Thursday, December 11, 2008

Harness Tracks

There are 46 harness tracks in the United States. They are clustered for the most part in the Northeast and Midwest, with a lone track on the West Coast in California. Cal Expo is home to the only harness track in the west. Also catering to the Thoroughbred crowd, this track in Sacramento also offers amateur racing for drivers who are licensed but have not been paid for their services.

Heading east, in Minnesota you can enjoy harness racing at the Running Aces Harness Park. This is one of many harness tracks that also offers a hotel and casino to its visitors. Live racing takes place from April to July, and simulcast races from around the country are shown in the off season. Iowa offers Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino. If you prefer Illinois, you can choose between Balmoral Park, Hawthorne Racecourse, Maywood Park or at two fairs: the Du Quoin State Fair and the Springfield, Illinois State Fair.

Michigan provides you with harness racing excitement at Hazel Park, Jackson Harness Raceway, Northville Downs, and Sports Creek Raceway. Indiana's harness racing tracks include Hoosier Park, Indiana Downs, and an annual meet at the Indiana State Fair. Kentucky isn't just for Thoroughbred racing, it also offers three prime harness tracks. Take your choice from Player's Bluegrass Downs, The Red Mile and Thunder Ridge. The Red Mile is home to the Kentucky Futurity, one of harness racing's Triple Crown jewels. Florida is home to Pompano Park Harness, which offers winter racing.

Ohio is home to Northfield Park, Raceway Park, Scioto Downs and a fine fair meet at the Delaware, Ohio Fair. Virginia has the Colonial Downs harness track, and Maryland offers Ocean Downs, which caters to family entertainment, and Rosecroft Raceway. Delaware has two tracks: Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway. New Jersey has Freehold Raceway and The Meadowlands, home of the Hambletonian. This is harness racing's biggest race of the year.

Pennsylvania hosts three harness tracks: Harrah's Chester Casino and Racetrack, The Meadows, which offers year-round live racing, and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. New York is far and away the home of the most harness tracks in the United States. Batavia Downs, Buffalo Raceway, Monticello Raceway, Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs will provide you with plenty of harness action. Yonkers Raceway is home to the Yonkers Trot, one of trotting's Triple Crown races. Goshen Historic Track sits in the "Cradle of the Trotter." Many famous harness horses are buried on site near the famous Hambletonian tree, beneath which Hambletonian, foundation sire of the Standardbred breed, grazed.

Massachusetts hosts the Plainridge Racecourse as its only harness track. New Hampshire is home to Rockingham Park. This track is home to the Breeders' Cup. Maine has two harness tracks: the Bangor Raceway and Scarborough Downs. Scarborough advertises free admission and parking. If you are fortunate enough to live near any of these harness tracks, take a day to enjoy the races! You may be bitten by the harness bug! It happens to most people who attend these exciting events. Many celebrities have gotten involved in harness racing because they went to the track one day and got bit by the racing bug.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Superbowl XLIII

In 2008, Super Bowl XLII featured the champion New York Giants from the National Football Conference pitted against the New England Patriots of the American Football Conference. This would crown the champions for the 2007 football season.

This was one of the most significant upsets in the history of the Super Bowl. The New York Giants, who had a 14-6 winning record, were playing against the New England Patriots who had an 18-1 winning record. Everything pointed to the Patriots winning the game. Well, it’s not over till it’s over! In a stunning upset, the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots by a score of 17-14. This prevented the Patriots from becoming the first team that was undefeated since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

The Giants made a bit of history becoming the first wild card team from the NFC to ever win a Super Bowl. This was New York’s first title since January 1991 when they played in Super Bowl XXV. Bill Belichick coached the New England Patriots and the tagline for this Super Bowl was “Who Wants It More?” It was quite evident that the New York Giants were hungry for victory.

The Super Bowl Game was held on February 3, 2008, in Glendale, Arizona at the University of Phoenix Football Stadium. It turned out to be a rematch of the final game in the regular season. The New England Patriots came into Super Bowl XLII as 12-point favorites.

The telecast of Super Bowl XLII was the one that was the most watch of all time. There was an average of 97.5 million viewers in the U.S. alone and 148.3 total viewers that watched at least part of the game. The broadcast of the XLII Super Bowl achieved the highest Nielsen ratings for any game watched since Super Bowl XXXIV. This Super Bowl game was also the second most watched television program of all time here in the U.S.

This was indeed one of the greatest upsets in all of Super Bowl history. The New York Giants derailed the perfect season of the New England Patriots and they also turned around a mediocre regular season.

The New York Giants were 12 point underdogs as they headed into Super Bowl XLII. The New York Giants overcame the highest point spread to put the icing on the cake since the New England Patriots the St. Louis Rams as 14 point underdogs at Super Bowl XXXVI in 2001.

Now we have to set our sights on Super Bowl XLIII which will be held on February 1, 2009, down at Tampa Bay, Florida. You have to check out the latest Super Bowl odds for Super Bowl XLIII in the Sportsbook futures section.

For the NFC and the AFC, the long and grueling road ends here, in Tampa, FL. The Super Bowl is their one chance to step into gridiron greatness, their one chance to be crowned World Champions. Be there at the state-of-the-art Raymond James Stadium to see who will take home the coveted Lombardi Trophy. Don't get stuck watching the Super Bowl on the couch — get your exclusive Super Bowl tickets to experience the excitement live!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Fair Grounds

The Fair Grounds Racetrack and Casino in New Orleans, Louisiana offers classic Thoroughbred racing from November through March every year. Last year, they offered a short Quarter Horse meet in August for the first time and it was met with great excitement. This track is the third oldest racing facility in the nation, having opened in 1872. With a track as historic as the Fair Grounds, there are bound to be great stories that have happened here.

One of those stories is that of Black Gold, a game little horse who won the Kentucky Derby, the Louisiana Derby, the Ohio Derby and the Chicago Derby all in his 3rd year… the only horse to win the Derbies in four different states. Black Gold was foaled in 1921, the result of the mating of Black Toney, one of the country's best sires at the time, with Useeit, a mare who was banned from racing when her owner denied a claim for her in a race. Before his death, her owner, Al Hoots, had a dream that she would bear a foal that would win the Kentucky Derby. His wife made sure she was bred to the stallion in question, and Black Gold's story began.

His first race was run at the Fair Grounds racetrack. On January 8, 1923, Black Gold handily won his maiden race under the tutelage of trainer Hanley Webb. In March of 1924, Black Gold easily overcame his competition on the muddy fields of the Louisiana Derby, winning by six lengths. When he won the Kentucky Derby, his owner, Rosa Hoots, became the first Native American woman to have bred and owned a Kentucky Derby winner. He went on an amazing campaign that year in several states, beating many of the top horses of the day. His record of winning four Derbies in four different states stood for decades.

Like his sire, Black Gold was overraced and developed a quarter crack in his hoof. As his abilities waned, it was decided that Black Gold would be retired to stud. Unfortunately, like some of the other top horses of the day, it turned out that he was sterile.

In 1927, Black Gold was once again on the track, but he never made the board in the three starts he made that year. Nevertheless, he refused to give up. While he was not physically in form, his spirit remained undaunted. On January 18, 1928, Black Gold stepped onto the Fair Grounds racetrack for another game try. As he attempted to gain in the stretch, he broke his leg. Running on three legs and a heart, he continued on to the wire. His leg was utterly ruined, and he had to be destroyed.

Black Gold was buried in the infield of the Fair Grounds… the scene of his first win, one of his most magnificent wins, and his final defeat. To this day he rests not far from the sixteenth pole, near the remains of Pan Zareta, his mother's old rival.

To this day, every January the Fair Grounds hosts the Black Gold Stakes. The winning jockey puts flowers on Black Gold's tomb, accompanied by the descendants of Rosa Hoots.

Gulfstream Park

Gulfstream Park
in Hallandale Beach, Florida first opened to the public in 1939. It was only open for four days that year, but it attracted 18,000 people on opening day. Gulfstream opened again in 1944 for a 20 day meet and hasn't missed a season since. This track has seen its share of great horses, including the likes of Swaps, Nashua, Bold Ruler, Kelso, Spectacular Bid and Cigar.

But the single theme that has run through the history of Gulfstream Park is change. By 1946, Gulfstream added the Gulfstream Park Handicap. 1952 not only added the Florida Derby, but construction began on a clubhouse and the grandstand was expanded. As the spectators enjoyed seeing the Swaps set a new world record in 1956 and watching Bold Ruler get defeated by General Duke in 1957, plans were in the works to add a world-class turf track to the facilities. The new track was finished in 1959.

1961 saw the addition of the largest tote board in the world to the track infield. Of course, it wouldn't be considered the world's largest by today's standards, but in 1961, it was very grand. In the 1970s, the changes were more subtle. The Florida Derby became the state's richest race when the purse was raised to $125,000. In 1978, the president of Gulfstream Park, James Donn, Jr., passed away. His son, Doug Donn, was elected as his replacement.

In 1982, renovations were performed on the clubhouse and grandstand. A new domed dining terrace was added known as the Gulfdome, providing a beautiful area to dine. In 1989, Gulfstream hosted the 6th Breeders' Cup as a mini event lasting three days.

In 1990, another change happened when Gulfstream was purchased by Bertram and Diana Firestone, the owners of Calder Race Course. A banner event this year at the track was the final win in William Shoemaker's long, illustrious career as a jockey. 1992 found the Park hosting another Breeders' Cup, which broke the North American record for the amount of money bet in a single day. In 1995 and 1996, Gulfstream saw many of the amazing wins by the highest money making horse in the country, Cigar. He was added to the Park's Garden of Champions upon his retirement, and a lifesize statue was erected in his honor. 1999 saw the last change in ownership for the track, when it was acquired by Magna Entertainment Corporation. Gulfstream was also host to another Breeders' Cup, breaking another wagering record.

As soon as the meet ended in 2004, major renovation was begun at Gulfstream Park. The clubhouse and grandstand were leveled and the main track was enlarged to a mile and an eighth. The turf course was widened, growing from 80 feet to 170 feet. The walking ring was destroyed as well as half the barns and the Garden of Champions. The only original buildings left were the tote board, the administration building and the jockey's room. The 2005 meet was held with tents and temporary buildings. This continued into 2006, since the 2005 hurricane season interfered with construction.

The new grandstand and clubhouse is elegant and includes retail space, restaurants and casinos, including the 1,200 seat restaurant, the Ten Palms, and the Tickets sports bar. A new walking ring surrounded by Mediterranean style architecture has been built. Gulfstream Park has remade itself almost completely to meet the needs of its many visitors.

Monday, October 27, 2008

History of the Kentucky Futurity

The Kentucky Futurity is the second race of the prestigious Triple Crown of harness racing for trotters. The race was first held in 1893 at the Red Mile race course in Lexington Kentucky and has remained at the same location for its entire history. Being the Kentucky Futurity has always been held in the bluegrass state of Kentucky; the race became an instant success and has continued to be very popular among both horsemen and horseracing fans. The Kentucky Futurity is one of the few races in the sport of harness racing that still utilizes elimination races to determine the winner of the race.

With the elimination format, a horse must win two heats before they will be declared the winner of the Kentucky Futurity. This means heats will continue to be held until one of the horses is able to win two. In the early years of the race, it was not uncommon for the horses to race as many as four heats before the winner of the Kentucky Futurity would be determined. There have also been several occasions in which the Kentucky Futurity was only decided after the horses raced in five heats. The most heats that have been needed to determine the winner of the Kentucky Futurity was six.

Even though the Kentucky Futurity is one of the races of the harness racing Triple Crown for trotters, the purse money has not always been very substantial. In the early years of the race, the horses would often race for a total purse of less than $60,000, compared to the Hambletonian that had a purse of over $70,000 for its first running. The Red Mile has tried to improve the total purse of the Kentucky Futurity over the past few years and has begun to add money to the total purse. In the last few years, the Kentucky Futurity has been able to offer a purse of between $400,000 and a half a million dollars to the horses that are entered.

The great thing about the Kentucky Futurity is that the race has never been about winning large sums of money. The horsemen and women that are associated with the sport of harness racing are more concerned about having a champion harness racer that will be able to get their name in the history books, along with the past harness racing champions, by simply winning this prestigious and historical race.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fair Grounds Race Course: New Orleans Horseracing History

The Fair Grounds Race Course is a Churchill Downs Company located in New Orleans, Louisiana. The course is often referred to as the New Orleans Fair Grounds, but the track has had many more names throughout its history.

The track was opened originally as the Union Race Course in 1852, but was closed in 1857 due to competition from the Metairie Course. The track was renamed in 1859 to the Creole Race Course and the name was changed again in 1863 to the Fair Grounds when racing was conducted during the Civil War. The track was then closed again when Metairie Course reopened after the Civil War. Finally, in 1871 the young members of the Metairie Jockey Club formed the Louisiana Jockey Club and began holding their race meets at the Fair Grounds. In 1872, the first race card was held under the Louisiana Jockey Club.

The Fair Grounds is the third oldest Thoroughbred race track in the United States, just behind Saratoga and Pimlico. The track consists a one mild dirt track and a seven furlong turf course. The turf course was installed in 1981. The track has not had an easy life with racing being banned in New Orleans in 1908 and then returning in 1915. In 1919, the track would suffer when the grandstand burned down, but the racing continued. In 1940, a legislative sanction was given to racing in Louisiana and the track was sold to be turned into a subdivision. However, in 1941 a group of investors saved the track from destruction and racing resumed after World War II.

The track was sold to the Krantz Family in 1990. In 1993, the grandstand was completely destroyed by another fire and racing continued with temporary facilities. Finally, in 1994 a $23 million renovation project began and completed the grandstand and clubhouse for opening on Thanksgiving Day in 1997. The track was purchased by Churchill Downs in 2004. However, the track would be damaged again by Hurricane Katrina and was closed for a year until it was reopened on Thanksgiving Day of 2006.

However, despite its rough life, the track has had several memorable moments. The great mare Pan Zareta and Black Gold, the winner of the 1924 Kentucky Derby were both buried in the infield. Tippity Witchet, the son of Broomstick, ran many of his 266 races at the track. The track is also home to the Louisiana Derby (Grade II), the New Orleans Handicap (Grade II), the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (Grade II) and the Fair Ground Oaks (Grade II).

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Friday, August 15, 2008

History of Saratoga Race Course

Horse racing has been around for centuries; however, the first organized Thoroughbred horse racing track to open in the United States was Saratoga Race Course. Saratoga opened on August 3, 1863, which not only makes it the oldest horse racing track; it also makes it the oldest type of sporting venue in the United States.

Saratoga Race Course is known by many different nicknames, including The Spa, due to the mineral springs that are located in close proximity to the race course. Another nickname for the track is the Graveyard of Favorites. The track received this nickname because of the many upsets that have occurred over the years of racing that have taken place at Saratoga. One of the several upsets happened to Man O’ War at Saratoga. This is the racetrack where Man O’ War received his only defeat in twenty one starts. Another favorite to fall at the infamous racetrack was Secretariat when he was defeated by a horse by the name of Onion. This defeat came after Secretariat impressively won all three races of the Triple Crown. The 1930 Travers Stakes also saw the fall of another favorite when Gallant Fox was defeated by Jim Dandy. Jim Dandy was the long shot of the race and went off at odds of 100:1.

The historic racetrack has seen continuous racing for most of its history. The track has only closed on four occasions. The first time the track closed was in 1911 and 1912 when the governor of New York outlawed all types of wagering on horseracing. The next time the track closed was during World War II. The last time that Saratoga closed was during the 2006 summer meet. This closure was due to a heat wave that made it unsafe for the horses to race.

Saratoga is similar to the other racetracks in New York in that there are three separate tracks that compose the race course. The main track at Saratoga is the dirt track that is one and one eighth miles in length. There is also an outer turf course located on the inside of the dirt course that is one mile and ninety eight feet in length. There is also an inner turf course that is located on the inside of the main turf course that is approximately seven and one half furlongs in length. There is also a separate track that is used for training and warm-ups.