For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The three-year anniversary of the "New Meadowlands" ...

by Peter Lawrence, VFTRG Correspondent

... is almost upon us, and I just came across this promo video the U.S. Trotting Association and host GiGi Diaz produced at the time, in 2013.
Horsemen, fans and the press were interested in what the heck was going on at the new grandstand site - I know I was - and here it is in its then-state of incompleteness.
Interesting that the tour, led by, I guess, the worksite's construction manager, points out the owners' club, tiered restaurant and sports bar, none of which had their names yet ... Trotters, Pink and Victory.
The video ends with track owner-operater Jeff Gural's optimistic comments about the new facility.

Would he still have made the grand - and VERY expensive - effort to build and operate the new place if he knew the challenges that were ahead, which continue to this very day in 2016?
Probably, I'd guess, though one imagines he thought Meadowlands would have had, or been closer to, the dream of casino gambling on-site, which still hasn't happened.
And which STILL may be several years away.
I'm glad he made, and continues to make, that effort. Jeff is sometimes a controversial guy, but, through it all - and I don't love everything about the new place or today's Meadowlands racing - Gural did save the place from a desperate situation.
I'm thrilled he, his partners and others working behind the scenes, like the SBOA, stepped up and made the effort to save horse racing, especially harness racing, at the Meadowlands.
I hope the casino dream and a return, of some sort, to the old glory days of the 1970s and 1980s, does eventually occur at the once-palace.
Interesting, too, is that the hulking old grandstand facility - I loved that place, I think many people did - still exists right where it's been for 40 years.
I still drive right by the old place every time I attend the Meadowlands races, after exiting the New Jersey Turnpike's well-known Exit 16W.
I still sigh every time I see the old place. It never fails to happen.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Lexington Selected Trotters 2016

This is a survey of how the trotting stallions fared at the recent Lexington Selected Sale.

Muscle Hill was far and away the leader as he sold 52 from his fifth crop for a weighty $114,385 average. That represents a 25% increase over last year. The fact that this is the first crop eligible to the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes adds considerable value to each purchase. And many of the yearlings sold at Lexington, from a variety of stallions, have dual eligibility to resident programs like Kentucky and New Jersey.

A brother to Mission Brief brought $800,000, while two other colts sold for $350,000 and $300,000. Last year in Lexington a half to Father Patrick, who went for $350,000, was the only plus $300,000 sale. In addition, three colts and a filly topped $200,000 and ten colts and five fillies broke $100,000. In all, 22 yearlings, or 42% of his offering, sold for more than $100,000.

Twenty-five colts and 14 fillies—75%--broke $50,000, while all but four of the 52 topped $25,000.

The sire of Ariana G, Southwind Frank and Bar Hopping sold 26 here and 31 in Harrisburg in 2014, but last year it was 49 here to 17 at Harrisburg. In 2015 his average jumped $16,000 in Lexington, while it declined 18% in Harrisburg. Only 22, or 42% as many, will sell in Pennsylvania.

Cantab Hall, who averaged $28,000 less than Muscle Hill last year at this event, while selling 48 yearlings, fell $46,705 behind this time around. Cantab Hall’s 48 averaged $67,680, up $9,451, or 14 %, from 2015.

 A colt out of a sister to Muscle Mass and Muscle Massive brought $350,000; a colt and a filly exceeded $200,000; and two colts and three fillies topped $100,000. That represents 16% of the offering crossing the $100,000 threshold. On the other hand, Muscle Hill saw 42% of his group crack $100,000.

Twenty-two—44%--broke $50,000, as opposed to 75% for Muscle Hill, while 92% topped $25,000. This is an improvement over last year when 34% topped $50,000.

Cantab, who stands for $20,000, the highest published fee for a trotter, had a very good sale; it’s almost unfair to compare his figures with those of the behemoth with the bulging muscles. (Patrick also gets $20,000.)

Kadabra sold 11 yearlings from his eleventh Ontario crop for an impressive $82,091 average, up 32% from last year. A pair of fillies topped $100,000. Nine brought at least $50,000 while all of them beat $25,000.

There will be no Muscle Mass freshmen to compete with in the OSS next year, and no Muscle Mass get at all in 2018. The Ontario trotting stallions aren’t exactly a murderer’s row of talent so Kadabra will have free reign. He stands for $12,000 (U.S.).

Archangel sells his first Ontario crop next year. The same goes for E L Titan.

Credit Winner sold 38 for a $59,842 average. He sold the same number here in 2015 for 14% less. A filly out of Pizza Dolce, eligible in New York and Kentucky, brought $350,000, while the first foal—a filly—out of world champion Check Me Out sold for $260,000. Four, or 12.5%, brought at least $100,000, while 20, or 62.5%, commanded $50,000 or more. And 94% topped $25,000. The sire of Devious Man and Fad Finance saw his fee drop from $14,000 to $10,000 in 2016.

Chapter Seven sold 24 from his second crop of 71 for an average of $53,042—down 13% from last year’s sale. A colt and a filly topped $100,000 and 42% beat $50,000. Twenty of the 24 exceeded $25,000. The sire of world champion Walner was second to Credit Winner on the NYSS points list. Chapter Seven stands for $7,500.

Donato Hanover sold 34—8 more than last year—at a $40,029 average. That’s about the same as last year. A half-brother to Snow White sold for $200,000, while a colt and a filly topped $100,000. Nine, or 35%, exceeded $50,000 and 15, or 58%, broke $25,000. Last year only one topped $100,000. The same 35% cracked $50,000 in 2015. The sire of Broadway Donna, CMO, D’One, Shake It Cerry and The Bank isn’t exactly knocking them dead in Kentucky.

The results weren’t any better last year in Harrisburg, where he will sell 42 in November.  Forty averaged $38,744, and there were three in the supplemental offering. Only a third of them exceeded the $50,000 level. Donato stands for $15,000.

Conway Hall only sold six—half as many as last year—but his average jumped 45% to $62,833. One sold for $120,000; four of them beat $50,000; and all six topped $25,000. The sire of Wishing Stone, Habitat and Dayson, who ranked third in the NYSS, will sell 14 in Harrisburg. His fee was cut from $7,500 to $5,000 this year.

Andover Hall didn’t spark any parades as 14—four more than 2015—averaged $39,143, which was slightly more than last year. One colt brought $120,000, while 21% beat $50,000 and half of them failed to top $25,000. Twenty-nine will sell in Harrisburg where his average for 26 sold dropped 23% to $31,808 in 2015. His fee was reduced from $10,000 to $8,000 in 2016.

Explosive Matter, the sire of Pinkman, Love Letters and Iron Mine Bucky, averaged $35,067 for 15 sold—up 10% from last year. One topped $100,000 and three beat $50,000. Seventeen averaged a disappointing $17,564 at Harrisburg in 2015. A large offering of 39 will be served up in Harrisburg. He stands for $7,500.

Muscle Mass, who is back in Ontario, but has two New York crops to peddle, averaged $31,688 for 16 sold. Last year he only offered one at this sale. A couple topped $50,000 and 69% broke $25,000. This is his sixth crop—the first from New York. Muscle Mass, who has been more successful than his more celebrated brother, is second to Kadabra in the OSS, and while his offspring haven’t wandered far from the provincial program, he has been very successful in it.

Twenty-two-year-old Yankee Glide, who is moving from Pennsylvania to Kentucky for the 2017 season, averaged $30,148 for 27 sold in Lexington—down slightly from last year. A brother to MOMM sold for $120,000 and 22% broke $50,000. Only 41% sold for $25,000 and up. Yankee Glide stood for $20,000 in 2011, but that fee has gradually dropped over the last several years. It was $7,500 in 2016 and will revert to “private treaty” status in the Bluegrass State.

Lucky Chucky sells his fourth crop this year. Last year’s group was bred in Pennsylvania, but this one is eligible to the NYSS, as well as the Kentucky and Maryland programs in some cases. After seeing his average drop by 43% in 2014 and more than half last year, he came out of his tailspin—relatively speaking—and registered a 44% rise to $24,917 for a dozen sold. One, a filly out of a sister to Windsong’s Soprano, cracked $50,000, while 42% of them topped $25,000.  Dog Gone Lucky, who showed great promise at two with late season wins in the Valley Victory and Matron, came up empty at three, but NYSS champ Non Stick met with much success. Eighteen will sell in Pennsylvania. Chucky’s fee went from $7,500 to $6,000 and is now at $4,000.

Muscle Massive sold twelve for a $19,500 average—down 13%. Two beat $25,000. His fee was cut from $7,500 to $4,000 in 2016. Twenty-nine will sell in Harrisburg.

Joe FitzGerald

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Ball is in the Industry's Court

What a turn around.  Just two or three weeks after announcing the Meadowlands stakes program was going to be slashed severely to start recouping the over-payment of the purse account, a new release comes out indicating the stakes program will remain relatively intact.  Specifically, the press release says:

Another important decision made in view of the robust market for yearlings at the recently concluded Lexington Selected Yearling Sale is to maintain as many of the Grand Circuit stakes at as close to current purse levels as possible, despite the burden of a purse account that is currently overpaid by $5 million.

What does this mean?  After all, only the Federal Reserve Bank can print money so something has to give?  There is a big 'IF' here, it is called sponsorship.  Specifically:

The reality of sustaining a stakes program anywhere close to what we are accustomed to at the Meadowlands will require industry support via sponsorship of these races. We hope to be able to find sponsors for all of our stakes and Jason Hall will be reaching out to the major owners, breeders, vendors and other participants to hopefully raise enough in sponsorships to keep the majority of stakes programs in place. 

Now this is speculation on my part, I may be totally wrong.  My suspicion is industry leaders were concerned about the slash and burn of stakes races at the Meadowlands and asked for Jeff Gural to reconsider.  If I am wrong, then it is a question of him deciding to ask the industry to sponsor the stakes.  Either way, we get this press release which basically says, "Okay, time to put up or shut up.  If these stakes races are so important, let's see the industry put up their money and sponsor these races".  In effect, putting the fate of these stakes into the hands of industry leaders.

Gural's detractors are no doubt going to be criticizing Gural for passing the hat around, but lest anyone forget, there is precedent for sponsorship.  After all, the entire Grand Circuit meet at The Red Mile is sponsored by the very people Gural is asking to pony up now.

The ball is now in the industry's court.  

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lexington Selected Sale Pacers

The average at last week’s Lexington Selected Yearling Sale was a record $56,304, up 24.5 % over last year, when the sale was up 13.46% over 2014. Trotters averaged $1,640 more than pacers.

Somebeachsomewhere sold 39 yearlings—23 colts and 16 fillies—for an average of $123,615. That’s almost $38,000 more than he averaged for five fewer yearlings last year in Lexington. And it’s more than double what he averaged for 50 sold at a disappointing sale in Harrisburg in 2015.

Right off the bat, at hip number one, he sold a filly out of Put On A Show for $550,000. And later on that night he sold a son out of double millionaire Darlin’s Delight for $450,000. Another high-dollar sale was a son of Big McDeal for $300,000. 46% of his offering—12 colts and 6 fillies—brought at least $100,000. 87% of them sold for at least $50,000—that includes all 25 colts. Only one failed to reach the $25,000 level.

Sixty-one by the sire of Darlinonthebeach, Pure Country and Check Six, will be available in Harrisburg in early November. Captaintreacherous and Sweet Lou, each of whom bred 140 mares in 2015, will sell their first crops next year. The Pennsylvania market is very popular, but sharing the buyers’ loot with that pair will put pressure on SBSW’s bottom line at the 2017 sales.

So Surreal, a half to Well Said from the second crop of SBSW, who was retired at two with a fast mark, sold three colts and a filly for a $60,000 average—two of them brought more than $50,000. He bred 130 mares in 2014. If he’s that popular off a severely truncated career, what will happen next year when the Captain comes online?

Bettor’s Delight, who has been the leading sire of all-age pacers in North America for some time, although he recently fell $172,000 behind his younger adversary SBSW, sold 29 for an average of $55,655. This is his second, and last, Pennsylvania crop. Next year’s group will be back in the Ontario program. The sire of Betting Line will sell 57 in Harrisburg. Bettor’s Delight sold three for more than $100,000; 16, or 55%, brought at least $50,000; and almost 80% sold for more than $25,000. Last year he sold 25 for an average of more than $42,000 in Lexington. BD produces long lasting types that can win at the highest level, but he’s never been an object of affection commensurate with his output at the sales.

Art Major saw his average drop almost $16,000 from last year’s sale. Thirty-one averaged a shade over $39,000, down from $55,000 last year. The 17-year-old stallion ranked third in the NYSS for both the two and three-year-old classes. His stud fee dropped from $12,000 to $10,000 in 2016.

American Ideal sold 15 colts and 17 fillies for an average of $48,375, about the same as last year. Two colts and a filly topped $100,000, while half brought at least $50,000. More than 65% brought at least $25,000. On the downside, the 14-year-old sire of Funknwaffles, Candlelight Dinner and bedroomconfessions, sold nine for less than $25,000.

A Roncknroll Dance introduced 19 from his first crop. They averaged $36,421. A colt out of See You At Peelers brought $120,000, while another colt and filly sold in the 50s, but most fell in the middle, with almost 74% bringing at least $25,000. Four sold for less than that. The seven-year-old double-millionaire stands in the tough, and soon to be tougher, Pennsylvania market for a modest $5,000. There are 69 in this crop; 25 will be for sale in Harrisburg.

Sportswriter outdid OSS rival Shadow Play by a mere $378 in average. He sold nine for a $54,778 average. Five of them brought at least $50,000 and all nine sold for more than $25,000. Last year the nine-year-old son of Artsplace, whose promising son Sports Column was barely staked outside the OSS, averaged more than $34,000 for 11 sold. Sportswriter is second to Mach Three on the OSS leader board.

Shadow Play only sold five; they averaged $54,400. A colt brought $70,000 and a filly $100,000. This is up from last year when four averaged $35,500. World champion Lady Shadow has put a charge in his resume

Western Ideal saw a colt out of a daughter of Worldly Beauty sell for $100,000, but beyond that the results were disappointing, as six of the seven failed to top $25,000. They averaged about $30,000, thanks to the outlier. Last year nine by the sire of Rocknroll Hanover and Artspeak averaged $47,000, but as was the case this time, there was a $200,000 outlier and six of Eight failed to top $25,000. Twenty-seven by Western Ideal will sell in Harrisburg. In 2015 twenty-two averaged $33,000 there.

Well Said, who saw his fee cut in half to $7,500 in 2016, sold eight colts and ten fillies for a $23,611 average. That’s down from last year when 30 averaged a shade over $39,000. Control The Moment helped raise the ten-year-old’s profile, but only one of the 18 topped $50,000. That’s a damning figure. 44% sold for at least $25,000, but the rest did not. Fifty-two will sell at Harrisburg. There were more than 60 available there in 2015, and 18% topped $50,000.

Betterthancheddar sold eight from his first and only New York crop. They averaged a robust $50,875, with three-quarters selling for at least $50,000 and all topping $25,000. The Breeders Crown and Franklin winner now stands in Ontario for an attractive $3,500 (cdn) fee. Ten will sell in Harrisburg.

The Indiana stallion Always A Virgin, the sire of world record holder Always B Miki, only sold one, but that half-brother to Ohmybelle and Bob Ben And John brought $110,000, so it was worth the trip. AAV sells one filly in Harrisburg.

Roll With Joe, the sire of Messenger, Adios and Tattersalls Pace winner Racing Hill, sold nine for a $30,000 average. That’s down considerable from his $47,454 average for 11 sold here last year. Only one topped $50,000 and 55% failed to exceed $25,000. Joe was second to American Ideal among two and three-year-olds in the NYSS this year. He’ll sell 21 from his crop of 64 in Harrisburg.

Rock N Roll Heaven averaged $39,778 for nine from his second last New York crop. That was up considerably from the $17,241 he averaged for 29 sold here in 2015, however, a sister to Band Of Angels and Romantic Moment skewed that figure when she sold for $150,000. Two other fillies topped $50,000 but two-thirds of the offering failed to crack $25,000. Twenty-eight will sell in Harrisburg. Heaven will have a monopoly on the NJSS landscape in a couple of years, but by then that may be like owning a big chunk of the desert.

Joe FitzGerald

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Resolve Takes the International

So Yonkers International Trot (#2) is in the books and as expected, Resolve was the race winner in a world record 2:23.4 for the mile and a quarter distance.  Resolve's victory was made easier by Hannelore Hanover's break in the first turn, unable to handle the half mile oval.  Once Resolve made it to the top, the race was over.

Oasis Bi sat second the whole way through and briefly attempted to fire a challenge in the stretch, alas to no avail.

On the undercard, Yonkers hosted two $250,000 Invitationals to spice up the card,  In the Invitational Trot, Bee A Magician returned to the races victoriously, defeating a field of trotters in 2:25.1 for the ten furlong event.  While not a wire to wire victory, once Bee A Magician got to the lead past the first quarter and went a convincing mile.  The Queen of trotting is back.

Obviously, coming off two qualifiers, Bee A Magician was impressive but perhaps the most impressive effort came from Melodys Monet who raced big on the outside for a good part of the mile and was still strong enough to finish second in the race.

As for the the third big event, the Yonkers Invitational Pace, the $250,000 purse was good because it secured the presence of Wiggle It Jiggleit,  Other than that, the money invested was a huge waste of money because no one challenged WIJI during the mile, as once he cleared the field, it was just a jog over the Yonkers oval.

I will admit one thing, I never saw a horse get away and clear the field so quickly as WIJI.  Released at the starting position by the starter from post position seven (there was a scratch), WIJI was along the rail by the time the field hit the first turn.  I realize second place was good money and that may have been the problem; the money being too good.  Too good to risk going after the leader or to give WIJI a tougher trip than he had.

For purposes of French wagering, it was important to give the PMU customers the best possible field Yonkers could so I am less critical of the investment of money for the trotters.  However, with Breeders Crown eliminations a week off, the fields were not only lacking depth in star power, it was high unlikely anyone was going to try to challenge the victors of both races; everyone one else racing relatively conservative trying to pick up some money in tightners.

I've been critical of Yonkers and their horsemen in the past for not having a larger stakes program, but this is not the way to spend the money; seeding finals for Levy-style late closing series for the fall would have been a better use of the money.

Anyway, on to the Breeders Crown.