The last few months have been productive and exciting, both on and off the track.
For almost two years, the staff and directors have been working on completing the sale of the existing USTA office campus and finding a new location more suited to the needs of our smaller and more efficient organization. Age had pretty well caught up with the present location from a couple of directions. The existing two buildings had much more space than the USTA needed and had a configuration that was difficult to manage. That, and the possibility of expensive HVAC and Americans with Disabilities Act renovations loomed large in the decision making.
I think the best description of the physical condition is that no buyers showed any interest in using either building. Shortly after our last employee leaves the building, demolition will begin for an apartment complex on the site.
The building we have purchased is much newer and will allow everyone to be under one roof; however, there will be a short time the USTA will have to use temporary space, but there will be no interruption in services. More details can be found here.
Most gratifying is that when all is said and done, we will have a better-designed headquarters, with fewer repairs on the horizon, and a positive cash flow of nearly $500,000. Good work by Mike Tanner, Dennis Fisher and their staff as well as the real estate committee directors.
Online Entry System
T.C. Lane and Sherry Antion-Mohr spent many hours developing a remarkable online entry system. Meant to make it easier for trainers and the racing office, the acceptance has been faster than expected. By making it possible for trainers to enter their horses online at their leisure, the annoying and time-consuming phone calls to a racing office can be eliminated. No more busy signals or being put on hold for long periods of time.
A few kinks are being worked out, but in many cases, 30 percent or more of a day’s entries are already being made using this system. Many prominent trainers have lauded this new development. If you haven’t already done so, start using this system.
Harness Racing Fan Zone
Another new aspect of USTA services is the Harness Racing Fan Zone, which is quickly becoming a favorite of harness racing enthusiasts. Through the use of such social media platforms as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, fans can now share their favorite stories, ask questions or comment on current or even long-ago happenings in the Standardbred world. Give it a try at www.harnessracingfanzone.com.
In the meantime, Rob Key’s Converseon Inc. is continuing to expand the awareness of harness racing. Among his current projects is trying to cross-promote the Little Brown Jug with Fazoli’s.
Still one of our more vexing concerns is trying to find the performance-enhancing drugs that have so far resisted detection. These would include cobalt, shockwave therapy, EPO, and blood doping, among others.
The USTA has contracted with Dr. Maylin of New York and Drs. Malinowski and McKeever of Rutgers to determine at what level cobalt ceases being a natural-occuring substance and becomes a performance-enhancer. Hopefully there will be results by fall that can be shared with the regulatory bodies.
In addition, we have asked Dr. Tobin of Kentucky to work with Standardbred veterinarian Dr. Andy Roberts to answer some of the outstanding questions about clenbuterol. We have not given up our stance that clenbuterol is a better medication than albuterol.
Speed, Speed and More Speed
I don’t know what caused the recent explosion of fast times, whether it’s the horses’ natural evolution, the track surfaces and configurations, no hub rail, improved sulkies, aggressive drivers, better nutrition, or even the starting gates going faster. Probably it is a combination of all these things.
Before the last couple of years, a first-quarter time of 26 seconds was a rarity, but now it is the rule rather than the exception. Now that the mile distance has become a sprint where horses can carry their speed the whole race, we are experiencing world and track records at a dizzying pace everywhere.
As I write this we have been witnessing two of the more remarkable older horses in some time. Out of the blue we have the remarkable story of 8-year-old trotter Sebastian K and his trainer, Ake Svanstedt. Sebastian K had a very successful career in Europe, but nobody expected the way he exploded on the North American scene. He trotted several miles around 1:50 and then the world record in 1:49 at Pocono Downs. So far he does it all on his own, cutting out the miles and leaving the gate like a runner. He is a grand-looking horse that effortlessly covers ground. Interestingly, on the maternal side his bloodlines are completely North American.
On the pacing side we have witnessed Sweet Lou, who at age 5 is showing the promise he exhibited as a 2-year-old. A good 3- and 4-year-old, he has now turned into a superstar.
More and more of our racing product is being accepted worldwide. For some time now the Hambletonian Society has successfully exported the signal of the Hambletonian day and Breeders Crown trotting races to France. Now it appears that come late fall, Yonkers will race Sunday afternoons and send the signal to France. The results will be watched carefully by all of us.
In addition to France, Yonkers, the Meadowlands and Balmoral Park have had good results sending their signal to Australia. In each case, the daily wagering is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hopefully this will continue to grow and prove to help our product.
Good racing and good luck
Editor's Note: The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.
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