03/04/2017 1:47PM

Giwner: Odds and ends from my working trip to Las Vegas

Derick Giwner
Captain's Wench is a full sister to Captaintreacherous training with Tony Alagna.

Bright lights and people dressed up in cartoonish outfits were the norm on the Las Vegas strip during my venture west for the Dan Patch Awards and United States Trotting Association Board Meetings. Along the way I picked up a couple of nuggets of information and certainly formed some opinions which seemed worth sharing.

It still boggles my mind that USHWA (United States Harness Writers Association) refuses to hold off announcing the winners of its Dan Patch awards until the night of the banquet. A motion was made this year to simply hold off announcing the Pacer, Trotter and Horse of the Year until the night of the awards. Unfortunately it was voted down 20-15 (a two-thirds majority was needed).

I think most people would be shocked by the number of trainers and drivers during the weekend who individually expressed concern over some industry-wide issues. Some were concerned about “beards” and integrity, while others simply agreed with the notion that from an entertainment standpoint the sport falls well short. Now if only all of these people could band together to make change rather than speak about it in the shadows.

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Driver Brian Sears, who hasn’t been seen on the track since November due to eye surgery, informed me that he doesn’t expect to return to racing until the second week of April.

Conversely, Tim Tetrick came back full-time at Dover on Tuesday (2/28) and said he plans on racing mainly at the Delaware oval and add in Yonkers Raceway during the weekend once the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Series’ begin. Tetrick added that the vacation certainly recharged his batteries and he is ready to go. By the way, Tetrick will be at Pompano Park on Saturday night to drive on some Pro-Am races.

While attending the opening day of the USTA Board of Directors meeting, I was a bit surprised by the number of representatives which left the meeting after the vote for President and group picture. As the panel on Out of Competition Testing and Uniformity in Racing wound down, nearly half (25 of 54) Directors were out of the room. Personally I understand that we listen to these same topics over and over while nothing gets done, but perhaps if the key players stayed in the room we would have a better chance. To me, if you signed on to be a director, you should sit through every meeting possible.

This didn’t happen in Vegas, but I could a glimpse of a 2-year-old filly named Sports Eye (Sportswriter-Unsolved Mystery) while watching trainer Tony Alagna’s babies train. As someone who worked for the company since 1996, I know I’ll follow the Brittany farms-owned youngster. Another trainee in the same set was Captain’s Wench, a full sister to the great Captaintreacherous. Early reports are strong for the $230,000 Lexington purchase.

Switching back to Vegas talk, Yonkers COO and VP Bob Galterio didn’t have an immediate answer for when the finish line would be moved but seemed interested in seeing it completed sooner rather than later. According to reports, the main issue is getting the proper camera.

Staying with Yonkers, at least one horseman, Ray Schnittker, was very much in favor of removing the passing lane from the track as a way of making the races more entertaining at the Westchester oval. He also admitted that while at first he was against them, the 1 1/4 mile added distance trotting races which are simulcast to France are growing on him. “It doesn’t seem to have any effect on my horses,” said Schnittker. “They finish in the same place they should regardless of the distance.”

Wakizashi Hanover returned to the races on Thursday night at Dover Downs with a second-place finish. Jo Ann Looney-King reports that he is ready to roll and that the 5-year-old is headed to the Levy series at Yonkers in a couple of weeks. “We’ve taken it very slowly with him and hope that he is finally right,” said Looney-King about the $1.3 million career winner.

Marion Marauder, who won the Yonkers Trot and Triple Crown in 2016, is aiming for a June return. He may elect to start in a couple of legs of the Graduate series for 4-year-olds and is ultimately looking at 8-10 starts in 2017. The hope is that he'll come back strong as a 5-year-old and perhaps take a shot at the Elitlopp in 2018. 

For those that enjoy handicapping, the passing of a rule to notate in past performance lines when a horse starts in the second tier is a nice addition. This was one of nine approved rules, including another to standardize pylon violations.

Finally, I’m not sure he would have been my choice but it is clear to me that Russell Williams has the best interests of the sport at heart. Hopefully he is able to bring the industry together to some extent as the new head of the USTA. 

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