2009 07 24th horsetalk

Outlaw, Gallant, Lamont, Great Story - Red Shores Not!
Hal Hennessey
You have to love the fans and the horsepeople of PEI. They had a great
week at Summerside’s Lobster Carnival, despite the fact that SRW is a work
in progress and there were a number of logistical problems because of that.
In my notes below you’ll read about some issues folks mentioned to me, but
I only bring them up so they can be recognized and dealt with. The grand
finale Saturday, as was hoped for, lived up to everybody’s expectations. I
couldn’t have been happier for Terry Gallant and Fred Lamont, than when
Outlawpositivcharg captured the Governor’s Plate for the second time. It’s
such a great story all around. He’s the first horse to have back to back wins
in the event and of course the fact that both the owner and trainer/driver are
Summerside guys only added to the excitement for the hometown fans. Plus
there’s the back story on this horse. Can you believe that just over a year
ago, May 18th 2008 to be exact, he finished 7th in a 5-6 $K claiming
handicap race at Alberta’s Northlands Park. By June he was in PEI, won the
Governor’s Plate in July and come August finished 5th in the GC&S during
OHW. When 2008 ended he had earned over $41,000 dollars and in 26 starts
had gone 11–3–1. This year the Outlaw is 6-3-1 in 10 starts and has earned
$19,038 to date. It’s just a great Harness Racing story. One final note - the
week’s bet was excellent. In 2007 on Saturday night it came in at $41,167, a
year later it was $44,693 and this year $47,802. Total for this past week was
$151,699 and remember this is at a facility still under construction. I stand
in awe of everybody who made it happen. Congratulations all and my
thanks to our history consultant Jerry McCabe for the background help.
-----------------------------------SRW notes of interest: The word now is that the Prince County Horsemen’s
Club will run the backstretch (stabling) at SRW and Harness Racing PEI the
racing component. Not a happy marriage according to reports. The decision
apparently stems from the federal monies received through Gail Shea. Since
the PCHC was the applicant for the Federal grant, it got lumbered with
operating the backstretch. As one horsemen put it – ‘it’s never a happy
situation when horsemen have to run things - instead of racing’.
Also, while HRPEI’s actual management of the racing last week was not
faulted, there were questions surrounding the public relations support SRW
received. Examples: No daily updates on the website and the lack of both
print and broadcast highlights that the Marketing Dept. usually arranges. I
doubt this would happen at Charlottetown during OHW. People noticed and
were not happy.
Finally here’s an excerpt from a note one older, handicapped fan sent me
about the facilities; “There are no inside grandstand seats available at the
track. There are of course buffet seats and a few stools upstairs, but no seats
inside. There are bleacher seats, but difficult to climb and a bit of a walk to
the windows. Is it because they don't want the older person there because
they don't bet enough? Or is it because the younger person spends more,
drinks more and is more mobile and doesn't need a seat?”
I’m sure that’s not the reason but they are good questions. Maybe someone
could take a look at this for the future? Harness Racing today does need all
the fans it can get, right?
---------------------------Next - this Red Shores Casinos bullspit; as I below in my commentary, this
is all a huge con. Many readers know I have long thought many of the Grand
Poo Bahs of racing and politics, have wanted to close SRW. Their idea was
to concentrate all the racing in Charlottetown. My proof? Those new
grandstand promises for SRW in the last provincial election were just that –
election promises. Once it was over, they nixed that deal immediately in the
Premier’s office. But then Gail Shea put the kibosh to their plans when she
got a Federal grant for SRW’s horsemen. The Poo Bahs and the Pols were
then put in quite a spot really. I mean how could the province say no? So
they were all left scrambling when their one racetrack in Charlottetown
scheme was sunk. Now they have to deal with a new multi-million dollar
Moncton Casino almost ready to come on line. Hence this Red Shores
silliness. Latest word now is that because the public is really po’d about this,
the track names will probably not be dumped. A new meeting has been
scheduled for this gang-that-couldn’t-shoot straight. It will be used to find
some way to backtrack and cover their butts. What a bunch of losers!
Anyway - that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
---------------------------A reminder; Truro’s Atlantic Grand Circuit Week goes July 26 th to August
2nd. Things kick off this Sunday with the Erwin Andrew Memorial for open
mares as the featured race. Tuesday night, the 28th , it’s the Neil ‘Chops’
Campbell Memorial Young Guns Challenge, the 2&3 YO ASS trotters plus
the 2 YO pacing fillies. More on the Truro schedule next week.
---------------------------Sadly we won’t get to visit this OHW with Eddie Gregory, at our usual spot
on the ‘lawn’ in front of Dougie McGregor’s barn. Eddie passed away July
11th , but my wife and I will be thinking of him as we greet old friends
throughout the week. I want to extend our condolences to his widow Irene
and the family. He was a nice man and one of those faithful unsung fans of
Harness Racing which the sport needs so badly. RIP Eddie.
---------------------------------A veteran horseman has also left us. Alberta track announcer Sugar Doyle
called last Friday night with the news that Myles Ford had passed away out
there. Very sad, he was much too young. Many will remember the great
times, when Myles came home with Mike MacDonald and Ventall Rainbow
for the Gold Cup & Saucer. Our condolences to his family and friends.
-----------------------------------Now how about the King’s Co. winners in Summerside? Here’s the list:
Wilf Hughes and Jason Collings’ Whos Smiling Now came home in front in
a 1:58.1 mile. So did Admiral’s Lucky Lady in 2:03.4 for owner Tessa
MacKinnon. Dan Ross, his partner Reg MacPherson & their horse Valeader
were all in a win photo after a 2:02.1 mile.
Then there were the colts and the Atlantic Sires Stake events:
2 YO Trot – Red Pajamas, 2:09.2, owners Blayne & Sandra White
3 YO Trot – Oyster Bed Mary, 2:06.3, owners Paul Morrison & Allison
3 YO Trot – Wiskeyanseven, 2:06.3, owners Marc Campbell – Robert
2 YO Pacing Colts (Bs) – Fitelle, 2:02.1, owner Peter Lanigan
3 YO Pacing Fillies (As) – Darko, 1:59.2, owner Ralph Annear
3 YO Pacing Colts (As) – War Dancer, 1:57.3, owners Daniel Ross, Charles
Seymour, Boyd MacDonald.
---------------------------------Seems all those critics of HRNB’s decision about the Walter Dale were
wrong. HRNB claimed most folks wouldn’t accept invitations to Freddy for
a $5K purse. Looks like they hit the nail on the head. North Sydney only
found 4 FFAllers willing to travel for their $8,000 Invitational this Saturday
night, in spite of there being 16 in the Governor’s Plate Eliminations. They’ll
go with 7 starters at NSD. Should be a great race still.
Wanted to mention in closing that it seemingly escaped folks notice that
Teddy Smallwood set a new record for Maritime trotting stallions at SRW
this week with his Dunmore Alpha. Statistician Scott Green says the 2:01.1
trip lowered Alpha’s own record of 2:02, that he took last year at the CDP.
Thanks Scott and congrats Teddy.
-----------------------That’s it, that’s all – back in a week.
Questions/Comments hal.al@sympatico.ca
‘The Day the Music Died’
This August the Charlottetown Driving Park will be renamed Red Shores
Racetrack and Casino. Summerside Raceway is to become Red Shores at
Summerside. Or so they tell us at Atlantic Lotto. If so, mark this date down
- July 16, 2009. That’s the date history books will record, that Harness
Racing in the Kentucky of Canada began it’s final downward spiral – a
victim of government’s addiction to gambling dollars. The announcement of
this latest diminishment of our Island heritage came from the Atlantic Lotto
Corporation - not from the PEI government, nor their agency Harness
Racing PEI. That alone should tell you who is calling the shots. Over 100
years of Island tradition has just been turned over to ALC. It proves once
again, that when incompetent governments can’t control spending, they are
capable of any shameful deed required to maintain their position and perks.
It includes in this case, abdicating their authority to Atlantic Lotto. Since
I’m an old rock n’ roller, I thought it appropriate to quote Don MacLean’s
classic song, American Pie to mark the occasion – for many of us, this will
indeed be the day the music died.
In years to come we will have occasion to remember that on this date, PEI’s
government and it’s minions approved the decision to give our racing
heritage to ALC to do with as it pleased. Thus sacrificed on the altar of greed
and expediency is 120 years of Island history and tradition. 122 years
actually in the case of Summerside Raceway, the longest continuous
operating race track in Canada. Think biblically here – Book of Genesis;
‘Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage’. Indeed! And so did
the PEI government. This is not about preserving Harness Racing on PEI,
helping the wager or bringing new fans to the sport. That’s a huge con. ALC
was warned long ago to get it’s act together, because of the new multimillion dollar casino going into Moncton. They did nothing and now they
are scrambling on the backs of the historic Charlottetown Driving Park and
Summerside Raceway to try and protect their market. And to date only one
Island politician, Mike Currie, has spoken up to question this decision! How
shameful is that?
A few years ago you’ll remember, when the government of Pat Binns began
exploring the prospect of a racino to aid harness racing I, like many others,
favoured the idea. However, there was one caveat – The dangers inherent
in the example of Ontario. In that province many track operators virtually
ignore racing and/or whored it out to get their hands on the slots. Seemingly
few in Ontario’s government or the industry itself really care. The slot
money flows, they get their share and the taxpayer is oblivious – at least for
the time being. I’ve always said this was a cautionary tale for PEI and that
the racino project must be handled properly. It has not been - now future
generations will pay the price and an important part of the Island’s history
will have been lost.
I have written in the past that Harness Racing was being left up the track, as
thanks to the government and their agency Harness Racing PEI , the people
at Atlantic Lotto took more and more control at the Charlottetown Driving
Park. Obviously this Red Shores Casino decision is the result. Reaction thus
far from the general public is almost totally negative. A recent Standardbred
Canada poll shows 76% of respondents gave it a thumbs down. Doesn’t
matter, nothing will change. Neither ALC nor the politicians care what the
public wants. Addicts need their fix and governments will agree to anything,
as long as Lotto Corporations feed their need for dollars and will look after
them and their friends. Thus we are witness to the beginning of the end of
Harness Racing as we know it, in the Kentucky of Canada.
Ol’ Waylon perhaps said it best when he sang “ This is the last cowboy song,
the end of a hundred year waltz.
Voices sound sad as they’re singing along,
another piece of America lost.”
Make that another piece of Prince Edward Island lost.
Hal Hennessey
PS – this commentary was published in the Eastern Graphic on Wednesday
July 22, 2009. Since it appeared, rumours have begun to circulate that the
decision to eradicate the historic names of the 2 Island tracks may be
reversed. Still the above serves to illustrate our distaste for the way in which
PEI Harness Racing, horsemen/women and the fans have been treated by
this attempt to make our history disappear.