Breeders Crown elim highlight weekend cards

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Ted Black

October 18th, 2015

Since 1984 one of the more popular phrases in harness racing has been "It All Comes Down to the Breeders Crown" and last weekend Woodbine Raceway in Canada hosted a dozen elims that will set the stage for the twelve finals this Saturday night worth a combined sum of nearly $6 million.

While the top horse of either gait, gender or age in the sport, Wiggle It Jiggleit, bypassed supplementing to the Breeders Crown to opt for an easier spot in the Indiana Sire Stakes and then lucrative stakes at Dover Downs in his home state, including the Matrons and the Progess Pace for three-year-old colt pacers, one of his rivals from Indiana did supplement to the Breeders Crown and showed why last weekend.

Freaky Feet Pete, a three-year-old Rockin Image colt bred and trained by Larry Rheinheimer, headed to the Breeders Crown elims boasting 11 wins and two second-place finishes from 13 starts this year and 20 wins from 23 career outings. Freaky Feet Pete had tasted defeat only twice this year, losing once to Wiggle It Jiggleit and another time to Wakizashi Hanover, arguably the second-best sophomore pacer on the continent. But in his most recent outing in an Indiana Sire Stakes final, Freaky Feet Pete had overhauled Wiggle It Jiggleit in the lane for a length score.

Last Saturday night in his first venture outside of Indiana, Freaky Feet Pete (Trace Tetrick) was made the 4-5 favorite from post five, while Reverend Hanover (Chris Christoforou) was the solid 6-5 second choice after winning an Ontario Sire Stakes final over the Woodbine oval one week earlier. Adios winner Dudes The Man (Corey Callahan) got plenty of support, while Burke trainees Yankee Bounty (Yannick Gingras) and Penji Hanover (Jody Jamieson) were double-digit prices.

When the gate folded in the first Breeders Crown elim for three-year-old colt pacers, Reverend Hanover left alertly to easily gain command, while Freaky Feet Pete was reserved just off the pace in third and opted not to quarter move. Reverend Hanover led the field by the opener in 27.1 and got a breather by the half in 56 flat, at which point Freaky Feet Pete angled out first over to launch his attack. Reverend Hanover picked up the tempo through the far turn as Freaky Feet Pete drew near by three-quarters in 1:23, but at the top of the lane the favorite was in high gear and the pacesetter had no response.

Freaky Feet Pete drew clear in the final 100 yards to a three-length score in 1:49.4, pacing his back half in 53 and change first over to notch his 12th win in 14 starts this year in what was undoubtedly the best performance of his career. Longshot Artistic Major (Tim Tetrick) overtook Reverend Hanover in the lane for the place spot, while Dudes The Man and Penji Hanover grabbed the last two spots for the final. Freaky Feet Pete recorded his 21st victory in 24 career tries and will be a serious factor in the final.

Two races later on the card in the second Breeders Crown elim for this division, Wakizashi Hanover (Tim Tetrick) was made the 3-5 favorite riding a five-race win streak that included a narrow victory over Freaky Feet Pete in the $110,000 Jenna's Beach Boy Stakes at Hoosier, a handy win in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final at Pocono Downs and a win in the Liberty Bell at Harrah's Philadelphia. He had not been defeated since finishing second to Wiggle It Jiggleit in the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine at Pocono Downs.

Looking to upend Wakizashi Hanover in this elim were several battled-tested sophomores. Artspeak (Scott Zeron), last year's two-year-old pacing colt champion, struggled through the spring and summer but displayed signs of his former self while taking the Tattersalls at Lexington in 1:47.4 one week earlier for trainer Tony Alagna. Lost For Words (David Miller) was second in the Little Brown Jug final to Wiggle It Jiggleit then was second to Artspeak in the Tattersalls. In The Arsenal won the Bluegrass at Lexington and was fourth in the Tattersalls, while Dealt A Winner had captured the Cane Pace on Hambo Day at the Meadowlands.

When the gate folded in the second Breeders Crown elim for this group, Wakizashi Hanover displayed the best early speed and gained command in a modest 28.1 opener and then strolled by the midway mark in 57.3, at which point the race should have been over. But on a night when speed horses did not have an advantage and a closers' bias loomed, Wakizashi Hanover was still hardly home free after getting three-quarters in 1:25.

At the top of the lane, Wakizashi Hanover shook loose from Dealt A Winner, but when Tetrick looked over his shoulder nearing the eighth pole he saw Artspeak uncorking his late rally and shook the reins feverishly in an attempt to keep the favorite going. But Wakizashi Hanover did not shift gears in the final 100 yards and Artspeak overhauled him at the wire for a neck score in 1:51.3. While the final time may appear slow, the fractions were almost ludicrous and Artpeak perhaps paced home in under 26 seconds to forge his second straight victory and sixth win from 16 starts this year with seasonal earnings of over $800,000.

The three-year-old filly pacers have looked somewhat ordinary all season since reigning horse of the year, JK She'salady did not return with his usual vigor. But elim winners Solar Sister (Doug McNair) and Divine Caroline (David Miller) both looked sharp in their respective tallies. Solar Sister has earned the bulk of her $500,000 bankroll this year against Ontario Sire Stakes foes, while Divine Caroline has shown glimpses of brilliance for trainer Joe Holloway and will now head into the Breeders Crown final riding a three-race win streak that includes a pair of open stakes tallies at Lexington.

In the two Breeders Crown elims for older pacers on Saturday, the track bias again may have played a role in the outcome. But in the first division, Foiled Again (Yannick Gingras) overcame a first over journey to put away Melmerby Beach in the lane and then held safe the late surge of favored JK Endofanera (Brett Miller) for a length score in 1:50. Foiled Again has only won twice in 18 starts this year, but the 11-year-old Dragon Again gelding now boasts 85 wins and earnings of over $7.2 million from 242 starts in his Hall of Fame career for trainer Ron Burke.

But JK Endofanera may have been the best horse in the race. Away seventh and last, JK Endofanera angled out fourth over down the backside and his second- and third-over cover horses did not provide a lively flow. Foiled Again raced first over and surged to command turning for home, but JK Endofanera got lost in the flow and rallied widest of all in the lane to gain the place spot and gives trainer Jimmy Takter a solid one-two punch heading into the final.

In the second Breeders Crown elim for the older pacers, the Takter-trainer Always B Miki (David Miller), making only the second start of his season, overcame a first over trip to wear down State Treasurer - a talented sort that Miller had been driving - to score easily in 1:49.4. Always B Miki has won both of his starts this year after a trio of stellar qualifiers and now looms the potential favorite for the final along with stablemate JK Endofanera. Burke will have three in the final, with All Bets Off and Bettor's Edge joining Foiled Again. State Treasurer and Quillen winner Mach It So are also headed to the final.