Harness Preview for 6/27/2014

Profile Picture: Molly Jo Rosen

Molly Jo Rosen

June 27th, 2014

by Ted Black

One week before many Americans flock to the beach or plan multiple cookouts to celebrate the July 4 weekend and the berth of a free nation, harness racing fans will have ample opportunities to watch and wager on trotters and pacers capable of putting on a fireworks display of their own.

Friday evening the Meadowlands will host New Jersey Sire Stakes action for freshmen trotters, equally divided among fillies and colts. Many of the horses in those events have short-term goals of reaching their respective NJSS finals next month, while their longterm goals likely include the Grade I, $1 million Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks next summer, the two most coveted events for trotting colts and fillies, respectively.

In the opening NJSS split for trotting colts, much of the attention will likely turn to French Laundry (Yannick Gingras), a Muscles Yankee colt trained by Jimmy Takter, who has three colts primed for the Hambo this year. French Laundry has won both of his baby races thus far - neither of which are official races since they did not carry a purse - with the second going in 1:57.3, some three seconds faster than his first tally. Guess Whos Back looms as his main threat.

Several races later on the card in the first division for freshman trotting fillies, Mission Brief (Gingras) will likely rule as the 2-5 favorite following a 23-length victory in 1:57.4 in a qualifier at Gaitway. This daughter of Muscle Hill trained by Ron Burke uncorked a stellar 56 flat back half that included a 27.4 kicker to prevail handily over a good track. Saturday Mornings (David Miller) draws to her inside and this Muscle Hill filly figures to be in striking range throughout for trainer Joe Holloway.

But garnering center stage this weekend is a stellar card at Pocono Downs on Saturday night featuring a quartet of lucrative, Grade I races for trotters and pacers, young and old and a pair of Invitational races and consolations for those unable to reach the finals for the major stakes.

Midway through the Keystone Kingpin card, things start to heat up quickly when the five-eighths mile oval offers the $100,000 U.S. Trotting Association Invitational for pacers. While many of the sport's best aged pacers will be competing for considerably more money in the Ben Franklin several races later on the card, this USTA Invite features a superb cast.

Among the serious contenders in this event are Clear Vision (Matt Kakaley), Sunfire Blue Chip (Gingras), Thinking Out Loud (John Campbell), Mach It So (Tim Tetrick) and Dancin Yankee (Tyler Buter). Clear Vision and Thinking Out Loud have combined earnings of over $3 million, while Dancin Yankee and Sunfire Blue Chip could eclipse the $1 million plateau in career earnings this season. Mach It So was a regular in the George Morton Levy Series at Yonkers, as was Clear Vision and Dancin Yankee.

One race later on the card, Pocono will host the $100,000 Sun Invitational for trotters and seven of the sport's best have arrived, included one regarded as the best horse of either gait.

Sebastian K S (Ake Svanstedt) has literally been flawless since arriving in the United States from Sweden this spring, winning all three of his races in 1:50.1, 1:50.2 and 1:50.3. He currently is rated as the top horse in all of North America in a weekly poll conducted by the USTA and his reputation can only get enhanced here with another sub-1:51 score. But this race is hardly a walkover.

Among the prime contenders are Market Share (Tetrick), Archangel (Gingras) and Modern Family (Dave Palone) who have all become acquainted with 'Sebastian' and are regulars in the top events for older trotters. Modern Family was second to Sebastian KS in their only two meetings, while Market Share was third behind him last weekend at The Meadowlands. Expect another world record for whichever older trotters reaches the winner's circle.

One race later in the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial final for three-year-old pacing fillies, look for either Fancy Desire (George Napolitano, Jr.) or Weeper (Palone) to prevail in 1:49 or faster. Last week both were impressive elim winners - both in 1:49 - and both fillies have plenty of speed. Weeper will have to work hard to overcome post eight, but has the gate speed to do so and could work out a trip behind Fancy Desire who will be on the lead before the halfway station.

One race later in the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for three-year-old pacing colts and geldings, expect either McWicked (David Miller) or All Bets Off (Matt Kakaley) to emerge triumphant in this early sophomore test. McWicked brushed to command before reaching the half in 53 flat last week and rolled home tons the best to a 1:48 score in his elim, while All Bets Off, the Art Rooney final hero, sat a pocket trip and scored in 1:48.3 for trainer Ron Burke.

Then in the $500,000 Ben Franklin for older pacers, the Burke-trained Sweet Lou (Ron Pierce) finally appears to have emerged from beneath the shadows of his richer, older stablemate, Foiled Again. Sweet Lou has won four straight races - all in 1:48.3 or faster - including his elim last week in 1:47.4. The five-year-old Yankee Cruiser stallion, the 2011 champion two-year-old colt pacer who has failed to deliver on that promise since, is finally hitting on all cylinders and is difficult to play against even though Foiled Again (Gingras) will be 5-1 or so despite owning gaudy career numbers of 80 wins and $6.25 million banked in 208 career outings.

Then one race later in the $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial for three-year-old colt & gelding trotters, an early prep for the coveted Hambo, much of attention will focus on two horses trained by Jimmy Takter - Nuncio (Campbell) and Father Patrick (Gingras). Both sophomores are perfect in four starts this year, but barring an improbable dead-heat, that is about to change. Father Patrick was last year's freshman champ, winning 10 of 11 outings, but Nuncio looks like he is slightly better right now and gets the nod although his stablemate has a tactical advantage with his early gate speed.

While many of the sport's best older pacers will be at Pocono Downs on Saturday night, a six-pack of good ones will also convene at The Meadowlands for an A-2/A-1/FFA Handicap that is virtually wide open.

From the rail out the group reads Dovuto Hanover (Steve Smith), Wake Up Peter (Mike Lachance), Odds On Equuleus (Marcus Miller), Dream Out Loud N (Allan Davis), Aracache Hanover (Tyler Smith) and Ultimate Beachboy (Dan Rawlings). Aracache Hanover and Ultimate Beachboy will race as an uncoupled entry for Burke, as will Dovuto Hanover and Dream Out Loud N for trainer Darran Cassar.

Aracache Hanover has won his last three starts at three different ovals for Burke, winning last weekend at Yonkers in 1:52.1, two weeks earlier at Pocono Downs in 1:49 and one week earlier at The Meadowlands in 1:48.1. He already boasts 31 wins and $1.675 million banked from 120 career outings and despite the driver change
[many of the regulars are at Pocono Downs on Saturday] this talented pacer looks poised for a fourth straight tally and probably at a decent price.