December 17, 2007


According to numbers released in the Horseman’s Holiday issue the leading New Jersey bred money winners held up very well against other state bred programs although all trailed the lucrative Ontario sired program.

For example, New Jersey’s top money winning 2-year-old Duneside Perch earned $127,125 in State Sanction purses trailing New York’s Riggins at $185,448 though well ahead of the Pennsylvania leader Idle Hour at $79,347.

Interestingly enough, New Jersey top winning 3-year-old pacing colt Fresh Deck $277,800 eclipsed the New York leader Kenneth J at $167,602 while the Pennsylvania Leader May June Character earned $85,423.

It should be noted that Fresh Deck was the winner of the lucrative New Jersey Classic in 07 which falls into heading of an exclusively New Jersey sired race even though it’s not officially a New Jersey Sires Stake.

Yearling buyers should always note that Jersey sired yearlings are also eligible to the New Jersey Classics, Miss New Jersey, Lou Babics assorted Smith and Dancer memorials all under the auspices of the New Jersey Racing Program which also includes the State sanctioned New Jersey Sires Stakes.

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the increments for New Jersey Owned and Sired in the overnight program especially at The Meadowlands where those overnights and early spring sire stakes serve as prime step stones to the mega stakes of summer.

An offshoot of an official discussion not too long ago inferred that some race purses would be decreased due primarily to reduced pari-mutuel handle. Which in itself is hardly surprising.

Then comes an illuminating column by Tom LaMarra in the December Hoofbeats entitled “Mystery Numbers” in which the erudite writer laments that handle figures for Harness and Greyhound Racing seem virtually unavailable while the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase seem quite able to document handle figures for thoroughbred racing.

This of course raises additional questions in terms of how harness and thoroughbred wagering handle have held up through the years and whether the harness numbers are but a fraction of what they used to be proportionately to the thoroughbred numbers. If so, where then has this handle gone?

Then comes a very interesting dissertation by Bennett Liebman entitled waiting for Godot Hanover in which he cites the several false Messiahs who have not proven saviors for the good ship Harness Racing.

Towards the end of the article is a rather innocuous but oh so provocative line which states “The problem may be that we have a product that the public isn’t buying.”
Which probably is among the answers to where has all the handle gone. If so, what do we do about it?

Fascinating disclosure some months ago surrounding a ball team’s reluctance to rip up an existing contract for a likely hall of fame candidate using the rationale of ”we can’t pay you for what you did, we can only pay for what you’re about to do” The unstated implication being that given the advancing age and accumulation of injuries, the player’s best days were likely behind him.

While at first glance it may seem as a somewhat ungrateful team posture, the resulting analogy is not so different to what breeders must often deal with when presented with superstar fillies coming off the racetrack.

It so often seems like their price tags are a reaffirmation of what they did do and were well compensated for in purse earnings-which may or may not approximate what they might do from here on in.

All one need do is read recovering colleague Ralph Succee’s expose like revisit to the Castleton dispersal which so clearly illustrates the feeding frenzy that occurred in the auction ring that fateful year and how few if any of the high priced matrons actually validated those lofty price tags down the road.

Consequently one must at least be moderately attentive the to following scenarios not all of which are etched in stone but do tend to occur with noticeable frequency

First and foremost is “she” may be tough to “get in” and “sustain in” foal at least early on in her new career. Then there’s potential buyer skepticism should that first foal fail to measure up size wise.

Secondly “she” while current to her contemporaries may not be all that genetically compatible with where the breed is likely to be at the time her foal hits the auction ring.

Thirdly inherent with her superstar status is the likelihood that her breeding career will not approximate her racing career in terms of fiscal productivity.

Fourthly any conformation flaws she herself lived with will likely be passed on to her offspring who may or may not handle said imperfections as well as she did furthering the likelihood that her breeding productivity will not approach the level of her racing productivity.

Therefore, understand you may be greeted with a slightly skeptical eye after declaring what you MUST have for the retiring super girl from those who must now make it work at the next level.

Yes, you’re a sure fire Hall Of Fame candidate but you’re approaching middle age and you have questionable knees at best.

Bob Marks



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