Hoosier and Northfield Park host lucrative stakes this weekend

Profile Picture: Ted Black

Ted Black

August 9th, 2018

While harness racing ovals such as The Meadowlands and Yonkers Raceway often get top billing for hosting major stakes, this weekend the focus will turn to a pair of ovals that are often well below the spotlight - Hoosier Park in Indiana and Northfield Park near Cleveland, Ohio.

Friday's main event at Hoosier Park is the latest edition of the $325,000 Dan Patch Invitational for older free-for-all pacers and the race attracted many of the best aged pacers in the land and arguably the best from outside the nation.

Lazarus, known as the Down Under Wonder while winning 35 of 45 races and earnings over $2.6 million in Australia during his career, will make his United States debut off one 1:48.3 qualifier for trainer Jimmy Takter and he drew post nine in the field of that size. Onlookers are often skeptical of horses from down under, although he will face one of the more proven ones.

Bit Of A Legend N, who sports a solid 4-5-2 slate and $425,000 banked this season for trainer Peter Tritton and driver Jordan Stratton, will get his first chance to face a horse who arrived with an even bigger reputation. Bit Of A Legend N won his most recent outing against Open Handicap rivals at Yonkers and he was second in the $260,000 Gerrity Memorial at Saratoga after earlier winning the Battle Of Lake Erie at Northfield. He is the defending champion of the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington Raceway in Delaware and is expected to defend his title on Sep. 17.

While Lazarus is the best from down under, McWicked (Brian Sears) is the best aged pacer in the land right now although he was most recently second in the $260,000 John Cashman Memorial at nine furlongs on Hambletonian Day last Saturday while starting from post 12 in the second tier. He has won six of nine starts and earned over $615,000 this year for trainer Casie Coleman and will be the main danger to Lazarus this weekend in the Dan Patch.

Other contenders in the Dan Patch include defending Breeders Crown hero Split The House, Rockin Ron, who owns a 5-5-2 slate and $440,000 bankroll from 16 starts this year and All Bets Off, a durable sort who has won just twice in 10 starts and earned slightly over $100,000, but he has been among the best pacers in the Burke Brigade for several years and won the inaugural edition of the $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland in 1:48.2 on a sub-freezing night before finishing second to Keystone Velocity last fall in 1:47.3.

Then on Saturday night the focus shifts to Northfield Park near Cleveland as the half-mile oval hosts the latest edition of the $400,000 Milstein Memorial for three-year-old colt pacers. The event attracted many of the best sophomores in the land, while one-mile mainstays Courtly Choice and Stay Hungry bypassed the event on the smaller oval.

Lather Up (Montrell Teague) is among the leading candidates for champion three-year-old colt pacer having won eight of nine starts and $500,000 and he will leave from post two, just outside of Canadian mainstay Jimmy Freight, who has won seven of 11 starts and earned $250,000 but has yet to handle the transition to serious open company. Of course, leaving from the rail on a half-mile oval on Saturday night can certainly enhance his chances.

Also among the contenders are Thinkbig Dreambig (Stratton), a talented sort who has been unlucky in two big stakes tries, Springsteen, hero of the $500,000 Ben Franklin Memorial at Pocono Downs and a sharp winner last week in a New York Sire Stakes split at Yonkers, Dorsoduro Hanover, runner-up in the Meadowlands Pace, and Slick Tony (Russell Foster), the dominant colt in the Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund series this year and last year who gets his first open stakes try for owner-breeder-trainer George "Ronnie"Leager of Sudlersville, Maryland, while regrettably getting post seven.