Harness Handicapping: Sire Stakes

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Eb Netr

June 19th, 2013

Sire stakes races for 2 and 3 year olds have us handicapping these young horses at several tracks. Most of us know that we can't use the usual standards for handicapping races for older horses. So what then are the standards and methods we should use to find the winners in these contests?

I think that the biggest part of handicapping younger horses is figuring out which trainers are good at bringing them along and then finding a driver that can handle young horses capably. I know how I feel when I bet on a 2 year old in a trot because it's done nothing but win its Earn and Learn races, only to have it break at the start and gallop ten lengths behind the others all the way around the track. (Probably serves me right for betting 2 year old trots in the first place, come to think of it.)

How much worse must it be for a trainer who has brought the horse successfully through those non-wagering races with no breaks, only to have it fail in its first real race? And how must the driver feel, with his 2-5 shot trailing the field while he can barely keep it under control and can't get it flat no matter what he does? It takes a special kind of trainer and driver to move on from this.

Only trainers who can keep their eyes on the prize, which is a long and successful career for the young horses they're training, can handle the pressure without letting it discourage them or the horses. Every track has at least one or two good drivers and trainers of young horses. Here are a few of the ones that I'm aware of at some tracks that have sire stakes races coming up.

For drivers, Tim Tetrick is my top choice for both 2 year olds and first time starters at Pennsylvania tracks. Whether trotting or pacing, the horses he drives have someone who knows how to keep them flat with good pacing and the ability to handle the reins with just the right amount of firmness and flexibility. He's also a top driver with 3 year old horses. David Miller is another good Pennsylvania driver of 2 year olds and first time starters.

Trainers Linda Toscano and Ron Burke do very well with 1st time starters in Pennsylvania. Toscano also does well with 2 year olds. Other trainers that can get 2 year olds up and running are Joe Holloway, Les Givens, Roger Hammer and Steve Elliott. Pair these trainers with Tim Tetrick or David Miller in races for 2 year olds, and you have a winning combination - literally.

When it comes to Indiana bred colts and fillies, Trace Tetrick and Sam Widger are the drivers you want to see in the bike behind both 2 year olds and first time starters. Find them driving for Don Eash, Dan Shetler, Robert Taylor or Mike Micallef and your chances of cashing a ticket go up by a lot. You'll find them driving at Hoosier in the upcoming sire stakes.

At Saratoga, Margaret Spagnola, Cheryl Whitcroft and Mark Ford have a knack for turning 2 year olds into winners. The best drivers to pilot these young pacers and trotters are Wally Hennessey, Billy Dobson, Shawn Gray and Jim Devaux at the upstate New York track.

If your favorite track is having sire stakes in the near future, it's a good idea to keep your own notes on the winning drivers and trainers - and horses - of course. These are the horses that will be figuring in your exotics and straight bets next season and for many seasons to come.

Figure out who can start these future winners out on the rightt foot, or hoof, rather. That way, you won't have to wait until everyone knows how good these babies are before you can cash tickets on them. Next year, when the sire stakes come around again, you'll have your own list of the trainers and drivers who know how to win them.