07/11/2017 4:46PM

Gisser: Random Harness Racing thoughts in July


I am really glad the U.S. Trotting Association did not pull the plug on Northfield Park on June 30, as it had threatened. I don’t have all the details of the dispute, just the gist of it, and I have no desire to take sides. Nor do I know what the resolution will be. Nobody at Northfield seems to want to talk. But had the USTA knocked them off the E-Track network, the $185,000 Cleveland Trotting Classic would not have happened on July 1.

As it has recently, and as it did in its golden days, Northfield put on a heck of a show and the Open Trotters put on a better one as Crazy Wow got the win over Resolve and Obrigado. These three may end up doing battle all season long and right now, the Open Trotting division seems to be a lot more exciting than the Open Pacers. Resolve has beaten Crazy Wow, JL Cruze and Obrigado. Crazy Wow has beaten Resolve, JL Cruze and Obrigado. JL Cruze has beaten Crazy Wow. And Obrigado has been second or third in three starts, beaten by Crazy Wow and Resolve.  This could be good. Really good.

Some thoughts on Fear The Dragon

It’s a long season, but Fear The Dragon has certainly stamped himself as the favorite in the 3-year-old pacing colt division. He is seven of eight with a second in a meaningless elimination race. Come Little Brown Jug time, he would have home field advantage. As long as he keeps his head number on.

The Meadowlands has implemented out of competition testing for many of its top stakes races. I am not necessarily a fan, but I am willing to be convinced. A few things I do know: If samples are going to be taken from remote locations (whether within 150 miles or further), there better be a protocol for proper chain of possession. There also needs to be fairness to all horses, regardless of where they train, and to all trainers, regardless of reputation, size of stable or money in the bank.  I fear that this is a good idea poorly conceived, but I will wait to pass judgement. And that was my opinion before Bruce Trogden spoke.

Apparently Fear The Dragon’s owner (Trogden) also has some issues with the rule.  He says he was considering supplementing to the Meadowlands Pace, but found the specifics of the rule untenable. “I told Jeff that I thought his 150 mile two-week stabling rule was totally unfair to somebody from Ohio and there was no way I would do that to my horse. For the good of the sport I might have supplemented, but that was the clincher in deciding to stick to his original schedule. Jeff admitted that his rule had unintended consequences, but was not willing to change it,” Trogden said in an e-mail to the media. “I told him that although I am totally supportive of out of competition testing, that his 150 mile rule was totally unfair and in fact, I think, illegal.”

So Gural says the rule has problems. Trogden says the rule has problems. Seems simple. Fix them. The road to perdition is paved with good intentions.

[Editor’s Note: Here is Jeff Gural’s release to the media: “While we can appreciate Mr. Trogdon's position, everyone else has accepted the terms of our out-of-competition testing program and is ready to race. We host nearly $12 million in stakes races at the Meadowlands and no other harness track produces nightly wagering handle at our level. We achieve all of this without purses that are inflated by money from alternative gaming. Most importantly, we care about the integrity of our races, especially our signature events. If that makes us a "B Track" as Mr. Trogdon alleges, I would like to know what an "A Track" is.”]

Respect for Lady Shadow

Our sport has a built-in bias against distaff pacers. There are far fewer top dollar races offered for them than for the boys. And equivalent races (where they do exist) are often for less money. But no horse in the sport has been more impressive to me so far this year than Lady Shadow. She has shown that she is versatile, able to go gate-to-wire or rough it on the outside before powering to the lead. Granted, it is just four starts so far. But right now, she gets my #1 poll vote over Fear the Dragon. Barely.

Good Luck John Campbell

John Campbell and I have had our media disagreements over the years. But he has always been more than willing to discuss those issues and explain where he stood, and more importantly, why. It is a rare trait. Campbell is the classiest individual I have ever known in this sport, and that includes some pretty rare company. The funny part is that even though he is retiring from driving, where he has been highly influential, he has a chance to be even more influential in his “retirement job.” Most folks retire and get jobs as WalMart greeters, or spend their time fishing or golfing. Not Campbell. He is taking the reins (or is it the lines) of the Hambletonian Society. Tom Charters did an amazing job with that organization for many, many years, but Campbell brings a unique perspective. With his love for the Grand Circuit, his historical understanding and his time on the racetrack, he is the perfect person to take over, despite the big shoes to fill. Good luck in your “retirement” John.

In fact, with so many railbirds, horsemen and pundits calling for a National Racing Czar, Campbell might be the only person in the sport that nearly everyone could agree on. Even me. But perhaps he would disagree.

Stakes season is heating up. Go Cash.

NOTE: I will have my Handicapping Herpetologist program at Vernon Downs Saturday, July 22 from 6:30-9:30 and at Tioga Downs Sunday, July 23, from 1-4. Stop by and say hello.