12/07/2011 11:29PM

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.

rick More than 1 year ago
Tetrick is a really great driver, but Walter Case is friggen UNBELIEVABLE.
Yonkers Flash More than 1 year ago
This is no knock on Tetrick, but it took him over 4,700 drives to break Case's record for dash wins in a year. Case did his in just over 2,900. Different times and eras. Tetrick was able to drive 30 races "a day" at "slot tracks". Imagine what Walter would have done given the same opportunities. And Tetrick fans please don't tell me he won them at The Big M. Tetrick won a majority of his wins at Dover/Harrington "before" the real drivers hit town for the purses. He was beating up on Hal Belote, Jim King Jr., Eddie Davis and E. Davis Jr. and a lot of trainers doing the driving. Just the facts. I've seen them both and Walter hands down was/is the better driver. Walter dominated "Luc" nightly at Y.R. for seven years. Luc went to D.D. and crushed them. Went to Freehold and dismantled Jackie Mo and Cat then went to The Big M. and dethroned J.C. when J.C. was THE BEST THERE. So please don't tell me Walter didn't beat anyone. Brennan used to try at Yonkers and Walter whisked him away. I know Walter has nobody to blame but himself. Could possibly go down in history as one of the most wasted talents in any sport. Last word: How many wins would Walter have now had he had a "normal career" ? Easily over 20,000. Herve Filion once said " the only person who could stop Walter Case Jr. was Walter himself". That's one of the few things Herve ever said he wasn't lying about.
the truth More than 1 year ago
Saw walter at lewiston in maine in early 80s before he came to yonkers i said to my friends wait to you see this guy drive I swear never seen a driver with so much talent and for you that say he to old. Watch him dominate like the old walter case. At 70 he could out ride half these clowns.He made all the other drivers have whiplash never a quiet moment in the race when case is driving. best ever period at half mile track. Ive seen them all on the half mile track.lachance ,gilmour,brennan,Carmine honorable mention.One mile track,campbell odonnell,lachance ,brennan and sears.
Walt Kiernan More than 1 year ago
Derick, Not to be confused with the upper echelon of drivers but hasn't Jordan Stratton's win mutuels at Yonkers Raceway over the last several months been one for the record books? I haven't kept track but it seems that he has had tens of payoffs exceeding double digits. Any ROI available for him this year? Thanks Walt
TURFDOCTA More than 1 year ago
I am 54 and remember Herve Filion as the greatest driver I have ever seen. I think it was in the late 70's that Herve put on a clinic at the now defunct Green Mountain race track (13/16 mile track if I remember correctly) I think he won all 7 races he was in. At the time GM was owned by the Rooney's who also owned Yonkers. Those were the Golden Years of Harness racing. Herve, Carmine Abbatiello, Billy O'Donnell, the Haughtons and Stanley Dancer. I moved to Saratoga and started following the T-Breds as well. I do have many fond memories of numerous nights at Saratoga raceway (JP Morel, Jimmy Allen, and Gilles Filion.)
Tim More than 1 year ago
I think that any "days" that Walter Case owes in suspensions should be expunged and his jail time considered "time served". If he can pass a drug test, any state, including NY, should issue him a conditional license.
Richard A. Berger More than 1 year ago
A few thoughts: Enjoyed the comments and the article. Canadian tracks are open on Thanksgiving. Walter Case once won 12 races one night at Pocono. On one of them, his mount was scratched and he took another mount in the same race! ...winning at 2-1 odds, which is like 10-1 with most other drivers given the horse. I'm a serious harness player who has been active in the sport since the mid-70's. I've read extensively about Case and his latest wife. Reports are that he's clean and reformed. He and his wife are currently a training team and share much devotion to their craft. Case may have been the one who started what I refer to as air-o-dynamic driving. The body is on a plane with the ground. Dan Noble adopted this style and I believe is the leading dash driverthis year. Callahan is the best regular at Dover Downs - he uses the same style. Many do now. IMO, I'd like to see Case drive again. He's paid his dues. I don't think he'll dominate any credible race cource again but I think he'll still be a limited force. Manzi, and to a lesser degree, Tony Morgan have slowed down some, so I gotta believe father time will compromise Case. One final note: Brandon Givens, who I feel has HOF talent, is still trying to get re-licenced after losing it when he failed a urine drug test. He reminds me of a young Walter Case - in all respects. It seems the gifted pay the price.
Walter Andrasi More than 1 year ago
Regarding the "kicking" infractions - show me ONE video where an actuual kick occurs. Good luck finding one because no KICK occurs. I DO NOT CARE if his foot was out of the stirrup. Watch other drivers today and see how often their foot/feet come out of the stirrup. So this crap about kicking is just that. Walter's problems were his own doing when he would go in tell the judges off. Do you think they may have held a grudge?
Jay More than 1 year ago
So I guess you think he got away on a technicality? Essentially he put his foot out for no reason at all and the horses leg struck his foot 1000 times. As far as the judges holding a grudge are you suggesting they shouldn't after he repeatedly made them look like inept fools. Walter you are another in the long list of Case apologists who blame others (judges grudges) instead of the repeated drug abuser. Could he be reformed? I suppose, but he's had his chances, let some clean, respectful, responsible and talented younger drivers get their chance to shine. This Case should be closed.
casenotsosweet More than 1 year ago
user and abuser
JOHN More than 1 year ago
VINCE is spot on. Walter has not been exactly a "SHINING EXAMPLE" of conduct but as far as i know he never was involved in what the following guy's did which was some form of "CHEATING" "FIXING" LEDFORD,BRENNAN,PARKER,MORRILL etal etal. Now as far as MORRILL goes he is driving and doing real fine considering his off the track problems were complimented by his on track problems. MY GOD, if they let MORRILL back they can certainly let CASE back. As far as the best 1/2 driver is if you took CASE,ABBATIELLO,BRENNAN, FILION,SHOLTY etal it's like say'ing who was better MICKEY MANTLE or WILLIE MAYS. Only if somebody put a GUN to my had and said make a choice i would pick CASE. I have been going to races since 1963 I've seen them all and these top drivers today there is not much difference in ability but if somebody put a gun to my head i would say "TETRICK" is the best i ever saw.
Michael More than 1 year ago
Could you imagine what Walter would have done with 4,700+ drives at a majority of "slot tracks"? Please, don't even go there with Tetrick better than case. Not even in the same ozone layer...
Allan More than 1 year ago
I would like to know who P Farley is as well. How can any record keeping agency allow someone licensed as P Farley. He had 1 training win in 2006-7 and already has four? If I was the NYSRWB or Yonkers Management, I would want to be assured he is truly a trainer and not a beard. Harness racing needs to track second trainers so we know who are truly experienced trainers and not names being used.; especially when their last official training effort is four years previous. I want to see Walter Back. Yes, he has had his problems, but never trying has never been one of them. When they allow horse abusers to race (in Canada), Walter deserves a chance as long as he has made peace with the commissions he owes days to. I don't think you need a USTA license in California and possibly Illiinois.