Saturday Harness Preview for 5/17/2014

Molly Jo Rosen

May 17th, 2014

by Ted Black

While much of the nation will be focusing on the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course earlier in the day, standardbred fans will have plenty to watch and wager on this weekend, especially at The Meadowlands.
MeadowlandsSince its inception in 1976, the Meadowlands has owned a reputation as being harness racing's premiere track and this weekend the New Jersey mile oval will pay tribute to one of the sport's original great venues, Roosevelt Raceway, which conducted live racing in New York from 1940-1988. This evening's Roosevelt Raceway Legacy Night at the Big M will honor legends of days past at the defunct New York half-mile oval that often hosted weeknight crowds of over 50,000.

While each of the 14 races on the Meadowlands card tonight will pay tribute to Roosevelt in some fashion, honoring Hall of Fame drivers such as Herve Filion, Buddy Gilmour, Billy Haughton, Joe O'Brien and worthy Hall inductees such as Lucien Fontaine and Billy Popfinger who have been overlooked for decades, the feature race on the card is at the midway point when the track presents the $175,000 Arthur J. Cutler Memorial for trotters.

In last week's two Cutler eliminations, both Sebastian K S and Market Share triumphed in their respective seasonal debuts, the former in a world record 1:50.1, while the latter trotted the mile in a stellar 1:50.3. Both horses will start alongside one another this evening and many expect them to finish side-by-side. But one of them looks poised to improve off his effort last week, while the other will likely regress.

Sebastian K S had spent much of his career in Sweden competing in the sport's prestigious trotting events in Europe and last weekend he left more than a lasting impression on stateside fans by equaling the fastest trotting mile in the history of the sport. He did so off of one qualifier and a long layoff and without shoes.

Market Share is certainly no stranger to standardbred fans on the continent, having won the Hambletonian at three and the Breeders Crown last year en route to being champion aged trotter. Unlike many Hambo winners, Market Share bypassed the usual direct route to the breeding shed by returning to the races last year at age four and rewarded his connections and his fans with another stellar campaign. Last week he prevailed in his seasonal debut in superb fashion and appeared to have plenty left in reserve.

Perhaps looking to upend the top pair this weekend are Modern Family, second as the odds-on choice behind Sebastian K S in his elim, and Arch Madness, who raced very well while first over and second to Market Share in the second elim. They will start from posts seven and nine, respectively, and both should be generous prices.

Among the leading contenders the one that appears most likely to regress is Sebastian K S. Not only did he trot in world record clocking last week, he did so first over and without shoes - he will not race barefoot this evening - and uncorked the giant mile off a long layoff with only one qualifier under his belt. My guess is he regresses off that effort and does not hit the board.

Thus, the Cutler offers some interesting betting opportunities. Market Share will likely be the favorite and Modern Family the third choice and Arch Madness possibly the fourth choice. All three are worth boxing in exactas and triples and both Modern Family and Arch Madness are actually also worth flat bets since both can work out decent trips from their outside posts.

In the second race on the card, a B-1/A-2 handicap for older pacers, give Nova Artist a chance for the upset in here. A durable and talented sort trained by former Delaware kingpin Eddie Davis and driven by his son, Allan Davis, Nova Artist owns a 4-2-3 slate and $90,000 bankroll from 14 starts this year and he often succeeded at Dover Downs last winter despite being assigned the outside post in the Delaware Special and Open/Preferred Handicap.

Then in the evening's 11th race, the A-1/FFA handicap for older pacers, give another Dover dominator a chance at an upset in his Meadowlands debut. Bandolito has won four of seven starts and banked over $60,000 this year and he recorded consecutive scores of 1:48 and 1:48.2 at Dover in the spring for trainer Daryl Bier. He has since ventured to Pocono Downs and fared well in the Open and Invitiational and merits respect in a group that includes Golden Receiver, Allstar Legend, Easy Again and Rockin Amadeus.

The combination of the overflow crowd from the Preakness Stakes, the Cutler Memorial and the inaugural, long overdue Roosevelt Raceway legacy night set in motion months ago by former trainer-driver Fred Hudson and propelled forward by Jeff Gural, the Saturday night card at The Meadowlands figures to be one of the most exciting nights of the spring meet.