VLT money in their reports, but this has turned into a classic chess match between two stubborn organizations who both want to be right all the time. 

When the NYRA was private, it was a non-profit organization, which can be good and bad.  With non-profit companies the bottom line has to be zero, so what would the NYRA do if they were making profits?  Would they pour those profits back into racing, or would they bump up the salaries of the administrators like Kay, Panza and others? History suggests that they would take care of themselves with enhancements possible suffering.    

Saratoga is the moneymaker for the NYRA.  If things go to plan, the NYRA loses money at Aqueduct, breaks even at Belmont and makes a windfall at Saratoga.  Knowing that, what would private NYRA do to make more money at Saratoga?  They have increased admissions, they now charge for reserving picnic tables as well as securing a place at their sports bars.  Sure, they have added better televisions and have made enhancements for the fans, but if they can squeeze the duck, they will squeeze the duck. 

As a pure horse-racing fan, I fear that the purses for all races will decrease.  The NYRA right now does a good job with the average daily purses.  There are allowance races on a Wednesday with $77,000 and $85,000 purses.  At other tracks, that would be designated as a stakes race.  At Saratoga and Belmont, it isn't.  Would that continue under privatization?  I doubt it because it doesn't exist at places like Churchill Downs (owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated) and Gulfstream (owned by Stronach Racing). 

There is nothing wrong with making profits---big profits.  Look at Wal-Mart.  They make huge profits, but they offer consumers value.  Horse racing has to do the same.  They want your money, but they have to do things to make it attractive.  NYRA tracks are popular throughout North America, not just New York, and if purse money decreases, would handle decrease, too?  Finger Lakes Race Track in Western New York offers live horse racing but with small and often paltry purses, it isn't a place where bettors are dying to drop their money on.  The NYRA tracks would never fall to that level, but even a couple hundred thousand dollars in overall handle will create problems for an industry that already deals with plenty of them.

If consumers don't see value, they will look somewhere else and as always, they will find another place to spend their discretionary monies. 

The concerns are genuine.  Most agree that the state really shouldn't be running businesses; that they should stick to governing.  But, the NYRA does not have a stellar--excuse the pun--track record either.    Right now, things are going decently, and if that's the case, why change?  Let's be patient and give this more time.  Let's see another NYRA financial report in 2017.  Let's take the temperature at this time next year and reassess.  There is no need to rush this without checking every aspect of every report.  We've been down this road before, so patience must be the virtue.

Until next time.

It is over.  The three races in five weeks Triple Crown has ended, and for the first time since 2013, we had three races with three different winners.  Some will say that isn't a good thing, but it did remind us that what American Pharoah did last year was extraordinary.  What did we learn over five weeks? 


For starters, the press has to stop falling in love with one horse.  NBC does an outstanding job of covering the trilogy, but they like to shower one horse with too much attention.  As soon as Nyquist crossed the finish line at the Kentucky Derby, thoughts of Triple Crown were running through their minds.  When the Preakness came, they appeared to be shocked when Nyquist didn't win.  With three weeks before the Belmont, they had their story line and that was the rematch between Nyquist and the Preakness winner, Exaggerator at the Belmont, which dubs itself "The Test of the Champion." 


Days after, Nyquist spiked a fever and was removed from Belmont consideration and from then on, it was all Exaggerator, all the time.  Part of the attention was deserved; after all, he won the Preakness, and was headed to New York as the favorite, but too often, the other angles--and horses--are ignored.  In horse racing, there are the so-called "wise guys," and these are handicappers who never bet the favorite because, naturally, the pay off will be relatively small.  As much attention as Exaggerator received, all the NBC experts picked against him in the 148th running of the Belmont Stakes. 


Of the three races, the Belmont certainly had the most drama.  Gettysburg did his job, cutting decent fractions and was gamely trying to hold on at the top of the stretch.  He would eventually fade to eighth, but he did beat five others horses, which is often not the case as many frontrunners drop to last.  Gettysburg's effort set up a stellar final 440 yards.  It looked like Destin was destined to win and Lani, the temperamental Japan-based colt started picking off horses and looked like he might roll to the win.  In the end, Creator was the only one who had the final surge in him and that was enough to get the narrow victory.  It was a well earned win and the final time of 2:28.40 was not great, but not bad either (American Pharoah ran 2:26.56 last year). 


I picked Lani to win both the Preakness and the Belmont and still feel he is sitting on a big race.  What we found out with Lani is that he has one gear.  When he got near Destin and Creator, he could never quicken; for him to win those in front have to decelerate at an even faster pace than we saw last Saturday.  Some day that could happen, but it depends if Lani stays stateside or heads back to the Far East.  I hope he sticks around, because I'd like to see him win one here rather than oversees. 


No one can blame the networks for being disappointed when a Triple Crown is not on the line.  It means millions when it is for the obvious reasons.  There's a reason why ratings for the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup payoffs, World Series are down; Americans simply don't have the time to invest anymore.  One-time events like the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and at times, the Belmont Stakes don't take up two weeks of time, so they can draw huge numbers and will continue to do so.  We all know the stranglehold that football has in this country and the major reason is that it is one day per week. 


Personally, I like it when three different horses win the American classics.  Going forward, it truly is a crapshoot as the sport heads to the Breeder's Cup.  Where does Nyquist go?  What about Exaggerator?  Lani?  Creator?  Throw in Frosted, who absolutely dominated the $1.25 million Met Mile at age four, and the second half of the year sets up very nicely.  American Pharoah was a much-needed boost for the sport last year, but after he won the Belmont and kept running, it was hard to root against him.  That is not the case this year.  There are plenty of stories, angles and horses for the public to contemplate for the rest of 2016. 


Mohaymen was a leading contender, but after losing in the Florida Derby to Nyquist and then finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby, he fell off everybody's radar.  He will be back and I believe will run well again; the question is where?  Those who live in the Capital Region of New York are hoping that all the top contenders will be heading to Saratoga, but that remains to be seen.  We know that Creator, under the training of Steve Assmussen will be at the Spa.  It's the summer home for the 50-year old trainer and oh-by-the-way; he is being inducted in the Hall of Fame in August.  Keith Desmoreaux has indicated that he will keep Exaggerator at Belmont Park and then ship him up to Saratoga with a Jim Dandy-Travers double possibly on the docket. 


As for the three-year-olds, they will scatter all over now.  Some will run in the West Virginia Derby; others the Haskell, Jim Dandy and Travers.  For a horse like Gettysburg, why not the Ohio Derby at 1 1/8 miles?  He is probably a cut below the top three-year-olds, but the Ohio Derby is certainly in his wheelhouse and a nice--very nice--race to win with a $500,000 purse.  Last year, D. Wayne Lukas sent the speedster Mr. Z to the Preakness and then won the Ohio Derby.  Gettysburg, to me, fits the same profile.  The question is can he wheel back in just two weeks?  Probably not, so we might see some Preakness horses head to suburban Cleveland.  Horse racing is in an interesting spot in 2016.  Some races have $200,000 purses and are labeled as a graded stakes, while others such as the Ohio Derby offer a $500,000 purse but are classified as ungraded.  If you own/train a horse, where do you go:  for the money or for a chance to win a graded stakes race? 


Over the next few months, you will hear the term "win and you're in," in reference to the Breeder's Cup.  These are races where the winner gets an all-expenses paid trip to the Breeder's Cup this fall.  And, this year, the Breeder's Cup Classic has increased its purse from $5 million to $6 million; not bad for a sport that many think teeters on the brink of extinction.  The first post-Triple Crown win-and-you're-in event takes place at historic Churchill Downs when the Stephen Foster Handicap takes place at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt.  Last year's Classic runner-up, Effinex, is expected to be the favorite.  The Foster is one of five stakes races on a "Downs after Dark," card where first post occurs at 6 pm.  The other stakes races are the Fleur de Lis, Wise Dan, Matt Winn and Regret. 



Is Nyquist that good?  We will see.

Could it happen again? It took 37 years before American Pharoah won horse racing's Triple Crown, a feat that many thought was no longer possible. The horses are bred differently, train differently and generally are not as tough were the listed reasons for it not to happen.  But now that Pharoah has cracked through, many think there could be a 1970s style run where the crown was achieved three times.  And, if Nyquist were to prevail, it would mirror the back-to-back accomplishments of Seattle Slew and Affirmed in 1977 and 1978.

Yes, I have gotten way, way ahead of myself.  As good and dominant as Nyquist's win was, there is much lying ahead.  He has to come out of the race in fine shape; he has to ship to Pimlico, and he has to win the Preakness before the real hype begins.

Nyquist came into the Derby with plenty of doubters and plenty of question marks.  First and foremost was could he get the 1 ¼ distance?  I always smirk when I hear this before the Derby because as we all know, with the exception of Lani, none of the horses had ever run 10 furlongs.  Furthermore, many judge that on how horses finish 1 1/8 mile races.  They see a horse take the lead and then slow up at the end (they call it tiring) and they think that the extra eighth of a mile will exact its toll.  They also see other horses close fast and think that with another eighth of a mile in the Derby, they will keep on rolling.

There is certainly some merit in this, but horses do what they have to do to win races.  To me, as long as the horse finishes first, it has to be noted as such.  Nyquist is an undefeated horse; simply, he knows how to win; he feels he will and by golly, he wins.  He reminds many and me of Seattle Slew, who was undefeated and unheralded but just never lost races and that included the Derby, Preakness and Belmont.  The experts poked holes in Slew, said he had weaknesses, but each time, the colt kept getting to the line first.  To this point, that's what Nyquist has been doing.

Nyquist certainly has the right style to win two more Triple Crown races.  The Preakness is next and most of the time; the race at fabled Pimlico is easiest to win.  The Derby winner is still fresh, is still on a high while the other horses can't 'get" up for another race just two weeks later.  Many of the 20 horses that ran yesterday won't do so in Baltimore and the "new shooters," are usually a grade below what we saw at Churchill Downs.  The arrows are pointing in the right direction for sure. 

The Belmont is the toughest as we know.  The distance, the big track that swallows horses whole, the attrition; these are things we have all heard--and seen-- in the past.  In the Belmont, there will be horses from the Derby that skipped the Preakness waiting for him.  There will be horses that started their campaigns later waiting (see Tonalist, 2014) and ready.  Once again, we are ahead of ourselves, but it is fun to project, no? 

Nyquist has the right style to win the Triple Crown. He is not a closer and he is not a front runner.  He has that perfect, measured stalking style that is "Triple Crown suitable."  Secretariat had it, so too, did Seattle Slew and Affirmed.  Closers never win the Triple Crown, neither do front runners.  In the Derby, Danzig Candy did his job, cutting fast fractions of 22, 45.72 and 1:10, but Nyquist was never worse than third, never worse than a few lengths off the lead.  When it was time to go at the top of the stretch, Nyquist went and proved to be a worthy champion.  His winning time of 2:01.31 is more than excellent.  I've always been a big fan of the clock and anytime a horse runs 1 ¼ miles under 2:02 count me as impressed. 

There should be a deserved buzz going forward to the Preakness because the horse is that good.  Sometimes, it's exciting to see a longshot win the Derby like Giacomo at 50-1 in 2005 or Mine That Bird, also 50-1 in 2009, but that usually fades because we dismiss their Derby win as a fluke.  That shouldn't be the case this time.  The best horse won and the best horse will now take his act to Charm City.  After last year, I'm not sure what mood the public is in?  Do they want to see another Triple Crown?  Are they still living off the goodness that American Pharoah provided?  Some probably think so.  As beloved as American Pharoah was and is some might think that a Nyquist Triple Crown would take away from what he accomplished.  I don't believe this because I was five, nine and 10 when Secretariat (no personal memory) Seattle Slew (vivid memory) and Affirmed won (I was an Alydar fan) and then 47 when I saw another Triple Crown.  They are just not that easy to capture. 

It will all unfold in a fortnight.  Will Exaggerator, the hard-charging second place finisher head to Baltimore?  Gun Runner?  The story will surface soon.  Most would like to see an Exaggerator-Nyquist rematch, but Exaggerator has never beaten Nyquist.  We know that Todd Pletcher, who continues to struggle in the Kentucky Derby won't send his two Derby runners and there will be some from yesterday that we will never see again.  Mohaymen comes to mind.  He looked so good before the Florida Derby and then was trounced by Nyquist there.  The track was muddy providing a legitimate excuse.  But he spit the bit yesterday and though he finished fourth, was never a threat.  Does he have another big race in him, or is he done?

The Derby is the most important race in the United States, but the Preakness remains the most pivotal.  It can legitimize the Kentucky Derby champion and it makes the Belmont a spectacle or just another big race.  It may not have the luster or the class of the Derby, but make no mistake it's significance on the racing calendar should never be diminished.  The Preakness, in my opinion has always been understated, something I have liked because of my working class upbringing.  They call it "The People's Race," and I believe it's an appropriate title. 

The next 13 days will be fun ones so let the hype begin. 

Until next time.





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John Furgele

John Furgele hails from Grand Island, NY, just miles from the mist coming from Niagara Falls. Always a sports fan, I was drawn to the Triple Crown due in most part to my father, who always made sure we watched the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. In 1984, as a 16 year old, I was out practicing for my upcoming road test---and struggling---when my dad ordered me to pull into a "less than stellar" tavern so we could watch Swale win the Kentucky Derby. From that day on, my love of the Sport of Kings continued to grow. If I mention Spend a Buck to some of my hometown friends, it won't go over well, but that's a long story. In addition to loving all things horse racing, I work in sales, have three "nice" kids and live in Glenmont, and yes, still believe that the Buffalo Bills will win a few Super Bowls before "it's over."

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