Friday, October 28, 2011

A dozen miles to fame and fortune

All 12 divisions meet at Woodbine on Saturday, Oct. 29 for the Breeders Crown finals and we have scrutinized the elim races to come up with many great reasons to bet the series.

Aside from the potential prices on the plays we are supporting, if you are playint throuth TwinSpires and wagering on the early Pick 4 (races 4 through 7 with a $100,000 guarantee) and late Pick 4 (races 9 through 12), you will have a million TwinSpires Club Points on the line in each with the Hit-It-And-Split-It competition.

Our picks have now been circulated all over the cybersphere, in print and through word of mouth, so why not add them here on the exclusive blog for the events, the only regular follower of the eligibles' performances since the Hambletonian.

Open Mare Trot

Race 1 presents the older femme trotters, a group that hardly has enough action during the year, as do other divisions. Still, these battleaxes can fly and with the retirement of Buckeye St Pat, hands down one of the division’s best and the defending champion, this race becomes more fascinating to wager upon. We will be backing Jersey As. She is consistent, competitive and always poised to challenge. Post 8 may be the best place for her to launch an upset attack. Exotic material: 6-Action Broadway, 9-Autumn Escapade and10- Frenchfrysnvinegar.

Two-Year-Old Filly Trot

 Don’t look for an upset, key the 5, Win Missy B. She had a week off (did not have to race in elims) and has gotten as hot as they can get coming up to this race. She may be a short second choice but she has what it takes to take down the big favorite. Exotic material: 2-Circles, 4-Check Me Out, 7-Miss Paris.

Two-Year-Old Filly Pace  

Mid-season, Pirouette Hanover was poised to dominate the division. However, after losing the Champlain in early September she took a well-deserved rest. Training into this event she looks great and because she stepped back from the scene we are promised a decent price on her with her regular pilot, Ron Pierce, ready to rumble from post 3. Exotic material: 5-Economy Terror, 6-Shelliscape, 7-Big McDeal.  

Two-Year-Old Colt Pace  

In his elim, Hurrikane Kingcole was dynamic, especially from post 9. We picked him for that affair because he was primed to get to the “Crown” and he was ready to roll on his favorite oval. Trouble ensued; he suffered interference 11 lengths behind in the stretch and closed faster than a cheap outlet store to get third at 13-1. From post 5 this week we support a mighty upset. Exotic material: 4-A Rocknroll Dance, 5-Hillbilly Hanover, 10-I Fought Dalaw.  

Two-Year-Old Colt Trot  

From Above was scratched from the final, earning the berth by the skin of his teeth in a poor mile that indicated something was wrong after two great wins. Trainer Greg Peck took him out of the final and now we have another kind of contest. Dan Daley’s Royal Shyster jumped uncharacteristically at the start of the race and still made the final. He draws post 8 but that won’t matter if Daley gets a sharp start that doesn’t take too much out of him. He is a rank outsider, for sure, but it could be Daley’s night with his best change for a Crown win yet. Exotic material: 3-Uncle Peter, 4-Possess The Will, 6-Appomattox.  

Open Mare Pace  

We loved the elim mile traveled by Maureen Rocks and we adore her leaving from post 1 in the final. She held second after pulling to be first over at the half, chasing the favorite with aplomb. Expect a giant mile and a more severe challenge to the obvious favorite, the winner of last week’s sole elim for this division. Exotic material: 3-Chancey Lady, 6-On The Glass, 8-Rock N Soul.  

San Pail, the dominating older trotter in North America has to contend with two imports that have traveled far to contest this division. But we are going to go with an upset here, banking on Lucky Jim having his way from post 7, staying flat and taking advantage of what might be some nifty duels ignited by the “visitors.” As well, this may be the best price you will get in years on this stalwart trotter. Exotic material: 2-San Pail, 5-Rapide Lebel, 6-Hot Shot Blue Chip.  

Three-Year-Old Filly Pace  

Last week in the second elim for this division we won with Rocklamation, beating the once-super filly See You At Peelers. That one finished so badly she is not here. None of this matters because 2-Drop The Ball, cannot be denied greatness. A dead-on choice, perhaps odds-on, it is her race to lose and we don’t think she will lose it. Exotic material: 3-Rocklamation, 4-Krispy Apple, 6-Monkey On My Wheel.  

Three-Year-Old Colt Trot  

This is as simple as it was in one of last week’s elims: 5-Manofmanymissions wins if he doesn’t break stride. The only colt to beat him straight up is also here and he could do it again but only taking advantage of some other mistake that may happen. Either way, Manofmanymissions should win the divisional championship even though he blew the Hambletonian by running. Exotic material: 1-Spectator K, 2-Luckycharm Hanover, 8-Daylon Magician.  

Three-Year-Old Filly Trot  

We will stand alone with our prime contender in this race but we have done so before to the tune of great profits so here we go again. We are staying with our elim pick, 10-Pantholops, empowered by the fact that she earned a berth considering the trouble she ensued in the elim. Granted, she has her work cut out for her in this mile but going against the grain in this situation could pay off for such courage. Exotic material: 1-Lady Andover, 4-Cedar Dove, 7-Jezzy.  

Three-Year-Old Colt Pace  

Again, we are sticking with one of our elim choices, 8-Fashion Delight. Trainer Jim Campbell calls upon brother John to take the reins. Tim Tetrick got the colt into the final with a great late move, one more impressive due to being impeded when second over to a jumper. Though he has not lived up to potential this season after a rock-and-roll frosh campaign, he looks like he may be heading for a great older season and why not start that charge now? Exotic material: 5-Alsace Hanover, 6-Roll With Joe, 9-Big Bad John.  

Open Pace

All year these monstrous males have plowed and pounded their pacing abilities against one another of some of the best purses in the business. We had our share of scores in this division but suffered from some bias toward We Will See. Awkward at three, he really blossomed at four, able to take on older horses with the kind of speed that terrorizes any horse near him. We surrender, even though he lost his prep, and support him from post 1 to close the 2011 series. Look for a track and possibly four-year-old speed badge here; driver Pierce will let this guy loose. Exotic material: 2-Foiled Again, 4-Mach Dreamer, 5-Bettor Sweet.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The trot heard 'round the world

When foreign horses Commander Crowe and Rapide Lebel arrive in Toronto for Saturday’s $600,000 Breeders Crown Trot at Woodbine Racetrack, the obstacles to victory go beyond merely facing five rivals.
Commander Crowe and Rapide Lebel will need to recover from shipping overseas, get accustomed to unfamiliar surroundings and compete in a race where the style is likely to differ greatly from that in Europe. The last foreign invitee to win the Breeders Crown Trot was Italian star Varenne in 2001, when he triumphed with a world-record 1:51.1 mile at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
“There are a lot of things involved,” said U.S.-based trainer Trond Smedshammer, who is no stranger to shipping horses overseas. “Keeping them healthy, eating and drinking; it’s a stressful thing for them. Every horse and every ship is different. Some horses deal with it fine and actually like traveling. Other horses don’t deal well with it at all.”
Smedshammer’s Breeders Crown contender, Arch Madness, raced in Europe in May. He won the $480,647 Oslo Grand Prix in Norway and also won his elimination heat for Sweden’s prestigious Elitlopp before finishing sixth in the same-day final.
Arch Madness defeated Rapide Lebel, the fastest French trotter in history, in the Oslo Grand Prix. Rapide Lebel was second in the Elitlopp, losing by a nose to German trotter Brioni.
“He’s obviously a very strong horse,” Smedshammer said. “He can carry his speed for a long time, but so can the top horses on this side. I’m not sure how good or close to top form he is right now, so it’s kind of hard for me to give a real evaluation. You don’t know how they’re going to deal with shipping over here, either.
“On his best day he certainly is a very good horse.”
Ontario native John Bax, whose Breeders Crown contender Define The World also raced in the Oslo Grand Prix and Elitlopp, agreed. Define The World was fourth in the Oslo Grand Prix and finished sixth in his Elitlopp elimination.
“(Rapide Lebel) is fast and tough,” Bax said. “I think he can go all out for the whole mile. He’s a handful; I think he made a little bit of a break at the gate in Norway when we raced against him and spent the rest of the mile on the outside, but he was still around.”
Neither Smedshammer nor Bax saw Commander Crowe in person, but both know he should be respected. Commander Crowe won the first 23 races of his career and is the second-fastest Swedish-born trotter in history, as well as the European record-holder with a 1:50.4 mark.
“He’s a good horse or they wouldn’t bring him over,” Smedshammer said.
“I didn’t race against him, so I can only go on what the guys tell me,” Bax said. “We maybe underestimate the European stock. You go over there to race them and you see how good they really are. I think he’ll be heard from. But it’s hard to say how they’ll handle the shipping coming this way. We’ve got a home-court advantage.”
Both trotters are expected to arrive in Canada on Thursday. They are flying directly to Toronto from Amsterdam, then shipping to quarantine at Mohawk Racetrack.
“They say you either come in right before, or you come in a long way before; it doesn’t seem to work as well if you come in 10 days or a week before,” Bax said. “You can come in real close and maybe get away with it, or come in a month early and get acclimated.”
In addition to getting acclimated, Commander Crowe and Rapide Lebel will face a different style of racing in North America. Both will be driven by their regular drivers, Eric Raffin behind Rapide Lebel and Chris Martens at the lines of Commander Crowe.
“These horses won’t be adapting to anybody’s style,” Bax said. “I don’t think there will be any giving and taking here. Racing two wide is nothing to them, whereas over here people get pretty worked up about it. I’ve seen horses over there go three wide so they can be first up; you’d never see that over here.
“Over there, I think it’s more about strategy and less about just speed. That makes it interesting.”
Smedshammer had Sweden’s top driver Bjorn Goop drive Arch Madness in Europe rather than regular pilot Brian Sears.
“(Racing style) comes into play a lot,” Smedshammer said. “They’re bringing their own drivers, which I think is a mistake. They would have a much better chance if they used some local drivers. The horses, they don’t know the style; it’s the drivers that are not familiar with the style.”
As for his own horse, Smedshammer is hopeful. Arch Madness has won eight of 14 races this year and earned $787,270. He was second to San Pail in the $766,500 Maple Leaf Trot and $300,000 Nat Ray Invitational. He was third in the Allerage Farm Trot, behind San Pail and Hot Shot Blue Chip, on Oct. 1 at Lexington’s Red Mile.
“He’s doing all right,” Smedshammer said. “He was probably not as good as he was this summer. I thought he raced OK in Lexington, but he hasn’t had a lot of races lately. I was trying to get a race for him last week, but I couldn’t get him in anywhere. But he’s healthy and he’s feeling good, so I’m sure he’ll show a decent performance.”
Define The World has won eight of 23 races this season and earned $317,596. He was fourth in the Maple Leaf Trot and is coming off a seventh-place finish in the open handicap at Woodbine on Oct. 15, a race won by San Pail.
“He’s as good as he can be,” Bax said. “I don’t know if that’s good enough, but we’re there. He’s a player, but there are a few that are better than him. I think it would be safe to say that everything would have to work out right, but you’ve got to be in it to have a shot. He’s got great gate speed, so he can usually get himself in position.”
San Pail is the unanimous No. 1-ranked horse in harness racing in the most recent Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown Top 10 poll. A two-time O’Brien Award winner as Canada’s champion older trotter, San Pail has won 27 of his last 31 starts and finished worse than second only once during that span.
“I think San Pail is still going to be the favorite, and deservedly so,” Smedshammer said. “But anything could happen. With those (foreign) horses, with those drivers, who knows what’s going to happen. It’s going to be an interesting race.”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sophomore elims present looming longshots

On Saturday, Oct. 22, nine sophomore eliminations for the Breeders Crown finals are the features at Woodbine in Canada (there is also a single elim for the mare pacers). These battles for the berths in the finals’ fields on Oct. 29 have some great upset possibilities.  

In league with our TwinSpires blog this edition of “Countdown” offers selections that have the potential to win elims and boost exotics. Not being privy to closing odds at press time, we are assuming that our suggested contenders are outside the mainstream picks. We estimate 4-1 or up (unless otherwise specified) on all of them but, of course, guarantee nothing. You can judge as you watch and wager on TwimSpires and you can follow us on Twitter and the blog for late updates on both evenings.  

Saturday, Oct. 22

Race 1, 3yo filly trot

Jezzy has earned her way here and still remains one of the best in this division. However, she fell out of favor with the crowds after her winning streak ceased. This could be a wonderful occasion to wager on her because of that, since her odds will be nowhere near the measly amounts she offered when hot. She has the cleanest gait of ‘em all, actually, so you can count on her trotting her best. 

Race 2, 3yo colt trot

The two supplements, also bound to be the two favorites (Daylon Magician and Dejarmbro) are on the outside and although I am not a stickler for post positions as burdens, I think these two may have a bit of a problem working out a win. Chapter Seven, therefore, may go off higher than we may have estimated after his recent win. I would sat at 2-1 and up he is worth the win wager. Also, if you are going exactas, toss in Spectator K for the second spot; he could get place by default and ignite a big number.  

Race 3, 3yo colt trot

We are again faced with the gait problems of this division, so we are going to look at two scenarios. First, the dead-on favorite and best in this group—when on gait—is Manofmanymissions. He won last year at two and could romp in the elim and the final but not at a price. The backup, if he wins or not, is Whiskey Tax. In the Hambletonian, “Tax” took advantage of every other mishap in the field and got second. He is apt to do it again if “Man” stays straight. If Man breaks, you may be looking at a huge win price with Tax.  

Race 4, 3yo filly trot

We were all over Pantholops when she sizzled at the Meadows for a $30-plus-win price. She had a tough “Futurity” and then got stung with Bold And Fresh finally fired. We cannot let her go here because this is going to be a serious attack and she should be at her best on the track, which is enough to beat these, and her price should be promising. If “Bold” goes the way of all gallopers, beware of Magic Wheel, a local Kadabra product that may do well being tested against better. A big exacta looms with her second to “Pan.”  

Race 6, mare pace

This is not a field to search for an overlay but a qualified longshot chance belongs to Maureen Rocks. She hasn’t been able to shove any of the classier gals over but she is always getting attention from bettors because she is, ultimately, an aggressive mare. I would think the public will dismiss her (she is 8-1 on the morning line [ML]).  

Race 7, 3yo filly pace

Swinging Beauty has the perfect style to finally take advantage of some tired stretch-pacers and may do just that in the weaker of the two soph-filly elims. You cannot knock her in this field, where the ML favorites are all suspect. Her 6-1 ML may be a conservative estimate to her closing odds.  

Race 9, 3yo filly pace

Rocklamation is one of those exacta add-ons, never getting the edge to beat rivals but cashing a lot of check trying. Her 4-1 ML seems generous, as this field has to deal with the return of See You At Peelers, who’s bound to get a lot of attention in the wagering. Still, “Rock” could get her way in one scenario that may play out, so why not take a shot at a legitimate overlay.   

Race 10, 3yo colt pace

Custard The Dragon has not emptied his tank and may be up for a huge mile with the big money and fame on the line. He qualified well after being scratched, which could have been the reason he began to falter after some magnificent miles. He has a lot going for him in the field, a group he can beat on his best day under most circumstances. His ML is 7-1 and we had him both times he won big this season at those kind of odds.   

Race 11, 3yo colt pace

Fashion Delight had a rough sophomore season but has come around well late. He could be peaking now as he rolls into what looks like it could be a monstrous older-pacer campaign. This division has been fickle all year and you have to be crazy to wager on the favorite here to win. Go with Tetrick driving Jim Campbell’s under-rated colt for the upset.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Freshmen outsiders hold keys to ‘Crown’ cash

On Friday, Oct. 21, five freshmen eliminations for the Breeders Crown finals are the features at Woodbine in Canada. On Oct. 22, sophomores are the highlights with nine elims. The battles for the berths in the finals’ fields on Oct. 29 are always fierce contests that can produce upsets and stuff bankrolls. 

In league with our TwinSpires blog this edition of “Countdown” offers selections that have the potential to win elims and boost exotics. Not being privy to closing odds at press time, we are assuming that our suggested contenders are outside the mainstream picks. We estimate 4-1 or up on all of them but, of course, guarantee nothing. You can judge as you watch and wager on TwinSpires and you can follow us on Twitter and the blog for late updates on both evenings. 

Friday, Oct. 21

Race 1, 2yo colt trot

Classic Conway, 15-1 on the morning line (ML), should offer anything near that for a wager. He has the style and the current form to topple the big-noise horse From Above. That one also brought us pre-elim pay with two great wins, just as “Conway” scored last time. These two wreak of exacta magic.

Race 2, 2yo colt trot

Appomattox is a Frank Antonacci-trained colt that is listed on the ML at 20-1 with Tetrick driving. This is not such a sterling group that long odds are necessary for Mr. Antonacci’s steed, who I am sure is poised to stay afloat and surprise. Definitely an exacta member as well as a win bet.
Race 3, 2yo filly trot

In the single elim for this division (two gals not here show up for final), Personal Style is a legitimate outsider and candidate to beat 4-5 ML choice Check Me Out. At 8-1 on the ML with Ron Pierce steering, I cannot see how Richard Norman’s filly will be out of the mix sans a misstep.  

Race 4, 2yo colt pace

Hurrikane Kingcole was a darling for bettors a few back. Once he got into trouble they dropped him like a dead dictator’s body. But the colt has been priming for this event since some minor problems. This elim is the time to support him. His ML of 10-1 may be a conservative estimate of his post-time odds, since everyone and his uncle will back A Rocknroll Dance.  

Race 6, 2yo colt pace

Our shortest ML price at 9-2 is Machapelo. He may not be as long a shot as most we recommend watching on Friday but we think he has much potential and can live up to the speedy style of his sire. In other words, he is blossoming and can perform a late-season primer to a productive sophomore season.

Check in for Saturday's picks soon.

Check out the season's news for eligibles at

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The eliminations are elating examples of wonderful wagering

The ultimate harness series, the championship Breeders Crowns, this year at Woodbine in Canada, presents all 12 finals on the same card this Oct. 29. The week before, however, on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22, Woodbine hosts a slew of elimination miles to prepare the fields for the finals. 

These are powerful races that often are dismissed by players, when in fact they can offer two important factors. First, they can offer good prices, overlays if you will, featuring horses that will make the final but are winning the elim off a good trip, a smart drive or any other fortunate situation. In other words, the best horses can go on to win the finals but may not win the elims.  

Plus, if there is more than one elim, the really hot horse in the division can only race in one elim, leaving the other open for an outside contender, an overlooked entry reaching his or her peak. In fact, the more elims raced in each division, the better the wagers that surface.  

Next, watching elims closely can reveal a surprise winner of a final. The trip handicappers are putting on their dear slayer hats and investigating every move in the elims. Horses getting stuck in traffic, making huge but losing brushes and other such common causes for bad performance lines in a race are the meat of the mighty bettor. In the past, this is how we have nailed some giant “Crown” final winners that few were willing to back. 

And then there is Woodbine

Of the two major Ontario-harness-circuit tracks, Woodbine is the least speed-biased, allowing for horses to make up good ground in the stretch. Good horses having troubled trips in the first half often make up for it with huge, late moves, sometimes uncharacteristically closing to get into the picture, if not win. Outsiders that have saved some ground use their one-brush punch for upsets.  

As always is the case in harness racing, a single horse in a field takes most of the win money and second, third and fourth choices tend to offer high returns, many of them based on odds far higher than the horses’ chances. So we put into play our usual search for the outsider-contender, the horse that can win at better odds than its chances. 

It takes courage in any race to buck a 4-5 shot (and that could be high for a harness favorite) but over and over again the best plays come against those horses. In the Crown, as well, the fields have a tendency to be more equal than the odds wagered upon the entrants deserve.  

So when a strong field of horses goes to post—and how much stronger can you get than the top divisional members that roll with the Crown?—you need that bravery to make money. Get your betting accounts in order, then and be ready for the Crown elims wagering experience.  

We are covering the events live those two nights, with special tweets and insider comments and info, through Twitter, as you watch and wager at TwinSpires. Thanks to the Hambletonian Society, we will have a direct communication with Woodbine sources for the best coverage available on the Internet.  

Next week we will be engaged in offering handicapping advice when the elim fields are revealed.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Official Top-Ten Hopefuls Could Offer A Wagering Bonanza

The Oct. 3 Hambletonian/Breeders Crown Standardbred Poll represents 21 weeks of performances from all harness divisions, according to the opinions of industry. With about three weeks left until the Breeders Crown elim, five of the dozen divisions are do not have members on this list and only one horse is not eligible to a “Crown” race.  

Of the two divisions that have a pair of representatives in the Top Ten, only Manofmanymissions (Yankee Glide) in the soph-colt-trotting league appears to be heading for a Crown elim. The Kadabra-sired Daylon Magician has beaten the best of his mates each time they challenged him. It is reported that the colt will continue to race in the lucrative Ontario-sired-based finals but as of this writing there is no word if his connections will supplement to a Crown elim. 

These horses will be wagered upon heavily in the October elims and due to this high profile will provide bettors with choices that include any number of other performers that will offer better odds. Let’s look at the reasons any of them can be beaten. 

San Pail will have great advantages. One of these edges is Woodbine. Though he has beaten his division foes over the border, he will be very much at home here. But that is not a lock. Arch Madness ruled this division earlier in the season and now he is off the Top-Ten list. Still, he ranks as a threat.  

The foreign contingency will also influence the wagering. Commander Crowe and Rapide Lebel have accepted invitations to the final and the last three winners of the event—Enough Talk, Lucky Jim and Corleone Kosmos—are also available, giving San Pail the challenge of his career. 

We Will See has been an enormous success at four, being rivaled by older pacers and making them look old. But he works hard for his wins and that means any matter of inches during a trip can present a loss from veterans like Foiled Again (number 10 on the list now but earlier a leader). This has been a competitive division throughout a long 2011 campaign, so don’t hand the purse to “See” just yet. As for the Crown champ, indeed, we will see.

See You At Peelers (Bettor’s Delight) is training under medical supervision, being treated with medicine for a manageable heart problem. Whether she gets into the events or not is a decision pending. Don’t be surprised if she returns with verve and a fresh feeling that makes her look best again in a division taken over recently by fillies that were inferior. 

Big Bad John (Western Hanover) and Roll With Joe (Cam’s Card Shark) are, in our opinion, very close to one another in talent. However, they are clearly part of a crop that has not produced a single dominant colt. These two readily beat one another or others of equal talent, making the wagering on this division’s elims bet-worthy.  

If Up The Credit (Western Terror) can win a $1-million race and Custard The Dragon (Dragon Again) can roll better than “Joe,” then the gelding, Alsace Hanover (The Panderosa), has a shot. As well, deal some chances to others not on the Top Ten: Hugadragon (Dragon Again), Powerful Mist (Powerful Toy), Rockabillie (Rocknroll Hanover), Rollitwithharry (Rocknroll Hanover), Shadyshark Hanover (Cam’s Card Shark), Westwardho Hanover (Dragon Again) and even a return visit from Fashion Delight (Bettor’s Delight). It’s open season for winners in the soph-colt pacing elims.  

Meanwhile, only one freshman makes the grade, the unbeaten American Jewel (American Ideal). She is clearly the best of the green gals but can she stay unbeaten through the Crowns? Her split, should there be more than one elim in this division, may be the only that I would consider passing.   

Manofmanymissions (Yankee Glide) trots or he doesn’t trot and no one knows why or when. That has been a problem throughout the soph-colt trotting season. When he is floating there seems to be no other that can take a win from him, however, the speculation every time he takes flight is intense. If “Daylon” gets in, there could be more trouble for “Man” than he can handle. So this Crown challenge, with Daylon or not, is still a wagering probable. 

Dreamfair Eternal is a great pacing mare but she has off nights that behoove the brightest of handicappers. We beat her with Anndrovette and you may do so again at the same luscious price. We nabbed Laughandbehappy most recently and she has beat both of them.  

By and large, this season’s Breeders Crown, with elims on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22, will be presenting some fine wagering opportunities if this Top Ten list is any indication of public opinion. You can bet it all and follow our tweets for last-minute action as we cover all the Crowns live on the Internet in league with TwinSpires and the Hambletonian Society. In the meantime, there are more preps and there will be more news, so continue to follow this blog and our two weekly TwinSpires harness blogs.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Back to the ‘Futurity’

Unexpected things happen this time of year in harness racing, even when one is not dealing with a crop as quirky as the 2011 soph-colt trotters. You could say that the members of this crop “make it or break it,” since so many have lost by their own missteps.  

On Oct. 2 at The Red Mile comes the Kentucky Futurity, the third jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown, though this year (with no available candidate) it is just one more Breeders Crown prep.  

The gals get to go, too, in the filly version for the sophs. They have also had their Achilles heels showing through the year. All of the action is available on TwinSpires and players of the “Futurity” card get 10X points for the dollars wagered.  

First, let’s look at the boys’ field. Ten of them are entered in The Red Mile event, worth $490,000, contested in two heats, each worth $196,000. One soph-colt trotter must win both heats to be the champ or there will be a $98,000 race-off between the pair of heat winners.  

Fawkes (post 7), Whit (post 8) and Dejarmbro (post 9, a $50,000 supplement) are not eligible to the “Crown.” A win could make connections consider buying into the event but for now that is a moot point.  

Hambo-winner Broad Bahn leaves from post 5 after a disturbing performance in the Canadian Trotting Classic that saw him quit on a dime while attempting the lead and finish 10th. It was deemed that an irregular heartbeat was the cause. Since then, trainer Noel Daley has qualified the colt in 1:53.2 at the Lexington oval, allowing his appearance in the Futurity.  

Daley told Ken Weingartner of the USTA publicity department that he could not be sure if the problem would arise during the Futurity. He said, “There’s no rhyme or reason or pattern to [the condition]. Hopefully it’s a one-time deal. But obviously there is a concern.” Daley said “Bahn” was bright and healthy in his qualifier.  

Bahn’s main nemesis, Manofmanymissions is back in the thick of the action, a tepid favorite in the morning line over Bahn. Even without a condition like that which Bahn suffers, “Man” is apt to misstep at any time as well as he can smoothly float away from almost any competitors. So, his history tells us he will be an underlay.  

Post 1 is for VC Chocoholic, one of Trond Smedshammer’s two entries (Dejarmbro is the other). This colt has not been able to stay smooth enough to battle the others in the heavy competition. When he is on gait he has shown a lot of talent.  

Opening Night (post 2) was third in the Hambo, as we predicted (the triple was ruined by Whiskey Tax, who is missing in action here). We finally nabbed a win from this guy at 6-1 recently. He is a closer and may be flying at the end if speed or gaits collapse. He will be an overlay.  

Big Rigs (post 4) has not been able to live up to his frosh ability and as a speed horse would have to have some kind of luck to win either of these heats.  

Luckycharm Hanover (post 6) is also and also-trot in the division and needs some bad conduct around him to assist in a win.  

Live Jazz (post 10) hardly belongs here and this post doesn’t lend him much support.  

Under the circumstances, the scenario to hope for in heat one is where Opening Night can stay clear of trouble but get the kind of trouble that is manufactured by a speed duel. Any horse that wins the first heat will be in a better spot to win the second but odds will change drastically for a first-heat winner in the second chapter. Trying to hit this first one with an overlay is the true target. We can count on only one scenario, as prescribed with Opening Night, to catch a price here. It was bad enough when merely breaking was a problem with the best horses, now you have to deal with a heart problem that is just as unpredictable as any trotter that goes on a gallop.   

Futurity femmes

The “Oaks” winner, Bold And Fresh, is back to take on a similar crew and is back looking like the longshot she delivered in the Oaks. Why she would attract major wagers is beyond us, since there are “now” fillies here, each one as promising as the next.  

Pantholops, who we gave you at an astounding $34 win price last out, is a ton of speed that has found its gait and she is going to show some quick foot on the two-turn mile.  

Firstclassprincess is getting better for Trond Smedshammer, who is under-rated for his achievements with filly trotters and who is the only trainer responsible for a Trotting Triple Crown in recent memory.  

Lady Rainbow finally won after flirting with success while battling the best all season. In fact, she almost beat “Bold” in the Oaks with a stunning close that began too late to produce the top purse check.  

Hey Mister is the stealthy type, known to toss in a giant mile here and there—how about here? She has a 50-percent win rate, after all, for trainer Ross Croghan.  

Crys Dream was once the sweetheart of the division but tumbled amid controversy and a wicked turn of form. Still, she is not to be denied.  

The others could provide semi-surprises but all in all one of the five listed above should win the classic in any combination of two heats.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Red Mile—focus on ‘tunnel vision’

In Kentucky, no matter how you spin it, the thoroughbreds will always be the big equine stars of horseracing. But serious students of pari-mutuel play are aware that the “underground” for horseplayers in Kentucky is in Lexington on a magnificent mile track primarily presenting harness racing. Playing online is easy and informative (with our series of supportive blogs) when you do it with an account at TwinSpires.

Each year at The Red Mile, overnight racing is filled with delicious overlays and in autumn, along with the Grand Circuit's two-week meet, presenting Breeders Crown eligibles battling their way to the elims. It's the very best standardbreds of the season racing for big bucks and it can offer great value for the astute handicapper.  

This mile track (each harness race at the standard distance brings horses around the oval once) includes a terrific stretch, known for years as “the tunnel.” Few stretches on mile-long tracks have the reputation for upsets, as does this real estate. It is especially adored in the ranks of the overnight classes, but many a star favorite has also fallen in its wake.  

In general, sharp handicapping on Red Mile racing includes a focus on horses that normally race on the Midwest’s half- and five-eighths mile tracks in Ohio. Many of these horses (especially ones suffering from recent bad trips on the smaller tracks) seem to thrive on getting a comfortable grip on the dirt down the tunnel. Local horses may love their home track, but new faces wake up briskly on their first and second trips over this oval.  

Few horses, however, classy or not, can overcome any radical climate changes that can take place in the tunnel; these can weigh heavily on the outcome of a race. Each change benefits a different kind of racing styles.  

The track’s normal “fast” surface has no loyalty to inside or outside positions. Starting from anywhere, a clean, ground-saving trip is usually complemented by a fast tunnel journey. More times than not this kind of come-from-behind trip will down the pacesetter. Certainly, the second-over trip can often catapult a closer through the stretch. With the fast conditions of the tunnel on its side, the trip horse can leave the field gasping for air. 

Although tough speed duels can help a horse come from far behind, speed can hold up well on a fast track in the tunnel. Deep come-from-behind victories are rare when the track is under clear skies and dry.  

But you can see the tunnel’s bias change quickly, usually when rain falls and certainly based on how much of it pelts the surface. Oddly enough, speed can falter more quickly in sloppy going in the tunnel than it does on a fast track. Wire-to-wire wins can be accomplished in the early stages of rain, but pacesetters get bogged in the tunnel as the mud thickens the path to the finish line. The track is kept in fine shape no matter the weather conditions, so a bettor has to be a sharp weatherman as well as an astute handicapper.

The Grand Circuit's two-week stay at Lexington’s Red Mile begins Sept. 29. The Kentucky Futurity for glamour-boy trotters is on Oct. 2. The highlights of the second week are the $700,000 (est.) Tattersalls Pace for three-year-old colt pacers, as well as the Glen Garnsey Memorial for three-year-old filly pacers, Bluegrass stakes for soph-colt and filly trotters and International Stallion Stakes events for two-year-olds of both sexes and gaits.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Little Brown Jug presents eligible-filled elims

The 2011 Little Brown Jug field may look a bit short with only two elim heats and a dozen horses entered but both of those fields are filled with Breeders Crown eligibles.  

The Jugette, however, has a quartet of entries ineligible to the “Crown.”  

Each elim heat for the “Jug” is worth $84,288.  

The first elim finds the event’s morning-line favorite, hometown-pacer Big Bad John (Western Hanover), trained by Ron Potter and driven by David Miller in post 2, just outside of the rail horse, Something For Doc (Western Hanover). In the 3 hole is Powerful Mist (Powerful Toy), followed by Foreclosure N (Rocknroll Hanover), Custard The Dragon (Dragon Again) and High Noon (Western Ideal).  

All of these colts, with the exception of “Doc,” have battled one another in major stakes and “John” has been less than domineering with them. The most overlooked, usually, is “Custard,” who we correctly chose to win two of his highest-paying wins. Of the group, he is the best bet to defeat John. Post 5 may not be a big problem for Custard, even on the four-turn mile.  

The best thing about Custard, though, is the fact that after a few losses and being up against the hometown choice, he could go off at juicy odds, even in this small field.  

The second elim will have some odds issues. The 4, Betterwithcheddar (Bettor’s Delight), supplemented to the event and winner of the Cane Pace, will be sharing favoritism with the 6, Up The Credit (Western Terror) and the 5, Roll With Joe (Cam’s Card Shark).  

The three probable favorites will have to negotiate good trips coming from the outside three posts. This leaves the 1, Rollwithitharry (Rocknroll Hanover), a chance to take advantage of the wood as well as the inside down the stretch the final time. But if he maintains the lead after taking it early, he could force the others wide and make them tired.  

For the Jugette, with each elim worth  $58,470, we have two fields where four fillies are non-eligible to the Crown.  

Although Idyllic (in elim one) is the event favorite, that may be based on a peculiar mile, the one where she handed See You At Peelers an historic first loss. Idyllic (American Ideal), who we had supported through the season, got a good deal that day, with “Peelers” racing too fast early from a bad post and, as we know now, showing signs of a condition that now leaves her on the sidelines until further notice.  

Even if Idyllic wins the first elim, which includes hopefuls Tu Sei Bella (Bettor’s Delight), Myluvmylife (Rocknroll Hanover) and non-eligibles What’s New Pussycat and Latin Lyric, we feel that Pretty Katherine (Rocknroll Hanover) from elim two will win the event. 

The second elim also includes eligibles Roclamation (Rocknroll Hanover), Strike An Attitude (Western Hanover) and Swinging Beauty (Art Major), along with Musette Mindale and Rackratese. 

To defy Idyllic in the first round, judge the value of Myluvmylife for a wager. In the second round, key “Katherine” in exotics if her odds come up short. 

Check here before Sept. 22 for some contender news in other Jug-day events.

See Hambletonian Society for archives and other news as the countdown to the Crown ensues. 


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Glamour-boy trotting stars tested once more

The Canadian Trotting Classic at Mohawk on Saturday, Sept. 17, brings together another group of glamour-boy trotters, including the top Hambletonian characters, for another episode of division-title derby.  

Hambo-winner Broad Bahn is in the field, along with his division rival Manofmanymission. The latter has been performing much better than the former recently, being very strict with his stride and toppling all foes when he is on his best behavior.  

Last week Broad Bahn had it tough again, beaten by Daylon Magician, who was nowhere near the Meadowlands on the first Saturday in August. As well, he was the fan favorite and got up to please the crowd while the rest of the field practically lined up straight across the track.  

“Man” won his elim much easier.  

Mystery colts haunt this division lately. Aside from Daylon Magic’s sudden strength, Sim Brown got into the picture to make the final at 70-1. Imperial Court earned a berth here, seemingly racing way above his head.  

And the usual suspects return.  

Whiskey Tax was second in the Hambletonian and just won for us at 6-1. But that win doesn’t shake up this field too much. Dejarmbro seems to be tapering off from his early summer binge (he was not eligible for the Hambo).  

Whatever It Takes, our choice last week, was in the thick of the herd that could not beat “Daylon” last week. He was blocked and locked in, closing strongly. His work is cut out for him here.  

Chapter Seven has never been the same since his Hambo elim. He could not close fast enough after that race, took a rest, and returned with no signs of threatening the top of the class, including Blue Porsche. He was a monster before coming to America and then disappointed everyone by not making the Hambo final.  

Man should be the dead-on choice but considering how he has choked when it counts most, we will have to try to beat a low price. Perhaps Broad Bahn is ready to pull another wire-to-wire, timed-to-the-tee mile? He could do it and at a price like he gave us when we had him in the August classic (6-1). Remember that Man broke in the Hambo but did it in the stretch, giving an indication that Broad Bahn’s well-timed quarters shook him up.  

It’s a good scenario to back if the price is right.   

Check out the archives for results at Hambletonian Society and keep betting at TwinSpires.

Monday, September 12, 2011

‘Quillen’ elims attract ‘Crown’ hopefuls

The eliminations for the Bobby Quillen Memorial are set for Sept. 12 and attract world champions and the defending champion Foiled Again and five other Breeders Crown-eligibles in the older pacing horse division (non-eligibles are do not have sires listed). The 2009 winner Won The West (Western Hanover) is not participating this year.

In the first elimination, Foiled Again (Dragon Again) is the likely favorite and one to beat. In the exotics, Summer Camp (Rocknroll Hanover) looks like a key for second. He returned to Josh Green, who had him at the beginning of the year in the Clyde Hirt and Exit 16W late closers at the Meadowlands. “Summer” has been participating in many Opens and Winners Of events in Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware. Summer gets a home field advantage, since he knows the track really well. Clear Vision (Western Hanover) is also eligible for the Breeders Crown.

In the second elimination, Atochia (Dragon Again) is the morning line favorite, along with his stablemate Dreamlands Art. The public will likely ignore the two best horses on the half mile, Giddy Up Lucky (Camluck) and Real Nice. “Lucky” has reigned over the Open ranks on the half mile ovals on the east coast. Real Nice beat Foiled Again in the George Morton Levy Pacing series and has done well since. They are a good key to box in the exotics. Hypnotic Blue Chip (Art Major) is also eligible for the Breeders Crown.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hambo cast reunites for another classic

Field of dreams, indeed. This week in Canada, two- and three-year-old Breeders Crown eligibles collect in fields at Mohawk on Sept. 10 with grandeur in their gaits.  

Many Hambletonian participants meet again in the Canadian Trotting Classic eliminations, including the Hambo-winner Broad Bahn.  

The first elim has six eligibles in seven starters. “Bahn” meets Blue Porsche (who did not make the Hambo final) head on here and could produce a deadly duel. That would open up the path for Whatever It Takes to upset. This guy has upset in his division already this year, when we had him for a big price along the Hambletonian Trail. The best scenario for a price here, then, is to key “Whatever” and hope for the burn-out duel.  

In round two, six hopefuls repeat confrontations from a few frays this season, including the Hambo. Manofmanymissions has been very sharp since busting in the Hambo and Pastor Stephen is yet to lose a race at Mohawk. Chapter Seven has had a rest, Whiskey Tax just won for us at 6-1 and Highland Thunder is the fresh cast member.  

But Charlie De Vie (pictured), from post 1, is, on his best day, a powerhouse. With no running in this race, “Charlie” can muck up the works and deliver a better-than-fair price.  

Also on the program will be Simcoe events for soph colt pacers and Champlains for freshmen sidesteppers.  

Among the pacers, hopeful Westwardho Hanover is rightfully the morning-line favorite and he should take the first Simcoe, hopefully over eligible Line Officer. Outsider Rockabillie will be the price play in the second Simcoe, as we once again ignore Up The Credit as he burns win money. Mystician (also Crown-worthy) would be the second choice.  

In the first Champlain for frosh-colt pacers, we have to give eligible (e) Allstar Legend one more shot. He has been racing with better than these and even from post 8 could be an easy winner.  

D Terminata (e) should once again have a good shot at toppling Speed Again (Metro Pace failed favorite) and Hurricane Kingcote, who gets the 10 post. A big exactor would be “D” to Special Blend (e), who we still feel has some good pace in him.  

The filly Champlain should find Pirouette Hanover (e) making up for her stretch tank in the She’s A Great Lady Final. Right behind her, count on Rockaround Sue for the exacta with some meat to its payoff.

See them and wager on them at TwinSpires and read the results and see the archives at Hambletonian Society's website.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Exclusive coverage at hand again

With the cooperation of the Hambletonian Society and TwinSpires, we are excited to present our exclusive blog, dedicated to harness racing’s spectacular Breeders Crown series.  

The Breeders Crown is an annual series of standardbred races featuring each of the sport’s 12 traditional categories of age, gait and gender. The series was initiated by the Hambletonian Society in 1984, providing lucrative high-profile championship races in each category.  

Last year we covered the eliminations and finals from Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, which included two programs of terrific wagering opportunities. A score of elimination races set the stage for the dozen finals covering each division. In 2010 the program for finals took place on a single evening for the first time in the series’ history.  

In 2011 a dozen finals will be held at Woodbine Racetrack on Oct. 29, with a yet-to-be-determined number of eliminations on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22.  

Of course, we will be covering both of the “Crown” programs again, as we have for six years on the Internet (the only team to cover the events live and in real time). As well, this blog material analyzes the major events featuring top contenders making their way to the Crown elims. Our inside, experienced and success-proven methods will be paying attention to and letting readers in on some valuable wagers as the clock ticks down to the elims. 

We are devoted to handicapping information featuring the eligibles of all divisions in events leading to October’s Breeders Crown festival at the legendary Canadian track. Race analyses and result stories will be covered exclusively on the pages of Hambletonian Society. Other coverage will be documented at the twice-weekly TwinSpires blog.  

Harness racing’s greatest night always gets peak attention and professional views directed at bettors. We hope to join with TwinSpires for a Bettors’ Pool on the historic night of finals and offer win and exotic wagering suggestions that can help TwinSpires account-holders the best information possible to make successful wagers.   

For other, late-breaking Crown news items, follow us at Twitter @FrankCotolo and @RayCotolo.