Harness Preview for 8/30/2014

Ted Black

August 30th, 2014

Once again on Saturday afternoon thoroughbred fans will focus their attention on the stakes-filled card at Saratoga Race Course in New York, but harness racing fans will be eager to head to the track or a simulcast outlet somewhere that evening to catch the stellar program at Mohawk Racetrack in Canada.

Saturday's Mohawk card features a trio of lucrative stakes, the $667,000 Metro final for two-year-old colt pacers, the $480,000 She's A Great Lady for freshman filly pacers and the $634,000 Canadian Pacing Derby for the best free-for-all pacers on the continent. Each of the finals includes the early future book favorite for the division title in those respective divisions and one of them could garner the coveted horse of the year title as well.

In the first of those rich finals, the She's A Great Lady slated as the fifth race on the program, much of the attention will be focused on the unbeaten JK Shesalady (Yannick Gingras), who has simply been brilliant in each of her five starts. Last week in her 'Great Lady' elim, JK Shesalady rallied second over and then moved three-wide before three-quarters en route to a seven-length score in 1:51.1 for trainer Nancy Johansson. The Art Major filly has won from well off the pace in all five of her outings, doing so in races where the pace did not favor closers.

But looking to post the upset is Band Of Angels (Ron Pierce) who was a sharp, five-length winner of her elim for his event and is also unbeaten in six career outings for trainer Ron Burke. Band Of Angels has plenty of early speed and owns a tactical advantage over JK Shesalady, This Rock N Roll Heaven filly trained by Burke had dominated the New York Sire Stakes in her previous five outings before making the transition to open stakes company with little difficulty. Attempting to fend off the late bid of JK Shesalady could prove a tougher task this weekend.

Two races later in the Metro Stakes final for freshmen pacing colts and geldings, much of the focus will be on the unbeaten Artspeak (Scott Zeron) who overcame a first over journey and a modest half to capture his elim by five lengths in 1:51. This Western Ideal colt trained by Tony Alagna of Captaintreacherous fame has won all five of his career starts, the last four as the odds-on favorite. It will be a role he will likely assume again this weekend and he looks to have a decided advantage over the other Metro elim winner, Go Daddy Go.

Then three races later in the Canadian Pacing Derby for older pacers, all eyes will be on the razor sharp Sweet Lou (Pierce) who has won 10 straight races, including last week's elim in a modest 1:48.1. Most trainers would rave about a pacer scoring in that clocking, but Sweet Lou had actually won his previous six starts in sub-1:48 fashion, including a 1:47 score in the Ben Franklin final at Pocono Downs. He will be the odds-on favorite again this evening, but several other Burke trainees cannot be overlooked.

Last week Clear Vision (Brett Miller) unleashed a furious late kick in a genuinely paceless event to capture his elim in 1:50.3, pacing his last quarter in 25.1 to overhaul stablemate Bettor's Edge at the wire. Clear Vision tends to peak in the late summer and early fall and is actually the defending champion of this event, although he seems certain to yield the favorite's role to his red-hot stablemate.

Prior to Sweet Lou's current form spree, Foiled Again (Yannick Gingras) was clearly the most recognizable name among the Burke brigade. The ageless, 10-year-old pacer, the sport's all-time winningest horse with nearly $6.4 million banked on the strength of 80 wins in his stellar career, Foiled Again raced very well while second to Sweet Lou last week and he is also adept at hitting his best stride at this time of year. Both he and Clear Vision promise to add some intrigue to this affair.

Although it may seem hard to imagine, Hambletonian winner Trixton (Jimmy Takter) is among those lost in the shuffle as part of the stellar undercard. Trixton will start from post 11 in the second tier of the $220,000 Simcoe Stakes for three-year-old colt trotters this evening, the ninth race on the program, and the Takter trainee will seek to remain in contention for champion sophomore trotter, trotter of the year and horse of the year.

While most of the attention will be focused on Mohawk on Saturday evening, the Yonkers Raceway card offers one genuine good play late.

In the second of the three-way split non-winners of $25,000 last six class for older pacers, both Casimir Jitterbug (Brian Sears) and The Real One (Pat Lachance) are dropping in class following efforts where they performed much better than the line in the program pages indicates.

Casimir Jitterbug was shuffled and buried in a paceless winners over $25,000 class last week won by Dallenbach Hanover, but he saved ground and rallied late to get third. The Real One, who spent four weeks in the Open before dropping into the non-winners of $32,000 last six group last week, never got involved early after taking to the back from post eight and still rallied widest of all late to finish sixth, beaten only two lengths. Either pacer could win this event and both should combine for the exacta.