Hi there,

Welcome to issue 2 of Insider Access.

Released every 2 weeks, Insider Access showcases insider rumors and commentary in the worldwide harness racing industry.

Each issue includes an exclusive Stallion review not available anywhere else - this week we review Sportswriter.

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The below notes are the express opinions of columnist Steve Wolf and do not represent the opinions of Harnesslink.

Kudos to Saratoga Raceway Judges

Kudos need to go out to the Judges stand at Saratoga Raceway. This past month they acted not once, but twice on an age old problem in racing that you do not hear about anymore. That is when a driver helps another driver improve their position by giving them a hole. The age old practice was always deems “OK” provided when the driver that gave a hole to another driver and then that driver came right out first-over to quarter move or challenge directly first-over.

That was not the case for either drivers, Mark Beckwith or Chris Long. Both drivers laid back on their horses in their respective races to allow another driver in when it was well within their means to keep the hole closed and thus “park-out” the driver on the outside. It both cases it was the same driver they let it, Billy Dobson and in one race Dobson went on to win and was third with the other horse while both Beckwith’s and Long’s horses finished off the board.

Both driver’s received five day suspensions and were fined, perhaps a bit on the lenient side. Outright offenses like this should demand stiffer penalties so it won’t even be consider a second time.

Falling Out Between Bongiorno and Irvine

Seems that there was a falling out of sorts between the Bongiorno’s and their trainer Brad Irvine, Jr. last week and thus Irvine is no longer the trainer of their horses. Taking over the job this past week as trainer for the stable is Richard Johnson.

Need To Stop Drivers from Leaning Back

It was recently pointed out to me that when a driver leans way back in the bike, the way Tim Tetrick and Ronnie Wrenn, Jr. did during Little Brown Jug Week and were each fined $500 per occurrence; no one stopped and thanked neither the Ohio Racing Commission nor the Judges for enforcing the rules.

Well, I want to take the time and thank those Judges and am hopeful all other racing jurisdictions will take note and follow the same. It was pointed out to me that when a driver leans back like that they are actually taking away nearly one full length of space from the horse behind them. Now it does not take a major math degree to know that if every driver in a race did that, the poor guy in eighth place now had to make up an additional seven lengths to catch the leader!

In order to lean back like that you must adjust the hand-holds on your lines so that you are now driving the horse from your chest area and thus have not much control or steering ability then if you are sitting properly in the bike with arms stretched out and hands holds in the correct position so in case of an accident you have the ability to pull on the right or left line and avoid a possible wreck. It seems over the past 15 to 20 years we have forgone proper driving tactics in lieu of almighty speed.

The same goes for kicking or “nudging” horses during a race, not wearing a safety helmet whenever you sit in a race bike or jog cart, gypsy-jogging and towing another horse or one-handed whipping…all topics for another day!

By Steve Wolf

Sulky Sam

Stallion Review - Sportswriter

Artistic Fella

With the North American breeding season well underway we continue with our “A Stallion Review” series. Today we have produced an in depth review of Sportswriter at this early stage of his harness racing siring career. Sportswriter has two-year-olds racing in Australia and is about to have two-year-olds racing in North America this year.

Enjoy the read.


Sportswriter is by the super sire Artsplace and is his fourth richest son behind Art Major, Whosurboy and Grinfromeartoear.

Artsplace has produced 1,694 foals eligible to race and they average a staggering amount per foal of $101,230.

Total earnings for Artsplace progeny are $171,484,441 to date.

He has 1,178 race winners with 453 $100,000 plus winners, 18 millionaires and 48 in 1:50 or better.

Artsplace is now a great sire of sires. Leading the way is Art Major, Artiscape, Dream Away, Grinfromeartoear, Astreos, Modern Art, Stonebridge Regal and many more.

Sportswriter is from the speedy mare Precious Beauty who took a record of 1:53.3 at two on her way to earning $112,842. This daughter of Jate Lobell is proving to be an elite broodmare as she has only four foals of racing age for four very good performers. Asides from Sportswriter she is the dam of this years brilliant two year old filly by Art Major in Precocious Beauty 1:50.1 ($462,912) and her other two winners are Incredible Beauty (Art Major) 1:54f, $145,320 and Silent Partner (Camluck) 1:52.2f, $88,559.  

Sportswriter made $50,000 at auction as a yearling while the next foal from this mare made $120,000.

The grand-dam of Sportswriter is Dominique Semalu. She was a very handy race mare taking a record of 1:56.2 on her way to winning $118,000. She was a prolific broodmare producing eleven winners from eleven foals born. Seven of her eleven winners won over $100,000 and seven are faster than 1:53.

Without setting the world alight as race horse her daughters are now certainly making their mark as broodmares.. 

Half-sisters to Precious Beauty have left such smart types as Swinging Beauty 1:49.4 ($841,000), Steelhead Hanover 1:49.1 ($436,000) and Sprig Hanover 1:52 ($440,000) so there is plenty of depth up close.

The third dam Midi A Semalu 1:54.2 will be of most interest to Australasian breeders as not only did she win $525,000 but she is a three quarter sister in blood to the champion Australian sire in Whats Next. There are plenty of successful sires close up in this mares pedigree including Silent Majority and Landslide so Sportswriter has a lot going for him on the breeding front.


Injury cut short what looked like developing into a brilliant race career. He faced the starter just 14 times for 8 wins and 3 placings at the elite level of our sport. From such a short career there are many highlights.

His two year old career included wins in the $160,000 Champlain Stakes in 1:51.2, the $133,393 Nassagaweya in 1:50.4 and a win in the $40,000 Metro Stakes elimination in 1:51 before winning the $1 million final in a stunning world record of 1:49.2 beating Rocknroll Heaven in the process. Sportswriter faced the starter eight times for seven wins and a second with $875,411 in stakes.

Watch the video

Not so good as a three year old with only six starts for a win a second and a third but did win the $1,500,000 North American Cup taking his lifetime mark of 1:48.3. In this race he beat We Will See ($2,774,478), Rocknroll Heaven ($2,553,948), One More Laugh ($2,021,098) and Fred And Ginger ($1,054,244). This race was the last race he won having only two more unplaced starts in the Meadowlands Pace elimination and final.

Watch the video

Injury claimed his racing career and he was retired as a three-year-old with just the 14 starts and $1,649,411 in the bank with a then two-year-old world record of 1:49.2s and a three-year-old record of 1:48.3s.


Oldest crop will be two year olds in the 2014 season. Served a massive 224 mares in his initial season (154 foals born) in Canada which is a good indication of the respect he had from breeders. There was a significant drop off in support in year two with 95 mares bred (59 foals born) and year three, 86 mares bred but I feel that is due in the main to the changes that were happening in Canada in both the breeding and race Industry due to the withdrawal of access to slot money by the powers to be.


Was very well received in his first year at stud in Australia, serving 212 mares which resulted in 154 two year olds eligible to race this season. Those numbers dropped in year two (103 yearlings) and year three (49 weanlings). His first crop  has certainly started in the right vein with forty seven starters and sixteen winners to date to lie third at the present time on the Australian 2Yr old sires list.

They seem to be good gaited with plenty of speed overall but he urgently needs a top liner or two to step up and dominate in the classics or he will quickly end up being classified as a bread and butter sire.

Questions are already being asked as to his ability to sire stock capable of winning the classics and with 154 two year olds he needs to have serious repersentation in all the up coming classics.


Not available to NZ breeders in his first two years at stud which is a bit hard to understand as the two countries operate as a single market these days with fresh semen transportation. Why you wouldn't take advantage of over 3,000 breeders on your back doorstep as a potential market is puzzling. When he was made available in year three to NZ breeders he was virtually ignored, serving just 18 mares which probably shows breeders have long memories.


Sportswriter was a great two-year-old and he is extremely well bred with a pedigree packed with top winners and good sires. Has received great books of mares in both hemispheres to be given the ultimate chance of making it as a good sire.


With no stock in New Zealand he has a much harder road to establish himself in Australasia. With the sires market as competitive as it is in Australasia you need to give new stallions every opportunity to show their wares to the breeders. With no stock in New Zealand Sportswriter is at a real disadvantage to other new sires who have stock in both countries.


Outstanding racehorse who looked on track for the $3,000,000 club before injury halted his career. He is from a mares family that is chock full of sires and he has served huge books of quality mares in his initial years at stud. Everything is pointing to him having been given every possible chance to establish himself as a sire and the early winners only heightened the expectation of him. As the season has progressed the winners have kept coming but the standout individuals haven't materialised as yet. A top three finish on the stakes won list is not enough on its own to make his debut season a success. He badly needs a flag bearer or two at the elite level to become a threat to the established sires.


5 out of 10

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