Harness action heats up this weekend

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Ted Black

August 30th, 2018

As fans of the National Football League count down to the outset of the season next Thursday night, harness racing fans will have ample races to occupy their time as many of the sport's best trotters and pacers will compete in stakes at Yonkers Raceway, Mohawk Park and Pocono Downs this weekend.

Saturday evening's card at Yonkers Raceway in New York will offer a quartet of six-figure stakes in succession, followed by a $44,000 Open Handicap for older pacers.

The first of the four stakes is the $130,000 Hudson Filly Trot for three-year-old filly trotters where Plunge Blue Chip (Ake Svandstedt) looms the odds-on favorite based on her world record performance earlier this summer at the Meadowlands and her success in New York Sire Stakes over the strip. Then one ace later the $113,000 Lady Maud for three-year-old filly pacers is on tap, although that race is devoid of genuine stars.

But immediately after is the $500,000 Yonkers Trot for three-year-old colt trotters where another Svandstedt trainee takes center stage. Six Pack, third last out behind Met's Hall and Manchego in the $270,000 Empire Breeders Classic final at Tiogo Downs in New York following a first over journey, should dominate this group at a short price. Six Pack was victimized by arguably the worst drive in the long history of the Hambletonian elims when he failed to make the final at a short price and is essentially another bad steer away from failing again here.

Then one race later in the $500,000 Messenger Stakes for three-year-old colt pacers, Jimmy Freight (Louis Roy) will have to overcome post eight to score as the choice after scorching the oval in 1:50.3 last week in his elim. His main threats appear to be Springsteen and Stay Hungry, who won the $280,000 Cane Pace at the Meadowlands in 1:47.3 on Hambo Day. His best performances have typically come on the bigger tracks, but a fast pace would certainly help his chances in the Messenger.

Then one race later the older pacers will be on display in the $44,000 Open Handicap as several of them put in their final preps for the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington Raceway in Delaware on Monday, September 17. Defending Quillen champion Bit Of A Legend N got assigned post seven, just inside of recent Gerrity hero Evenin Of Pleasure, whose latest efforts have been subpar. Doctor Butch steps back into the Open off a sharp score in the $35,000 Preferred as trainer Richard Banca's best Quillen candidate, Somewhere In L A, gets a week off.

That same evening at Mohawk Park near Toronto, Canada, a trio of stakes will garner the spotlight.

In the $170,000 Simcoe Stakes for three-year-old colt trotters, Met's Hall, a Maryland-bred son of Cantab Hall trained by Julie Miller who recently won the $272,000 Empire Breeders Classic final over Manchego and Six Pack two weeks after being second to Atlanta in the Grade I, $1 million Hambletonian final, looms the odds-on choice.

Then several races later in the $600,000 Canadian Pacing Derby, Lazarus N (Yannick Gingras), the acclaimed 'Down Under Wonder' who won the $350,000 Dan Patch Invitational at Hoosier Park in his United States debut for trainer Jimmy Takter, tackles McWicked (Brian Sears) and Split The House and a trio of Ron Burke trainees, Rockin Ron, Filibuster Hanover and All Bets Off. Split The House won the Breeders Crown last fall at Hoosier while the durable All Bets Off won the inaugural edition of the $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway in 2017.

Then in the $600,000 Maple Leaf Trot for older trotters, elim winners Marion Marauder and Ariana G will clash with Will Take Charge, Dancer Hall and reigning horse of the year, Hannelore Hanover - whose form has tailed off noticeably over the last month - in a genuine clash of the titans. Ariana G forged a 10-1 upset over her males rivals last weekend, while Dancer Hall closed brilliantly in the lane and looms a serious contender in this spot.

Then on Sunday evening at Pocono Downs, a stellar group of trotters and pacers of all ages and both genders will compete in seven, six-figure stakes.

In the $100,000 Great Northeast Open Series final for pacing fillies and mares - contested at the odd distance of one-mile and one-quarter - division leader Shartin N will tackle Divas Image and Tequila Monday. Then two race later in the $100,000 Great Northeast Open Series final for older pacers, also at one-mile and one-quarter, Donttellmeagain faces Rockeyed Optimist, Mach It So, Bettor's Edge and Sunfire Blue Chip in a contentious affair.

Races nine-twelve on the card are the $252,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes finals for three-year-olds of both gaits and genders. In the three-year-old filly trot, Pheatosive (Trond Smedshammer), runner-up to Manchego in the Hambo Oaks, looms the favorite and one race later in the three-year-old filly pace final, Kissin In The Sand rates the odds-on choice. Then in the three-year-old colt trot final, Hambo elim winner Crystal Fashion will tackle Whats The Word and then in the wide open three-year-old colt pace final Done Well, Dorsoduro Hanover, Wes Delight and Hayden Hanover will all vie for favoritism and the winner's share in this very contentious affair.