Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes
News And Notes
Muscle Hill, the dominating Hambletonian champ in 2009, has been in the stud business since he retired from racing. Speculation on his progeny has been high all over the world (remember that trotting in Europe is far more popular than on these shores). At a yearling sale in Stockholm on May 25, Victory Rain, from the first crop of Muscle Hill, topped the prices at $115,000. Trainer Stefan Hultman bought the colt.
The issue of speed continues to impress many people in the sport. Granted, the fact that fast horses will always beat slow horses is, in harness racing, debatable. But this season has begun with fiery miles and you can get a good rundown of the atmosphere by reading Tim Bojarski’s blog; click here to read.
With the Belmont Stakes nearing and a Triple Crown possible from a horse in the hands of a controversial trainer, harness racing took the forefront with a major suspension from a trainer once on top of the heap, Lou Pena.
New York racing officials joined with New Jersey authorities to come to the conclusion that Mr. Pena be suspended immediately and indefinitely. Pena has amassed more than 1,700 equine drug violations, facing possible revocation of his license to race horses in the Empire State and fines of up to $25,000 per violation (do the math, this is an outrageously high ticket). As well, New York is looking to recover more than $2.5 million in purse monies won by the horses in violation at the time.
We recall some years back in California when a few trainers were making their bones, so to speak, and one on the list was Lou Pena. Standardbred trainers that have brought their stock east after campaigning successfully on the Pacific coast produced peculiar success stories that have made California harness known as the Wild, Wild West of the sport. This is not to insinuate that harness racing in the west has been a freak factory of players; it is to bring to the attention of all involved that the way the sport is handled on either coast is as different as east and west.
The great, yet unorthodox trainer Brett Pelling came east from the western frontier, as did many Australasian horsemen, including Brett’s father Brian and top Meadowlands trainer Ross Croghan, who Brett worked for in the Golden State. Noel Daley, who conditioned last year’s Hambo-winner Broad Bahn, was a student of Brett. Natives of the U.S.A., Joe Anderson (two-year suspension) and Paul Blumenfeld (180 days) at the end of 2011, were both heroes on the now defunct California circuit.
We think all of these horsemen were and are proficient and knowledgeable, two qualities that must include some cunning. Thus, the California connection, so to speak, cannot be verified as any kind of cartel. There is no evidence of anything conspiratory. You might just say there is something in the air.
We stood up in the press and at state hearings for Brett Pelling when Pennsylvania racing officials accused him of actions we felt were inaccurate, at best. Trainers with unpopular but legal means of conditioning horses should not be indicted for bad behavior in other areas just because no one approved of their methods.
This is a slippery slope, indeed, and bettors should be aware of the hyperbole related to just who is a cheater and who is an innovator. We’ll have more on this issue to come. If you have any comments as a player, please write to us care of TwinSpires.
There is good news in trotting. Chapter Seven, last year’s Breeders Crown soph-colt champion caught everyone’s eye in his 2012 debut at the Meadowlands with a 1:51.4 qualifer. Chapter Seven was in front through panels of :29, :57.3, and 1:25 before he scorched home in :26.4 to win by almost 15 lengths. The qualifying mile stands as Chapter Seven’s lifetime mark and opens up another portal of competition for the older trotting set. Kudos to the horse’s connections for not retiring the trotter.
Neither of the glamour-boy pacers now being closely hailed as this year’s dynamic duo will be racing in the Somebeachsomewhere Stake in Canada. Sweet Lou and A Rocknroll Dance are aiming at bigger things.
“Lou” trainer Ron Burke said Lou said, “We’ll be at the [million-dollar] North America Cup for sure.”
Jim Mulinix, trainer of A Rocknroll Dance, said his steed will be racing in the $150,000 New Jersey Sires Stake final on June 2 instead of shipping to Mohawk.
Watch the Hambletonian Trail blog for previews and the Hambletonian Society website for result stories.