Harness Racing’s Autumn Almanac
Blue grass, The Red Mile and the amber skies of Kentucky are the atmosphere of the Grand Circuit as Autumn debuts in 2014. James Mulligan’s famous ode to the state sang that “Life’s burdens bear the brightest” and “the home fires burn the brightest” and the racehorses are “the fleetest.” We intend to put the profit in the poetry, analyzing harness races featuring some of this season’s finest trotters and pacers from freshmen to seniors.
Bluegrass Stakes two-year olds from the Friday, Sept. 26 program are the Breeders Crown Countdown feature this week. We link to the “Countdown” blog from this TwinSpires address for coverage of races through the rest of the season leading to the championship events in November, in cooperation with the Hambletonian Society and TwinSpires.
Then we take on the rest of the Bluegrass Stakes-laden weekend in this edition of the blog as the first week ensues and we’ll stay with the action through next weekend when the famed Kentucky Futurity brings back the glamour-boy –and-girl trotters.
Meanwhile, Scioto Downs ends its current meet with eight giant Ohio Sires Stakes finals on Sept. 27, grist for our mill, so to speak. and Freehold offers frosh colt and filly pacers big bucks in Lou Babic stakes, all covered below.
Check out TwinSpires-Hoosier Park’s 10-percent bonus for hitting Pick 4s every night there is racing at the Indiana track. And, of course, our horses-to-watch list (H2W) offers live contenders for win, place, show and exotics from tracks across the continent.
More H2W suggested contenders are posted to complement your win, place, show and exotic combos at many harness tracks across North America.
Frosh Frenzy At Freehold
Frosh-colt pacers line up for the main event, the $100,000 Lou Babic Memorial, Saturday afternoon at Freehold. It is no surprise to see a pair of Ron Burke students in the fray. There are enough Burke-barn freshmen to cover all the major events this weekend. Here his top play is Too Darn Hot, a four-for-eight winner by Rocknroll Hanover, whose progeny is also represented by a few others in the eight-horse field. The Cam’s Card Shark colt, Dealt A Winner, from Ed Hart’s contingent, may wind up the public choice, so we stray to a possible improving performance from Mitt Jagger. He will sit under the betting radar with only one win but should not be dismissed, especially not among these young, easily turned around types.
For the fillies, seven of them chasing only $59,000 in their version of the stakes, Smart Zone will woo all wagering with her speed badge but Ross Croghan’s Strut My Stuff will have something to say about speed here. She wins or stays off the board so far in eight starts and here she may make it three for nine at a decent price.
Bluegrass Frosh Colts
Four frosh-colt pacing Bluegrass Stakes (BG) at around $82,000 each, are on the Sept. 27 program at The Red Mile, with the first one led by Cartoon Daddy, the obvious choice. His half-mile speed badge is impressive but take note that Joe Hill, still a maiden, matched that mark in a qualifier on a mile track. Three others in the field are also maidens but Joe Hill (named after the ill-fated Canadian folk hero singer/songwriter) may have a shot from the rail and may use the speed he has not used to win on this mile oval and at a price.
In the second split, Tony Alagna may have a real good one in Penji Hanover and he may offer a bit of a price considering he is on the outside with Lost For Words on the rail, looking to pace away with the mile.
Artspeak is starting to look like the best of this lot and there is no reason to think he will taste his first defeat here. Alagna has him fine tuned and it looks like it would take a mountain to keep him down here.
Finally, Freedomformysoul, from the first crop of If I Can Dream, is getting better at just the right time, meeting a field where a strong choice is negotiable and may be decided by the usual trainer-driver connections.
Bluegrass Soph Colts
Just short of $100,000 each, soph-colt pacers we all know go in a pair of BG stakes. Straight from Ohio comes “Jug” winner Limelight Beach to battle some of the same bumpkins, including Hes Watching and Let’s Drink On It. What becomes of Hes Watching remains to be seen by watching because he was worse than dull in the Jug. But it could set up for Limelight Beach again because Stevensville is going to catapult from post 9 and try to steal it (this is his only chance to get involved and one has to think trainer Schnittker has told driver Tim Tetrick to gun the colt, as he would if driving). At least, that is a scenario in a race that is tough to predict, unless Stevensville manages to steal it. At least use Schnittker’s colt in exactas with Limelight Beach because leaving Hes Watching out should pump the price.
Always B Miki will also have to fire early, coming from post 8 in the second colt BG. This, however, may be a pacing party for Sometimes Said. He is definitely worth the support if “Miki” gets most of the win money and it may turn out that the win money is spread out a bit here, which is even better for Sometimes Said.
Bluegrass Soph Fillies
A pair of $70,000-plus filly pace BG stakes is also on the day’s docket. Would it be too hopeful to expect Gettingreadytoroll as a second or third choice here, even after faltering in the Jugette? Takter horses get pounded, especially, these days, with Yannick Gingras in the bike. It’s almost anybody’s race, as all but two have great winning percentages. This could cause a reaction that allows a decent price on Gettingreadytoroll, so watch the betting carefully.
The second filly pace also presents an evenly matched field but we lean toward Nikolas Drennan’s Act Now. She is in shape, lightly raced and perfectly placed in the center of the field to launch from post 5. Win money should go more strongly to her outside, where Beach Gal sports her bankbook and Takter tries to get Ali Blue in tune with this class.
Not only is the closing program, on Sept. 27, strewn with $200,000 Ohio Sires Stakes (OHSS) finals, but also a few special races with special guests sprinkle the evening’s action with stardom. Here are the OHHS finals in order of their appearance. The Scioto H2W listing has suggestions for the other features.
Can’tcutthatchip comes into the final instead of being on the H2W list for the second time. If he is anywhere near his 8-1 morning line he is worth it against a field unevenly measured by Rompaway Galaxy, who will be bet too heavily.
Bell Flower will be hammered hard to win as she looks for her eighth-straight victory this season but we will take Crosswinds Cupcake in a mild upset itching to occur.
Student Of Life has been in the H2W queue at Northfield and shows up here instead for a second try. She is a competitive sort, cashing a lot of checks and the 8 hole should only make her more valuable in the win spot.
Ollie Pop has made some decent money on the circuit (never off the board in seven starts) and gets a great spot in this you-pick-em mess of a group.
Kick A Lot could be the overlay if the crowd hits Neely’s Messenger hard, which it may on face value. But “Kick” is getting better and shakes one turn in this contest.
Big Bossman may not be offering much to win but it is hard to dismiss him as the iron-clad winner. Burke’s Diamondkeeper could give him a good challenge, though, and the wager lies in the balance of the odds.
Dellou was third at 33-1 last week at the Ohio fair and she will obviously be faster here, shedding a turn and launching from post 1. The price will be right, even with Ron Pierce catching the eye of players that play drivers.
With Crown Time Keeper from post 9 having to deal with time, space and traffic, Hannah Forever could command the pace from post 1. She is very fast and has the edge from inside, making her the most likely overlay here.
Review our choices and follow the wagering at the prescribed track. These are possible contenders we have judged from reviewing races. The horses’ names are listed beneath the name of the track after the date they will be racing. The race in which they are entered (R and race number) follows. If a + is in front of a horse’s name it means it is appearing on the list for the second (and last time) because it failed to win the first time it appeared. An “ae” signals the horse is entered on the also-eligible list. If a horse is listed twice, refer to the entries on the night of the race since a horse may enter in more than one race. Types of wagering on any of the H2W listed horses are based on your judgment. If you have any questions, email us at TwinSpires.
9/27/14, Taste Of Paradise R1; Forturne James R1; +Doc’s Zippy R5; Doc’s Bonanza R6; Turbulence Force R9; Stylish Image R9; Notorious Terror R10
9/26/14, +Golden Fizz R2
9/26/14, Feel Like Dancin R7
9/26/14, +Mcardles Lightning R3; +Troublebegins now R6; Violet Eyes R6
9/27/14, +When N Rome R2
9/27/14, Senor Grande R7
9/25/14, +Global Ice R8
9/26/14, +Just Fine R6
9/27/14, +Cooken Your Goose R5; Sun Chimes R6; +Like A Boss R7; +I Turtle R12
9/25/14, +Victom As R8
9/27/14, +Bet On Roulette R7
9/25/14, +Mystical Brothers R13
9/27/14, +Natural Herbie R12; Sweet Lou R13; Continual Velocity R15
9/27/14, Skyway Poncho R13
9/26/14, Riviera R12
Ray Cotolo contributes to each edition.