Saturday Harness Preview for 5/31/2014

Molly Jo Rosen

May 31st, 2014

by Ted Black
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While many thoroughbred racing enthusiasts might merely look upon this Saturday as the last weekend before California Chrome seeks racing immortality by looking to become the sport's 12th Triple Crown winner, harness racing fans will have a bevy of stakes races to watch and wager on at three different tracks.

On Saturday night, Yonkers Raceway in New York will offer both the $300,000 Art Rooney Memorial final for three-year-old colt pacers and the $125,000 Lismore final for three-year-old filly pacers. The Meadowlands will present four, $100,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes finals for three-year-olds of both gaits and genders, while Mohawk Raceway in Canada will host three, $75,000 divisions of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes for sophomore pacing colts.

Tonight's feature at Yonkers is the Art Rooney final for three-year-old pacing colts and the race, the 11th on the program will likely feature an odds-on choice, but not the one most people would have expected a week ago.

Last Saturday night in the second of two Rooney elims, All Bets Off made quick work of his rivals when he prevailed in wire-to-wire fashion in 1:52.1 for trainer Ron Burke. He has won twice in four starts this year and drew post four for the final, so he will almost assuredly dip well below his 7-5 morning line price.

The other division went to Stevensville in a 10-1 upset as last year's freshman pacing colt champ, He's Watching, delivered a dismal performance in his three-year-old debut and failed to earn a spot in the final. Stevensville, a Somebeachsomewhere colt trained by Ray Schnittker, overcame post six last week to lead throughout and capture his elim in 1:53 while He's Watching - who is in Canada this evening - backed through the field.

Last week's elim runner-ups, Gold Rocks and Some Playa, both raced well and will start from posts three and five, respectively, for the final. Maxi Bon, who made a bad break while racing second over heading into the far turn last week in the second elim, drew into the final thanks to the late defection of Thereisaspaceforus and promptly drew the rail so he is not a total toss.

But the Rooney final figures to come down to All Bets Off and Stevensville, both of his were sharp winners last weekend and have enough speed to control the tempo or be near it. All Bets Off figures to cut the mile tonight, but look for Stevensville to stalk him every step of the way from the pocket and the Schnittker trainee could very well post another 6-1 upset this weekend.

Two races earlier in the $125,000 Lismore final for three-year-old fillies, elim winners Tyra and Southwind Silence should garner most of the attention while Also Encouraging, who faded to fourth as the 2-5 favorite in her elim, drew the rail for this event. Tyra is the 8-5 morning line choice, but Southwind Silence, a handy 1:54 winner at 2-5 last week is the probable favorite although posted at a generous 3-1 on the morning line.

Three races earlier in the sixth, the $38,000 Open Handicap for older pacers, look for Dynamic Youth to continue his newfound winning ways for trainer Carl Cito, Jr. Last week in the winners over, Dynamic Youth raced parked first over into a 54.4 back half and still prevailed. The presence of Sapphire City and Eighteen will likely ensure an honest tempo in this event and that should enable Dynamic Youth to post another tally.

At The Meadowlands on Saturday evening, races 2-5 are New Jersey Sire Stakes finals for three-year-olds, two each for trotters and pacers and obviously two each for colts and fillies.

In the second race, the $100,000 NJSS final for three-year-old colt pacers, all eyes will be on Western Vintage who prevailed in his sophomore debut in 1:49.4. Expect Western Vintage to be the 1-5 favorite in the compact field of five since the colt is heavily staked this summer and fall and is eyeing the coveted Meadowlands Pace here in July. Doo Wop Hanover should complete the exacta.

One race later in the $100,000 NJSS final for three-year-old colt trotters, much of the attention will be focused on Trixton, who has won two of three starts for trainer-driver Jimmy Takter and boasts the fastest mark - 1:51.2 - by at least two full seconds. Trixton is also heavily staked this summer and fall and expect him to be 1-5 at the windows this evening despite the full 10-horse field.

In the fourth race, the $100,000 NJSS final for three-year-old filly trotters, both Moonlight In Miami and Cee Bee Yes will vie for favoritism. Cee Bee Yes boasts the fastest mark of the two, 1:54.1, but drew the outside eight hole, while Moonlight In Miami prevailed in 1:55.2 for Takter in her seasonal debut and gets post five with John Campbell in the bike.

One race later in the fifth, the $100,000 NJSS final for three-year-old filly pacers, look for Act Now (Tim Tetrick) and Gettingreadytoroll (Yannick Gingras) to settle the issue. Act Now, who drew off to a four-length score last week in 1:50, should rule as the slight favorite from post seven while Gettingreadytoroll, a 1:50.1 winner two starts back, will be the solid second choice from her unlucky post 10 draw.

Up north of the border at Mohawk Raceway in Canada, onlookers will have three $75,000 divisions of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes to watch and wager on as those colts prep for the upcoming $1 million North America Cup.

In the third race, the first of the three Somebeachsomewhere splits, look for JK Endofanera and Luck Be Withyou to settle the score in a race that could easily go 1:49 flat or faster.

JK Endofanera has won both of his starts this year for Burke, including a recent 1:49.2 tally in the divided Pocono Cup at Pocono Downs last weekend. The Art Major colt has won six of nine starts overall and ended his freshman campaign with a victory in the $535,000 Governor's Cup at The Meadowlands as the 4-5 choice.

Luck Be Withyou, a Western Ideal colt trained by William Cass, is making his sophomore debut off a pair of sharp qualifying scores over the track. Last fall, Luck Be Withyou ended his freshman campaign by capturing the $500,000 Breeders Crown final for his age, gait and gender at Pocono Downs, concluding the season with five wins and $360,000 banked from 11 starts.

Several races later in the eighth, the second Somebeachsomewhere split, expect Always B Miki to loom as the modest favorite, but he is hardly a cinch in a race that looks more watchable than playable. Other contenders include Somewhere In L A, McWicked, Silverhill Shadow, Somestarsomewhere and Capital Account. All but Somewhere In L A are staked to the North America Cup.

Then two races later in the 10th, the third Somebeachsomewhere division, a quartet of sophomores, all of which are eligible to the North America Cup, will battle for supremacy in another race that could eclipse the 1:49 barrier.

Most of the attention will be on He's Watching, who was simply dismal in his Rooney elim last weekend at Yonkers and did not earn a spot in that lucrative final and basically heads here as a consolation. Granted, he was unbeaten and last year's two-year-old champ, but He's Watching will need to display some hint of his freshman form before anyone can back him with any confidence.

Three of his rivals, however, head into this split in peak form. Jet Airway won his last outing at Pocono Downs despite a first over journey, Thats My Opinion has won his last two starts at The Meadowlands for trainer Tony Alagna before heading north, while Let's Drink On It has won both of his starts this year and seven of 14 career outings for Joe Seekman and should rule as the 7-5 favorite in this spot.