By John Furgele.
The 37th edition of the Breeders Crown begins taking shape this weekend with elimination heats in nine of the 12 finals set for Halloween weekend (Oct. 30-31).
For the second time, Harrah’s Hoosier Park in Anderson, Indiana will host harness racing’s version of the Breeders’ Cup (for thoroughbreds) scheduled for Nov. 6-7.
Other than the elims over the 7/8-mile track, this weekend is relatively quiet in the world of trotters and pacers with a $25,000 open pace ay Yonkers Raceway on Saturday night a race worth checking out.
As has been the case for many of the big harness races this year, the girls have excelled, particularly when taking on the boys. One of them, though, Hambletonian winner Ramona Hill, spiked a fever after racing in the Grand Circuit at The Red Mile and won’t run next weekend.
The good news is she shouldn’t be out long, with her next scheduled race set for Nov. 12, in the Matron at Dover Downs.
Then there’s Atlanta, who is taking on the guys again in the $500,000 Open Trot on Oct. 31. The 5-year-old mare won the 2018 Hambo, and has beaten the boys on several other occasions.
All 12 finals will have 10-horse fields. Four finals, all for 2-year-olds, are set for Friday (Oct. 30); the remaining eight races are Saturday (Oct. 31).
Due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, attendance will be limited.
2-year old filly pace (14)
2-year old filly trot (17)
2-year old pace (16)
2-year old trot (14)
3-year old filly pace (13)
3-year old filly trot (16)
3-year old pace (15)
3-year old trot (17)
Open Mare pace (11)
Open mare trot (8)
Open pace (10)
Open trot (10)
Harrington Raceway in Delaware concluded its 74th season of racing last Wednesday. Jim King, Jr., won his first training title while Allan Davis, with 64 wins, picked up his second driving title.
Monty’s Play was chosen Horse of the Meet and if there was a “Grinders Hall of Fame,” he would be a leading candidate. He won seven of his 10 starts racing for three different trainers. He was claimed twice, but that didn’t stop him from visiting the winner’s circle.
The Delaware harness racing scene moves to Dover Downs beginning Nov. 3. Racing for the most part will be on a Monday-through-Thursday schedule.
Pompano returns to action on Nov. 8 and while the big purses may be lacking, there’s something about seeing horses race in balmy temperatures while most of the country is in a deep freeze that soothes one’s soul.
For some reason, I am always drawn to the Sunday evening card at The Pomp. While it’s cold and dark in the Northeast, it always looks steamy and nice at the Florida track and the 5/8 mile facility always produces some pretty fast times, considering the class of horses that compete.
There will be 126 days of racing from Nov. 8-May 11.
As 2020 heads to its conclusion, let’s take a look at who’s making the dough when it comes to earnings. On the driver’s side, Dexter Dunn leads the way with $7,917,951 in earnings; Tim Tetrick with $7,150,533 and Yannick Gingras third with $6,848,427. On average, drivers get 5% of earnings, so that means Dunn and Tetrick are nearing $400,000, while Gingras is near $350,000
On the training side, the leader — as in most years — is Ron Burke with $13.6 million. He has a big lead over Nancy Takter ($5.6 million) and Tony Alagna ($4.8 million). Not only does Burke have some of the best horses in training, he has the most, a super barn if you will and he races them everywhere.
Tall Dark Stranger is the only horse to have cracked the $1 million mark with $1,177,681. He is followed by Ramona Hill with $915,615 and Party Girl Hill with $736,620. Party Girl Hill does have one thing over those two – she’s 13-for-13 in 2020.
Next week, I’ll break down who will win, place and show in the Breeders Crown races. If you love harness racing, the Super Bowl of the sport is days away.
As a kid growing up in the Buffalo suburbs in the 1970s and 80s, the radio was one of John Furgele’s best friends. In the evenings, he used to listen to a show on WBEN radio called “Free Form Sports,” hosted by Buffalo broadcast legend Stan Barron. The show ran weeknights from 6 to 11 pm and featured every kind of sport you could imagine. One minute, Mr. Barron was interviewing a Buffalo Sabres player; the next, he was giving high school field hockey scores.
But there was always one thing that caught John’s ear. During those five hours, Barron would give the results from Western New York’s two harness racing tracks — Buffalo Raceway and Batavia Downs. This is where John learned what exactas, quinellas, trifectas and daily doubles were all about. From then on, he always paid attention to harness racing, and when Niatross (a legendary Western New York horse) hit the scene in 1979, his interest began to blossom.
John believes harness racing is a sport that has the potential to grow and he will explore ways to get that done via marketing, promotion and, above all, the races themselves.
When he’s not watching races, John is busy with his family and his job in sales. Like the pacers and trotters, he does a little running himself and you’ll occasionally find him “going to post” in a local 5K race.