Harness Racing Musings

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

On Monday, the legendary Small Bills picked up his third win in four starts at Monticello Raceway.   The 10-year old trotter just keeps churning. He will never dazzle with fast times as he hovers in the 1:59 to 2:02 range and Monday’s victory was in a pedestrian 2:03, but he has a nice finishing kick and Monday’s win added another $2,300 to his earnings for 2017.

Forgive me for being lazy and not giving specific stats, but last year, the “Small One,” won seven or eight races in his close to 40 starts and cashed many a check which, in harness racing, means finishing fifth or higher. He’ll never run in high stakes races and that’s okay as horses like Small Bills are vital to the sport of harness racing. He races every week, usually on Monday or Tuesday and most of the time……gets the job done. No Small Bills, no harness racing

Yonkers Raceway is known for having high overnight purses, but Dover Downs offers some nice purses as well. The track, which is also used for NASCAR racing, usually operates Monday-Thursday and as the week progresses, so too, do the purses.

On Wednesday, there are two races that have purses of $15,000 and $17,000 and there is also the $25,000 open pace for fillies and mares. That race features a usual cast of characters with Newborn Sassy, Divas Image and Empress Deo as the headliners.

Thursday has five “nice” races. Three of those carry $18,000 purses with the other two carrying purses of $16,000 and $14,500. We know that bettors don’t always care about purses, but for fans of the sport, better purses usually means better horses and better performances.

Miami Valley also has some attractive purses. On Sunday (January 21), there were three $27,500 paces and an $18,000 trot.   The 5/8 mile track can produce some good times and like Yonkers, they go at it five times per week, usually Sunday-Tuesday and then Friday and Saturday. Harness racing is thriving in Ohio with good breeding, good handles and quality races.  Ohio Sire Stakes finals will take place on September 8 at Scioto Downs with each race offering $275,000 in purses. Northfield Park will host the $60,000 consolations on October 13.

Miami Valley, Dayton and Scioto split dates over the year and up in the northeast, Northfield Park races all 12 months of the year and features plenty of paces and trots with lake effect snow in the background. Northfield Park doesn’t offer the purses that the others do, but when you race over 215 times per year, it is a case of quantity over quality, but that means more opportunities to race and collect.

Buffalo Raceway has had a tough start to its 2018 season. Mother Nature wiped out opening weekend and then last Wednesday, an electrical problem short-circuited the toteboards.  Races were run for purses only and because of that, were not simulcasted on various ADWs.  As we know, why show races when you can’t bet on them. Friday’s card was cancelled because of a lack of horses, so to say that the track was off to a rough start would be a big understatement.

Despite the delay, the horses produced some good efforts.  On Saturday, all the pacers broke 2:00 with the blazing time of the night going to Mach Stockn Barrel who “barreled” home in 1:55.3, rallying from third at 3/4 to edge Nassau County.

Buffalo Raceway returns to action on Wednesday, January 24 with 11 races and runs on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  The opener is the $9,500 open with a field of seven pacers.








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