The Unbeaten Matchup

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Ted Black

September 2nd, 2014

Last Saturday evening's lucrative card at Mohawk Racetrack in Canada helped shine the spotlight on several current standardbred division leaders and at least a pair of future stars, both male and female. Here's a glimpse at what happened last weekend in chronological order.

Midway through the card, onlookers caught a glimpse of one of the sport's genuine rising stars. The $480,000 She's A Great Lady final was billed as a matchup of two unbeaten two-year-old fillies, Band Of Angels (Ron Pierce) and JK Shesalady (Yannick Gingras). Both had won their eliminations the week before to remain perfect, Band Of Angels in virtual wire-to-wire fashion for her sixth straight score while JK Shesalady had unleashed her stellar late kick for her fifth straight tally.

Gingras had guided both fillies to those victories and immediately after the elims remarked that he needed to sleep on his decision regarding which one to drive in the final. Gingras would opt for JK Shesalady and the public viewed his decision as a vote of confidence and sent her postward as the 2-5 favorite, while the Ron Burke-trained Band Of Angels would be the solid 5-2 second choice.

When the gate folded in the She's A Great Lady final, longshots Happy Becky and Better Be Steppin both left very alertly with Band Of Angels and JK Shesalady just behind the top pair. Once the dust settled, Band Of Angels brushed to command and rolled by the midway mark in 55 seconds flat and JK Shesalady looked eager to launch her bid.

Band Of Angels led the field into the far turn and braced for the challenge of JK Shesalady, who had typically waited until the three-quarter mark to get in gear. But Gingras pushed the button a little early on Saturday night and the 2-5 favorite made a quick brush to command and Band Of Angels not only offered little resistance at that point she would have nothing left for the stretch drive.

As she had done in each of her previous two starts over the oval, JK Shesalady simply shifted gears in the lane and drew clear from her rivals in the lane to a five-length score in 1:50.1. The Art Major filly notched her sixth win in as many starts to begin her career and improved her bankroll past $325,000. JK Shesalady has clearly established herself as the best freshman pacing filly in the land and she appears to be one of the sport's budding stars.

Then two races later in the $667,000 Metro final for two-year-old pacing colts, onlookers got a glimpse of another budding star. Artspeak (Scott Zeron) had won his previous five starts for trainer Tony Alagna with ease, including a 1:51 score in his Metro elim despite racing first over into a brisk back half. He would get a better trip in the final and the result was never in doubt.

Reserved just off the early pace in fifth, Artspeak angled out second over behind Go Daddy Go (John Campbell) nearing the half, followed live cover through the far turn, fanned wide for the stretch drive and then rolled home late to a five-length score in 1:50.2 for his sixth straight victory, tripling his earnings past $450,000. Like JK Sheslady, Artspeak has emerged as the early division leader and racegoers will likely see plenty more from him in the future.

Then two races later in the $220,000 Simcoe Stakes for three-year-old colt trotters, Hambletonian winner Trixton (Jimmy Takter) displayed more than a hint of resiliency as he notched his seventh win in eight starts this year despite immense traffic trouble. Granted, a trotter with his credentials was expected to prevail at 2-5, but Trixton had numerous obstacles to overcome.

Burdened with post 11 in the second tier, Trixton was shuffled back in the early stages and was under stout restraint down the backside while awaiting room. When he finally got clear sailing, Trixton angled out behind a trotter that had nothing to offer, was forced to travel wide somewhat prematurely then closed willingly in the lane with clear sailing to overhaul longshot leader Damfoolrmillionair in 1:52.2. He remains at the head of a talented class of sophomore colt trotters in which the top trio are all members of the Takter barn.

Then one race later in the $634,000 Canadian Pacing Derby final, trainer Ron Burke looked to hold the best hand with a quartet of aces led by Sweet Lou. After a pair of disappointing campaigns, Sweet Lou had emerged as the best aged pacer in the land this summer and was riding a 10-race win streak heading into the Canadian Pacing Derby including a 1:48.1 score in his elim.

But Burke also had the next three best pacers in the field in Foiled Again, Clear Vision and Bettor's Edge. Despite a recent drought, Foiled Again brought impeccable, Hall of Fame credentials of 80 wins and career earnings of $6.4 million and he had been a good second behind Sweet Lou in his elim. Clear Vision had overcome a slow tempo to capture his elim, nailing stablemate Bettor's Edge at the wire after pacing his last quarter in 25.1.

Soon after the gate folded in the Canadian Pacing Derby final, the Burke brigade made its presence known as the quartet occupied the top four spots with Bettors Edge gaining the upper hand early. But Foiled Again opted not to sit in the pocket for long and he quarter moved to command, then Sweet Lou, needing more than a hint of urging, brushed past his illustrious stablemate to reach the top in 53 flat.

Sweet Lou led the field through the far turn where he met a serious challenge from Clear Vision, with Foiled Again looking for racing room as longshot Modern Legend (David Miller) raced second over with plenty of pace. At the top of the lane, Sweet Lou was under a drive as his stablemates and one outsider launched their bids and for the first time in three months the odds-on favorite had nothing left for the stretch drive.

When the field straightened out for the drive, Foiled Again, Clear Vision and Modern Legend all rolled by Sweet Lou and the three longshots would combine for a stunning upset. In fact, Modern Legend posted the biggest shocker of the night with a 67-1 stunner in 1:47.2. Foiled Again was second best, while Clear Vision just outlasted Captive Audience for the show spot as Sweet Lou faded to sixth.

Foiled Again and Clear Vision are expected to head south for the Robert Quillen Memorial eliminations at Harrington on Monday, September 8. Both had won their respective elims last year and Clear Vision edged Foiled Again in the final. The Quillen has evolved into a genuine fixture on the schedule for Foiled Again and the lucrative final merits Grade I status based on the stellar list of past winners.

Then on Sunday afternoon at Harrah's Philadelphia, Dancin Yankee (Tyler Buter) maintained his sharp form by capturing the "Winners Over" class in wire-to-wire fashion in 1:49.4 as the 2-5 favorite. It was the 16th win in 22 starts this year for Dancin Yankee, who will next venture to Harrington Raceway for the Robert Quillen eliminations on Monday, September 8 seeking to join Foiled Again and defending champion Clear Vision in the $200,000 final there on Sep. 15.