Race Preview: Vernon Downs - Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial Trot Race 10 - August 25, 2013

Eb Netr

August 24th, 2013

You'd be hard pressed to find a better bunch of trotters than the ones running in the Zweig Memorial Trot today. Once again though, the probable favorite, Dancer and Hambletonian winner 9-Royalty For Life has a less than optimum post position, although marginally better than the 8 post he had in the Colonial where he lost to a rail trip by 5-Spider Bue Chip who closed on him in the stretch after 4-Smilin Eli wore him down and came in second.

One thing that Royalty For Life has going for him is that Vernon Downs is his home base. His barn is here and he trains here. He's won 3 out of 5 of the races he's run at Vernon and showed once. His best time at his home track is 1:53 back in July in a Preferred Handicap. None of the other entrants has come close to that at Vernon. This makes him a major threat, if he really is past the tendency to break that he showed in some of his races back in July.

The other drivers have to know that the best way to foil Royalty For Life is to keep him from leaving first or getting close to the lead, something they'll undoubtedly be trying to do. With his two main rivals from the Colonial in better posts than Royalty has, getting the lead could be a challenge, although the extra three-eighths of a mile over Pocono's five-eighths might help his chances. Early speed just isn't as important on a seven-eighths track as it is on a smaller track, in my eyes. Plus, there's that eighth of a mile run up to the first turn, which could help.

Another horse with a poor post, 1A-Corky, who will start from the 7 post, was third in the Hambo Final and the Colonial. What's to say he won't take to the Vernon Downs oval and improve on his last parked out trip from the 6 post at Pocono? He consistently gets out well and stays close no matter which track he races on. David Miller and Jimmy Takter have him in the money 90% of the time and most of those races are stakes or sire stakes. He definitely has to be considered for exotics in this one.

2-Jacks To Open will start from the 1 post, not a good one for Trots. He does have 2 wins and 2 seconds at Vernon, but finished far back in the Colonial and just doesn't have the speed figures that add up to a win here.

3-APerfectYankee will start from the 2 post. Only two lengths out in the Colonial with a 4th place finish to Spider Blue Chip, Smilin Eli and Corky, this Jim Oscarsson owned, driven and trained entry has hit the board in some major races this season - PASS, Hambo Elims and Beal Elims. His speed just doesn't quite seem to match the winners of those races and I'm not sure that it will improve here.

6-Modest Prince, a Linda Toscano entry with Jeff Gregory in the bike, is in the exotics  84% of the time but has only had 11 races this year. He's had 4 races at Vernon with no wins and 2 place finishes and a show. This is a huge move up in class for him, although he's coming off a win in the NYSS at Batavia. I don't see him as a threat unless he gets a perfect trip and breakers or missteps set up a win for him.

7-Pine Credit with Corey Callahan driving for Erv Miller is another horse that has been doing well in the NYSS. He has a win in the Tompkins on a track listed as Good and a second at Vernon in the sire stakes. He deserves a second look for a longshot play if the track is off tonight.

1-Order By Keeper will start from the 4 post with Yannick Gingras driving for Nancy Johansson. He's had 3 races at Vernon Downs with no in-the-money finishes. Since Johansson took over from Jimmy Takter as trainer, she's managed to get him to win twice and place once in the NYSS and he does show some improving numbers, but it still looks like he's out of his league in this one without some major improvement.

The handicapper's dilemma in this race might be to figure out whether a very low-odds Royalty for Life is worth backing, whether it would be better to go with one of the horses that beat Royalty - Smilin' Eli or Spider Blue Chip - or with a longer shot like Corky or even APerfectYankee just in case the race sets up for a surprise winner.

As always, safe trips to all the horses and drivers on tonight's program and don't forget to watch and wager on Bet America where bonus tracks pay rewards.