04/25/2014 7:23AM

Giwner: Weekend Thoughts

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Derick Giwner
Yonkers Raceway is the place to be this Saturday as Foiled Again goes for his third Levy win.

This is an exciting weekend. Stakes season officially kicks off with the Courageous Lady at Northfield Park on Friday and of course the George Morton Levy Memorial and Blue Chip Matchmaker finals at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday.

Whichever races interest you most, we have you covered. You can watch the entire Northfield card and view my Courageous Lady video analysis on our event page. For the Yonkers card on Saturday, we are launching DRF Live. What does that mean? In a nutshell, I’ll be on-track watching warm-ups and visiting the paddock to bring those handicapping the card some insight. I’ll even try to post some candid shots of Foiled Again as he seeks his third Levy title. Starting at 7pm you can follow along on this page.

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Across the river, while I admit that the preliminary rounds of the Legends versus Phenoms driver challenge hardly excited me, I have to commend the Meadowlands for putting together the perfect finale to the series. On Saturday, 10 drivers will compete for a top prize of $15,000 in a quintet of 10-horse $9,000 purse C-2 “mini-series” races where only the top two horses will be eligible to race the following week for a purse of $25,000. In effect, the track was able to put together the perfect races. There will be no “conservative” drives and waiting for next week. There are no agendas. Every horse needs to win (or finish second) and every driver has 15,000 reasons to be aggressive at every opportunity. Good stuff!

The Meadowlands also announced that its marquee event, the Meadowlands Pace, will likely offer a $750,000 purse. I have to say that it is great to see the Pace well subscribed and back at the top of the heap of 3-year-old pacing races.

This weekend marks the start of the 2014 HANA Harness Grand Circuit ‘Shoot-Out’ Handicapping Contest. Fifteen handicappers will be giving their best selections in Grand Circuit stakes races from Saturday through mid-December with the top three winning money to be donated to the Standardbred Rescue operation of their choice. I have joined the fray this year and plan to work hard to earn the top prize for New Vocations, You can follow along with the contest and see all the “expert” selections here.

With all the buzz in the harness world about the USTA’s decision not to put up $75,000 to help place the Meadowlands Pace and Little Brown Jug on national TV (CBS Sports Network), owner-trainer Jack Darling took matters into his own hands. He started a grassroots effort via a blog post on Standardbred Canada’s website to raise the needed money. In fewer than 24 hours, between horsemen, farms, owners, etc., the amount raised stood at just under $20,000. So for those that think the industry doesn’t care, think again.  

Finally, you’ll want to follow me on Twitter on Saturday morning as some of the stars of today and tomorrow will be qualifying. Top Hambletonian prospect Father Patrick and 2012 Swedish Horse of the Year Sebastian K are just a couple of the many expected to be stepping on the East Rutherford track.

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BornFunny More than 1 year ago
Intelligent and thoughtful response Jack H. I see your points and am not sure how that change can be implemented unless there is a mandate to unveil your strategy for all. That might level the playing field but to some degree the equivalent would be changing a poker game to open face hands. I for one appreciated bongiorno's honesty and so we can can agree that there is information regarding strategy that clearly is withheld and does a disservice to the betting public. My contention regarding this subject is that most of these answers and reasons are logical. If you owned Foiled Again wouldn't you have done the same with the final a week away? I am sure we agree on this. So I am stuck with not quite grasping what Bongiorno did wrong but rather thinking that if everyone needed to reveal there a)gate strategy - leave/stalk/close and b)there upcoming race plan (more specifically for the upper echelon) that the public might have some semblance of what is going on behind the scenes. This fails in a number of ways - bottom level racers and in spontaneous decisions that drivers may make to capitalize on opportunity. Where I think this is trending is most is showcasing the talented drivers and their importance. As the best of them are eager to communicate I think social media and the like has the opportunity to really take the relationship between the public and the sport to a new echelon. One example you could have all the drivers submit their strategy in advance and have it tweeted out but have all drivers not have access to social media so they cant see the other drivers strategy. Lots of thoughts here but generally wanted to say I conceded your response to be respectable. As far as the reporting goes Giwner is aces all around as he thinks like a fan and runs the gamete in his insight. If you are hitting the hilltop tonight I wish you luck and I think its safe to say Yannick will be leaving the gate this week :) eager to see how that ends as Dancin Yankee is really on his game. Should be a good one!
Jack H More than 1 year ago
I can appreciate your comments BornFunny and do not disagree with them. My only point I have been trying to make for some time now is that if not all horses are driven to win 100% of the time them that needs to be part of the learning curve data given to need followers into the sport. I appreciate the coverage Derik gives to our sport. I just simply want to see him engage in the talk track that addresses conservative” drives and waiting for next week. We all know the way this game is played. An example if you draw the 8 hole on a half mile track baby them so you can fire out from the rail next week. We know this the newbies do not. And when Joe B steps forward and is honest the judges sit him down. From my view a huge double standard. One final example the greatest money earning horse of all time last week who was undefeated in 2014 Foiled Again takes straight back off the gate and never tries. You and I know he was qualified on points into the final tonight and know last week was going to be a training mile. What about the first timer to the track last week who bets his $20 to show? Think he or she ever bets again? Would it not have been better for Yannick to say prior to the race that the plan was to race conservatively and keep him fresh for the final?
BornFunny More than 1 year ago
Jack H YOU get MY blood boiling! What he is saying which Joe Bongiorno said on the live broadcast is that in a series or competition not all horses are full throttle every week and be it at the meadowlands under Chief Gural's supervision or elsewhere that will always be the case. I applaud the Big M's management team for publicly frowning upon that notion and think they are doing everything they can to put forth the best product that they can and in many ways they are succeeding. With respect to lashing out to the author of this article. I challenge you to find a more knowledgeable public figure who's insight and handicapping are as astute as his. More so, if it gets your blood boiling "turn the page". We could certainly do without negative commentary. Having said that I enjoyed this article thoroughly and am minutes away from finding out it DG knows the Courageous Lady! Good luck to all!
Jack H More than 1 year ago
Every article you write gets my blood boiling "There will be no “conservative” drives and waiting for next week. There are no agendas. Every horse needs to win (or finish second) and every driver has 15,000 reasons to be aggressive at every opportunity." So are you saying not every driver tries every race at the Meadowlands? If so Gural will take you to his woodshed and rightfully so.
The Big B More than 1 year ago
USTA blew it bigtime. The $75000 might have directly helped the two tracks in question more directly immediately, but it would have ultimately indirectly helped the sport and ultimately all the tracks and the overall sport. Would have been worth that amount in their budget to at least given it a chance to work and then assess. Just see how many watch the Derby next week and how that helps that sport.. Social media nice and also needed, but that's not the entire answer as they seem to think.