Monday, November 24, 2014

With aptness of the season

The 30th-anniversary of the Breeders Crown approached with nostalgia and pride. There were many names to drop in the history of a series that many of us have espoused for three decades. Still, what went through my mind was how much of the 30th season appeared irrecoverable by fans and journalists.

So much had changed for so many horses and horsemen by November as the season stretched the limits of perceived time. By the Breeders Crown finals at the Meadowlands, it became evident that many insiders and fans had forgotten the characters that set this season afire at one time or another. Who knew at the beginning of January that such high-profiled people and equines were only to sparkle temporarily?

For instance, by November it was forgotten that Ake Svanstedt rose to superstardom and stayed in the limelight into deep summer. His transatlantic trotter Sebastian K became the fastest trotter of all time. Ake raced Centurion Atm to become the winter-book favorite for the 2015 Hambletonian. Your So Vain, another Ake star, came on the scene and won the initial Hambletonian Maturity.

Sebastian K didn’t supplement to the “Crown” because he couldn’t keep up the monstrous miles. Your So Vain went to the Crown but finished last in the Open Trot final. Centurion Atm didn’t make the frosh-colt-trot final and lost his status as winter-book favorite.

There were other trials that ended badly. In fact, there was one that began and ended badly—it’s the story of He’s Watching. The anticipated launch of his sophomore season disappointed all the forecasters of his glowing season when his first race on his home turf at Yonkers was a debacle. Then he showed promise and then he peaked with a Meadowlands Pace win that his supporters would not believe occurred because so much went wrong for the rest of the better colts in that field.

One of those was Always B Miki, who went on to win and earn respect but the the praise for Hes Watching ensued. Then, Hes Watching began watching all others leave him in the dust, losing and looking terrible losing. He rested and then faced a Crown elim. But by then, Always B Miki ruled and Hes Watching looked at the end of his season, unable to make the Crown final.

By Crown time, Always B Miki was being touted as the division winner and supplemented to the series. His Crown elim victory was a mere complement to already having beaten the best. Then, suffering a pastern fracture, he was scratched from the final. Earlier that day, Limelight Beach, who awoke to win the Little Brown Jug and also won his Crown elim, also bowed out.

As well, Colors A Virgin, who emerged from the Midwest to win the Jugette and came to the Crown supplemented, was looking to win the soph-filly pacer title but she couldn’t overcome a natty trip in the Crown final. It may turn up to be a blemish on her fine record.

What about Shake It Cerry? Sure, she was the Crown favorite but after she blew the Hambletonian Oaks, people stampeded to support Lifetime Dream, who defeated her in the “Oaks.” This abandonment was absurd. By Crown time, Shake It Cerry was finally getting the respect she never should have lost.

This leaves us with the most outrageous disregard of the season—turning away from Father Patrick. The sudden splurge of support for Nuncio is still a mystery. There should never have been such a turnaround, one that made the press shout “redemption” when Father Patrick won the Crown final. Father Patrick had nothing to redeem—he was always tons better than Nuncio before and after Takter got hold of him.

The public, however, forgot the rest of this season. It awarded Nuncio greatness, when two of the four races he won from Father Patrick were circumstantial because Father Patrick galloped instead of trotting. Let’s mention, too, who we have forgotten here—Trixton. He won the Hambletonian over Nuncio and as good as he got he never defeated Father Patrick.

All of that and plenty more contributes to the contents of harness racing’s 2014, a season that clouded the perspectives of many bettors and journalists. In Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline,” the queen suggests we have “aptness of the season,” a disposition that behaves with appropriateness. In 2014, too many bettors and journalists were apt to act through bias and betrayal, which is just plain dumb.

(photo by Ray Cotolo)

Thank you for following the major Breeders Crown hopefuls on their road to the November Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands by visiting the Breeders Crown Countdown blog and the TwinSpires harness blog weekly. Archived reports can be found at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Breeders Crown finals, 2014 continued

The Breeders Crown finals analysis for Friday (Nov. 21) and Saturday (Nov. 22) continue from the TwinSpires harnessblog on the main site.

There will be only one more edition of this blog for 2014, which will be an epilogue essay addressing the the season. It is scheduled for the week following the finals.

This blog looks at the older events for both sexes on both gaits.

Friday, Nov. 21

Mares Trot ($250,000)

Bee A Magician will headline the wagering here, no doubt, but she will have to work for this victory. Classic Martine has been a problem for her, especially at the Meadowlands, and Ma Chere Hall goes for new connections (she chased “Bee” a lot at three and picked up some good checks). D’Orsay, of course, is still the highest priced winner we have supported this season, winning over the summer to pay $100 or so, and she is always available to topple a field at a price.

And then there’s Mistery Woman, who is getting better with age and recently ignored by the public when winning. Last week’s 15-1 win by Handover Belle depended upon Bee’s outland journey, while “Mistery” went off a notch less at 14-1. Mistery had the most impressive trip and should once again go off higher than she deserves. Bee will pick up the place, most likely getting a far better trip.

Saturday, Nov. 22

Mares Pace ($281,250)

Let’s allow the public to believe Anndrovette can win every Breeders Crown Mares Pace in which she is entered and take the odds down too far so we can rally with a price in this here-we-go-again group that always delivers deep challenged miles. Two supplements, Yagonnakissmeornot and Venus Delight, have more to lose than the regulars but don’t expect the others to make that an edge. If the two or three that want the front get too frisky with the fractions, the main closer, Rocklamation, will eat up the stretch with her one-dimensional gait.

However, this could wind up a strategic win with a last-mare-standing finish. Multi-talented Somwherovrarainbow will be in a good spot to avoid duels and dig in late. As well, Camille is on the rail and may be gifted more room than usual (she has disappointed a few times as a choice so perhaps she would like to be on the board as an outsider).

Open Pace ($400,000)

There are only seven stalwart pacers here, yet there could be a good price on Sweet Lou, considering he has not been scoring ones of late. He is still the best here and could come right back to his seasonal shape and eat up all four quarters. Some of these horses have loyal fans, so expect the win pool to be spread out. Foiled Again, Clear Vision, Thinking Out Loud and State Treasurer all have followers that will play for some kind of glory, as opposed to profit.

Open Trot ($500,000)

Four veteran trotters show up due to byes, so that means Commander Crowe, Creatine, Intimidate and Market Share had a week off to prepare for this heavy mile; heavy because the group is fast and experienced and each is full of his or herself. The she is Maven, who won the elim impressively against the males last week, going for the first time in the Takter barn. We were second last week with Your So Vain and that race brings us to this race regardless of the freshened foursome. One of that four, of course, is the foreign Commander Crowe. How his style affects the mile remains to be seen but considering the mixture of early-and-late speed here, Your So Vain is in the perfect spot and could be the perfect price for a score (which his trainer, Ake Svanstedt, would love to happen since his prize trotter, Sebastian K—who has beaten “Crowe” in Europe—is not in this event).


The Breeders Crown Countdown blog and the TwinSpires harness blog weekly, with archived reports on the results at the Hambletonian Society web site, have brought bettors exclusive coverage through 2014. Thank you for making our decisions a part of your wagering strategy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thirteen eliminations, supplements and more on first of two Meadowlands weekends

Here is some Breeders Crown news as we enter elimination weekend at the Meadowlands.

Just as we predicted, 
Always B Miki connections bought in as a supplement to take on the glamour-boy pacers in the Breeders Crown. The cost to supplement to the colt pace is $62,500. The Indiana-bred is trained by Joe Holloway. The colt won $778,982 this season, beating some of the top glamour boys. He is coming off a win in the Monument Circle, also as we predicted.

There were more supplements. Another we predicted is soph-filly pacer Color's A Virgin. She is also an Indiana-bred and you may remember she was our pick when she won the Jugette and then continued to win at Hoosier.

Two more soph-filly pacers, 
Sayitall BB and Weeper, and a pair of mare pacers, Yagonnakissmeornot and Venus Delight, were also supported by their owners with big cash to join the fields.
Yagonnakissmeornot is a $31,250 supplemental entry to the $281,250 Crown Mare Pace, which goes straight to a final next week. Venus Delight also gets to race in that final.  

Matron winner Weeper, trained by Kelly O’Donnell, and Sayitall BB from the Burke Racing Stable are soph-filly pacers whose connections also bought in to the event for them. Half of all supplemental fees are added to respective purses. The soph-colt pace and filly purses will be $531,250 and $593,750, respectively. 

TwinSpires will be live at the Meadowlands for the events. Check the TwinSpires harness blog by clicking here and get a jump on analyzing the elims.

The Breeders Crown Countdown continues through the weekend of the finals thanks to TwinSpires and the Hambletonian Society.

Cartoons by Thom Pye


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Eliminations loom boldly as deadlines approach to commit

The Breeders Crown eliminations are where the spotlight turns at the Meadowlands Racetrack, hosting the $5.4 million 12-race Breeders Crown series. It’s decision time for foreign invitees, supplements and entries for the “Crown” which holds finals on Friday (Nov. 21) and Saturday (Nov. 22). By Friday (Nov. 7), foreign horses invited to participate must declare by noon.

Supplements for the three-year-old and open events are due Monday (Nov. 10) by noon. All supplement amounts are listed in U.S. dollars below (there are no supplements for the two-year-old races).

Gtd. Purse-Event-Supplement
$500,000-Three-Year-Old Events-$62,500
$500,000-Open Trot-$62,500
$400,000-Open Pace-$50,000
$250,000-Mare Pace-$31,250
$250,000-Mare Trot-$31,250

Horses eligible to the Breeders Crown events must enter by 9 a.m. on Tuesday (Nov. 11). Eliminations, if needed, will occur on Friday (Nov. 14) and Saturday (Nov. 15), both nights starting at the regular post time of 7:15 p.m.

As of this writing, Always B Miki’s connections have confirmed that the colt will supplement to the soph-colt pacing Crown. Still pending is the status of Color A Virgin in the soph-filly pace edition.

Sebastian K won’t be supplementing for the older trotters and neither will Natural Herbie.

The official rules state that “elimination races, if necessary, will be raced for a minimum purse of $25,000 each on Friday (Nov. 14) and Saturday (Nov. 15). If an elimination is required because more than 11, but less than 14 horses are entered, there will be a single elimination to “qualify” only enough horses that can be accommodated by the number of positions in the front tier of the starting gate.

“If there are eliminations, post positions in the final will be determined by an open draw with the exception that elimination winners in an order determined by lot, will draw for post positions number 1 through 5 in the final. All other finalists, including foreign invitees, will be placed in an open draw for the remaining post positions. Those horse(s) that receive a bye into the final will be in the open draw for post positions in the final.”

Four Breeders Crown distaff events will be raced Friday (Nov. 21) and the remaining eight finals will be raced on Saturday (Nov. 22). Both nights have a regular Meadowlands post time of 7:15 p.m. (EST).


Follow major BC hopefuls on their road to the November Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands at the Breeders Crown Countdown blog and the TwinSpires harness blog weekly, with archived reports on the results at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Always B Miki poised to make the plunge to prove he may be best

This Friday, Oct. 31, Hoosier Park’s $275,000 stakes, The Monument Circle, offers 10 glamour-boy pacers another chance at a big paycheck before dropping into the box for the Breeders Crown elims.

But three of the field’s members are not eligible to the “Crown,” and one of them is possibly the best soph-colt pacer—Always B Miki.

Always B Miki first came to the attention of the public when he was second in The Meadowlands Pace. Leaving from post 9, he never saw the wood. He was six wide into the first turn and settled on the outside with cover but gapped that cover before putting on some speed after three-quarters. Then, he had to fan five wide and he closed strongly to soar home second. Hes Watching sat a perfect trip, going second over late, came out and rolled home following tired ones, as the tremendous fractions forced horses to walk the last hundred yards.

Always B Miki was better than Hes Watching in the “Pace” and is now superior to most in the Monument Circle field. Hes Watching is not in the field at Hoosier Friday. After a few terrible, though predictable losses following the Pace, Hes Watching may be done for the season.

When Hes Watching won the Pace, we still considered Jk Endofanera the division’s leader, a status greatly disagreed about among many insiders, all of whom embraced the Pace winner and practically anointed him with the divisional crown. No one saw the Pace win as opportunistic, except us, and we went on to beat Hes Watching while he burned bettors’ money.

But “Jk,” lost in the smoke of the Pace fractions, went on campaigning successfully after losing the Pace and is still kicking, coming off some wins as he faces the Monument Circle field.

Also in the Monument Circle is our Little Brown Jug winner, Limelight Beach and Windy City Pace winner Big Boy Dreams, who is another Crown ineligible but hardly makes the cut compared to “Miki” and Jk.

Six of the colts are from the Ron Burke barn but only Jk appears to be in the direct path of Miki for the lion’s share of this purse. Winning this race would put trainer Joe Holloway and the connections of Miki into serious conversations about supplementing Miki to the Crown.

Miki is 10 for 17, many at Hoosier where the Indiana-bred devours any competition in his state division, but Miki has beaten some of the best and comes into this affair with $641,482 earnings, second only to Jk, who is just short of a million.

There is no way for us to suspect that Jk and Miki cancel one another out, leaving room for an upset, we simply see what we have seen all along being the core of the race. Jk will drop into the Crown box whether he wins this or not but seeing Miki’s name there depends on a forceful win in the Monument Circle and that is something we feel will propel a win here, even if his connections decide not to dig into their pockets.

It’s hard to assign a fair price to Miki but he may be more than usual considering the star-studded lineup and the Burke barrage involved.

The other non-eligible is Bluehourpower, one of our Indiana Sires Stakes winners two weeks back. Also in the field are Crown hopefuls At Press Time, Forty Five Red, Let’s Drink On It, Somewhere in LA and Jet Airway.


Follow major BC hopefuls on their road to the November Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands at the Breeders Crown Countdown blog and the TwinSpires harness blog weekly, with archived reports on the results at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Cartoons by Thom Pye

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dayton offers derbies for elder eligibles

This Friday, Oct. 24, the newest harness track, Dayton Raceway in Ohio, lays out $282,000 worth of purses for older pacers and trotters in the wake of its first meet.

Breeders Crown hopefuls from the aged categories on both gaits add one more event to their agenda before the “Crown” elims in November with these two hefty pursed races and some of the best have come west for the chances to pump their payrolls.

The pacing field features seven that shoot for the best chunk of $122,000.

Two of Ron Burke’s best free-for-allers, Clear Vision and Foiled Again leave behind the consistent Midwesterner Night Pro. That one is 11 for 21 and as fast as them all.

Apprentice Hanover is always a challenger and from post 7 comes Dancin Yankee, who seems to scoot the best when not up against the big Burke boys on the stakes circuit.

Brian Brown brings two with Santa Fe Beachboy and Beach Memories. These two need some awesome trips to nail a win here.

In the scheme of things, Apprentice Hanover should go off at higher odds than his chances. Those chances are so good because he could get the kind of trip that gives him a big paycheck, that is, pacing off of the Burke boys. That pair will get some battle action from the Brown pair because they are not going to roll around the three turns without making a move.

But one move by either will only be enough to discourage the steps needed for Foiled Again to win and Clear Vision may be tangled in those moves, too. Night Pro probably won’t try to strike until late and could be second in a large exacta with “Apprentice,” who could fly while relaxing in stride as the battles commence around him.

The trotting derby is worth $160,000 and with the Yonkers International Trot Preview taking some of the star power out of this event there are still nine stalwart trotters, including the “now” horse, Creatine.

Some names not bantered about line the field’s list and make this a fine betting race. For instance, Opening Night, who shone a bit in a Hambletonian final a few seasons back; Dw’s Ny Yank, a Burke earner that has cashed some big checks; Wishing Stone, the internationally experienced bloke who has been working hard for team Burke; and Daylon Magician, who carries trainer/driver Jack Moiseyev around (it has been a bit since Jack left the Ontario circuit).

While Creatine collects the most bets in the win pool and Market Share takes his fans’ support, we would like to see Dw’s Ny Yank dismissed, his odds bulging from post 2. He should get one hell of a trip in the catbird seat while his stable mate, Wishing Stone, guns for a good position early. “Daylon” may be a part of the first-half speed that could collapse. Certainly Market Share hopes it will, as he will probably be first up and firing late.

All of this could give Dw’s Ny Yank the few extra steps he needs to tap dance over the finish line and beat Creatine for a strong-paying win. 


Follow major BC hopefuls on their road to the November Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands at the Breeders Crown Countdown blog and the TwinSpires harness blog weekly, with archived reports on the results at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Cartoons by Thom Pye

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Yonkers Trot elims on tap

This Saturday, Oct. 18, the glamour-boy trotters get another shot at big money, as two $40,000 Yonkers Trot elimination divisions set the boys up for the final’s field on Oct. 25.

The final is worth $500,000, as the Yonkers Trot remains a major stake for the division, as well as a traditional staple in the stakes season.

Although Jimmy Takter trotters have a presence, the top dog in the division, his Father Patrick, is not in the elim mix.

Nuncio, however, is here, and will be leading the win-pool totals off of his $1-million-plus earnings, his eight-for-13 win record, the Takter name and driver John Campbell. Before the Kentucky Futurity, Nuncio played second fiddle to his stable mate Father Patrick. Nuncio won the Kentucky Futurity (a single heat this year) and arrives at this stakes elim with more than he has ever offered.

Once again, an Ake Svanstedt property may have a good chance of making Nuncio work for a win, if not be beaten. Dd’s Hitman has raced only nine times and has earned $56,803 for the efforts. He is getting better and if he brings his talent up a notch here, he could deliver a fine win price.

Exotic-wise, you may want to ignore the 8 hole for Trond Smedshammer’s Skates N Plates and use him as an element as Trond hands the reins over to George Brennan and will send “Skates” out hard looking for a berth in the final.

The second elimination has a few of the division’s second-string success stories in Gural Hanover, Hillustrious, Datsyuk (one of only two horses to beat Father Patrick this season if you don’t count the Hambletonian debacle), and especially Flyhawk El Durado. Though EL Titan is listed, the colt is also listed in the Maywood Galt Stakes on Oct. 17 (see TwinSpires harness blog). It is more than likely the colt will go in Chicago since drawing post 8 here.

Ron Burke handles Gural Hanover and Hillustrious, coming from the 1 and 2 post, respectively, so expect plenty of action on them. Datsyuk is bound to be among the top three public choices. But Flyhawk El Durado—a colt well acquainted with Yonkers—may not take as much support as he has in the past against New York-breds. Pound for pound, “Flyhawk” is probably a better horse than both of Burke’s and if he is third choice or worse there is no exception for us about who gets the win wager.  

Soph-pacing fillies negotiate for the Lady Maud Final’s field with two $20,000 elims on the same program. There are only five in round one and we like Fancy Desire in a romp. She may get to be second choice if Burke’s A La Notte Hanover picks up driver Brennan, who is listed on both fillies. It would be good to give Burke Brennan, it would boost our odds in this small field.

Six go in round two and it seems to belong to the obvious Act Now. This could be a great night for Brennan, who gets Act Now in this elim. As a key horse, Act Now may work well to pay decently in an exacta with Do Your Job.


Follow major BC hopefuls on their road to the November Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands at the Breeders Crown Countdown blog and the TwinSpires harness blog weekly, with archived reports on the results at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Cartoons by Thom Pye