12/07/2011 10:29PM

Trainer talk, Walter Case Jr., Black Friday


Let’s skip around a bit this week and touch on a few topics.

As much as I hate to harp on an issue, what were trainers Mark Kesmodel and Richard Banca thinking when they made comments to Harnessracingupdate.com on the suspensions they were handed by the New York Racing and Wagering Board?

Kesmodel, who  received a 105 day suspension, said, “You get 15 days for the same positive in some other places. That part of it seems to be unfair to me. It’s only a class IV drug, so I never imagined this would be such a big issue. The punishment is just too severe.”

Banca felt the same way. “This is definitely too severe for the class of the positive that this is,” said the trainer. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I know that Pennsylvania suspended people for 12 or 14 days for the same thing. How does one state give out a 12-day suspension and another gives out three months? I don’t understand it.”

I have a question for each of the trainers. Why should it matter what class drug you gave the horse and how much over the legal limit you were? You administered an illegal drug. Case closed! If you don't want to get suspended, just say no to drugs. My father always said to me, “You play, you pay.”

One thing I do agree with, fines should be consistent from state to state and clearly identified for each infraction. If a trainer breaks the rules, he/she should know what to expect beforehand. Just like if you commit a crime in the real world.

Back to Kesmodel for a moment. His replacement as listed trainer, PJ Fraley, has hit the ground running at Yonkers, with three wins and three seconds in 13 starts. How could it be that such a good trainer wouldn’t have gone out on his own sooner? My favorite question, though, why is Fraley only listed as P. Fraley on all the United States Trotting Association data? Does this guy not have a first name? Perhaps he only likes to go by a first initial, but since he is mostly an unknown trainer, I think the public should have more information.

When will we see Walter Case Jr.?

There have been plenty of rumors swirling around about when Walter Case Jr. will apply for a license and return to the sulky. The winner of over 11,000 career races recently finished his jail and probation period stemming from a domestic violence instance with his ex-wife. Now the question of when he will return remains.

His current wife Luanne has been quoted as saying he will be back shortly. Meanwhile, Case has been mum on the issue. The first obstacle for Case will be applying for a license with the USTA (he was denied on 11/21/2008, but was permitted to race at Plainridge Racecourse without one - some jurisdictions do not require a USTA license). Assuming he overcomes that hurdle, Case, who is widely considered the best half-mile driver in history, will need to find a state willing to take on his baggage. Another question will be whether he still has any outstanding “days” from previous track-related violations. Case was routinely cited for his failure to keep both feet in the stirrups and kicking horses, which caused him to earn 190 days worth of fines from Yonkers Raceway officials back in November and December of 1998. A quick check of his past violations shows approximately 750 such acts of disobedience since 1984. Compare that to the benchmark of class on the track, John Campbell, who has amassed just over 60 during the same period.

Case is loaded with talent and has paid his price to society. He probably deserves what will likely be his last chance to do what he does best. Insiders tell me that he has been contacted by at least one track to inquire about the possibility of his racing at their location. For now, we can only wait and see what happens.

Black Friday

While standing in line at Best Buy on Thanksgiving in hopes of getting my hands on one of a few Doorbuster items, I couldn’t help but wonder why there are no tracks open on Thanksgiving night. If people can stand on line at 5pm on Thanksgiving and watch football on Thanksgiving, why shouldn’t a track take a shot and race?

If two tracks raced with starting post times of 7:45 pm (EST) and 8:00 pm, they could stagger posts to give continuous action for a few hours. Maybe in conjunction they could offer special Black Friday type promotions. How about increasing takeout as the card moves along? The first race would have no takeout. Races two and three could offer a 10 percent takeout. Four through six could offer a 13 percent rate, and the remaining races would be at the regular rate.

As most of the best Black Friday offers are in-store only, tracks could offer a special voucher promotion to the first 1,000 customers. Also, perhaps a major giveaway for the first 3,000 visitors would work nicely. How about if a track hooked up with Best Buy and offered some Doorbuster items at the track? How many people would show up at Yonkers if they could land a cheap LCD TV? Maybe the promotion would be that the first 100 people who purchase a $5 win ticket on every race would be eligible to buy the marked-down items.

I’m not sure my wife would agree to my visiting the track on Thanksgiving, but if I could get reduced takeout and a cheap flat screen TV, I might have to put my foot down.