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.