Jam-Packed Harness Grid On Kentucky Derby Weekend; Meadowlands, Miami, Pocono Features Filled With Promise
All eyes are on Churchill Downs as the TwinSpires tower over the sport on the first Saturday in May. The Kentucky Derby will attract horseplayers of all equine breeds and countless other sports fans. The “Derby” will be featured on simulcasts everywhere and many harness meets showing it will be active day and night (Pocono holds afternoon and evening programs).
The harness community offers the season’s greatest number of programs to date, with many North American tracks starting or amid their spring runs. Below we cover a heavy schedule of events for Friday and Saturday from the Midwest back to the East and with all ages and both gaits, including Miami Valley for some Ohio-bred soph miles and Freehold for the glamour-boy trotters’ Dexter Cup, which is featured in the first Hambletonian Trail blog of this season.
And more, of course, as the TwinSpires exclusive horses-to-watch (H2W) list piles on the punting possibilities with serious considerations for bettors to use in any wagers in which they engage. If you know the program then go to it—do your own handicapping and then consider our H2W selections.
OHIO FILLY FLYERS
Three-year-old Ohio-breds begin their sires-stake season at Miami Valley on Friday, May 4, with filly trotters and pacers presented in six Ohio Sires Stakes (OHSS) events worth $50,000 for the trotters and $40,000 each for the pacers.
Trotters go first in a pair of battles. Split one includes Impinktoo, who we backed in last week’s Scarlet & Blue stakes at Miami. That race found her finishing fifth at 10-1 and against the obvious foes here—Chris Beaver’s Red Storm and California Love—she should also yield a large return.
The second trot offers nine gals new to the soph scene. Looking For Zelda already has a bag of purse earnings from a single win in her only start at three, so she will get support—perhaps the most. Here, Beaver has a single entry, Sesame, and is in a good spot to roll a victory his way. This could be his most valuable filly trotter, at least before she wins this, for a price, especially with Ron Burke’s Destarofnight beginning her season from post 1 with the trainer brand.
There are four OHSS splits for the filly pacers. In split one, we repeat our support for Grant Me This. Last week she was third in a Scarlet & Gray, boosting the exotics as she paid better to show than the winner paid to win. She will take minor money considering the obvious Queen Me Again (two for two in wins) for Brian Brown and Up Front Flor Ida (two wins for four starts). The latter was a winner for us in the “Hackett” Memorial on April 20 and raced well in a Scarlet & Gray last week with Grant Me This finishing behind her in a speed-badge mile for the favorite, who is not here.
In OHSS split two we are on the record with Auntmill’smartini. She was in our H2W queue and surfaces in this, so we are looking for the mild upset in an even field that the public won’t bet evenly.
OHSS split three brings back Baron Remy, Burke’s big and speedy winner last week. Bound to be a petty price, we are going with Princess Rougarou. She is one win for one start and can shadow “Remy” in a sizzling mile expected from Remy. With ground saved, Princess Rougarou can make it two for two and step up in state-bred competition.
Ending the filly parade of OHSS contests, seven have to beat Brown’s McVenus or many will share the win pool. Mike Polhamus’ Thunder Again is a serious contender, though we suspect the crowd won’t be willing to give her away at top dollar. She may get better and faster and we want to be there if she does so tonight with an upset.
NORTH BY NORTHEAST
Leg one of the Great Northeast Open Series offers $50,000 in two divisions on May 5, launching the older pacing set on another “Levy”-like stream of races, but at Pocono.
Division one wagering should be interesting, with Boston Red Rocks returning for a fifth season and Levy-consolation winner Always At My Place is also in the field. Dr J Hanover, from the Levy series, and Barimah A from the Meadowlands’ Whatabaron series will all share profiles in the win pools. Finishing behind Always At My Place at Yonkers was Long Live Rock. He had a far more difficult trip and was just beaten at the wire. He was coming off of a Levy-leg win at 7-1 and could deliver a fine win price here.
Division two features the Levy final winner, Keystone Velocity. But this mile offers more competition than that one. Rockin Ron barely moved leaving from the 8 hole in that race; tonight he has the 2 hole. Mach It So will want the lead after an outside trip in that same race. There is a lot of speed, which allows us to back Bettor Memories with the hope that saving ground and moving late will be the key to the win.
At $30,000 each in four splits, Pocono also presents three- and four-year-old filly and mare and colt and stallion pacers and trotters in finals of the Bobby Weiss Series.
The filly trot is first with nine. I M Fishin has won three legs and will be heavily bet and those he has beaten will follow suit. Three times in a row, however, Via Lattea It just missed, all of those races leaving from the inside. Perhaps a 7 post will afford her a chance to upset, especially if there is some dueling from the inside to heat up the quarters.
Colt and stallion trotters are next, with a field of nine. A few arguments could be made for some of the obvious contenders, especially with the probable favorite, Meadowbranch Ricky leaving from the outside. From post 1, Perfect Chapter AS was a beaten favorite in a Weiss leg, finishing fourth from a tough trip. The well-bred gelding won before that as the second choice and in five races lost due to breaking twice (not counting last week’s tough trip. A decent price is just about a promise here.
Colt and stallion pacers are next. We see a chance for Ostro Hanover to go off near his last race (12-1) and considering he finished third, close to the winner, Riggle Wealth, who is bound to be the public choice here, it would be a shame to miss him winning at a price far better than his chances.
Kimberlee and Sharen Hanover are the top two for the majority of bettors and if they are right then the usual low payoffs will be shared by the masses. For an outside contender, which is usually what we offer, Carly Girl certainly should be respected. She will have to weave a trip but that’s what she does best to cash a check. With the right flow and two favorites battling, there could be a path for Carly Girl to make it home wide down the stretch.
MEET THE GRADUATES
At 1 1/8 miles a pop, two divisions make up the Graduate at the Meadowlands on May 5. There’s $50,000 a purse for the four-year-old pacers in the fields, many of which are very recognizable to harness bettors.
Division one has a field of 11, three of which begin their seasons and two which have already raced up to a dozen times this season. One of them is Western Joe, who has won six of his dozen miles. Burke has a familiar pair—Fiibuster Hanover and Eddard Hanover. Takter’s Blood Line stays afloat in the high classes and Classic Pro from Canada, one win for one start in ’18, is raring to go. Highalator is four wins for 10 starts and should attract supporters with his solid speed badge, driver and earnings. Tom Fanning’s Photobombr Hanover is also in the mix.
There is nothing ever easy at this level of pacing, no less predicting good prices that are over their measure. However, that also may help, as the crowd goes swinging for the fence. We think a good and hopefully outside contender here is Funknwaffles. He joins this division and may come off the gate with stronger foot. Improving as an elder is the scenario, which could pay off early in the season before bettors had seen him prove he is worth a lower price.
The second division is also big, with 12, though some less familiar names adorn the field. From our H2W list, though, we want to follow Miso Fast. We’ll take him off of the list and put him here. He leaves from the second tier, which is less of a burden than most believe. He has been out twice and won once and can challenge any of these. Brett Pelling is back in town and he enters Beyond Delight, a four-for-nine winner and the highest earner in the pack. Pelling is still a brand and this 12-post leaver will get some action. Being in the mix with Miso Fast could ignite some good exotics, though, if you are adding that to your betting menu.
Also at the Meadowlands on May 5, the $182,000 Arthur J. Cutler Memorial brings together 12 stalwart trotters, with the focus upon last year’s industry Horse of the Year, the mare Hannelore Hanover. Leaving that chalk be, we will turn to Warrawee Roo, Luc Blais’s tough border brute. Blais, of course, is a high-win-percentage trainer and his stock is overlooked a lot. It could be the case here too and not just because of Hannelore Hanover’s presence. Burke has three here, along with stock from brand-name trainers Jimmy Takter, Julie Miller and Ake Svanstedt.
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.
5/5/18, Camstar R5; Artzuma R8
5/5/18, Sir Ziggys Z Tam R1; +Rock The Dream R2; AFF Bigdaddy R4
5/4/18, +Lilbitomama R1
5/5/18, +No Mo Fo Joe R7; +Remember Terror R9
5/5/18, +Thebestofme R4; +Badlands Giovanna R7
5/4/18, +Rocky Ground R8
5/3/18, +Grand Illusion R5
5/7/18, Cash Is King R3; Truly My Way R10
5/4/18, True Detective R2; Real Sheila R7; Day Of Decision R8
5/3/18, Jetstream Mystic R11
5/5/18, Sagebrush Sid R3; Ghost Pine R8
5/5/18, Lyons Levi Lewis R2
5/6/18, +MVP Luke R2
5/7/18, +Always Giggling ae R10; LA Delight R10
5/3/18, +Albergo Hanover R1; +Warrawee Triton R2; +Talbotcreekwhiskey R10
5/4/18, +Casimir Quasimoto R1
5/3/18, +Jetstream Gypsy R7
5/5/18, Sand Sonya R8
5/3/18, +Always Jazzy R1; +Regil Millionaire R3
5/4/18, +Dastardly Dick R6
5/4/18, Do Your Job R7
5/3/18, +Flyhawk Charm R2; Jericho R5; Steed R8
5/4/18, Mergatroid R4
5/4/18, +Cooperstown ae R7
5/6/18, Karets R3; +Reserve Plan R7
5/3/18, +Just Plain DJ R9
5/4/18, +Duck Duck Dragon R3; +Cakeatin Anniemay R6
5/5/18, Camtizzy R2; +Bold Willie R4
5/6/18, +Massive Lightning R1
5/6/18, +Thebestofjoel R6
5/4/18, Zha Zha Bi R6; Frisky Joe R8
5/5/18, +Ms Casey Mac R2; Macs Black Hat R5; +Sweet Talkin Satin R9
5/3/18, Lightningpedia R2; Lady Eagle R4
5/5/18, +Another Daily Copy R4; +Somewhere In LA R6; +Burning Shore R12