Spotlight on Hoosier Park and Northfield Park this weekend

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Ted Black

August 9th, 2017

One week after the Meadowlands Race Track in New Jersey garnered center stage when it hosted the Grade I, $1 million Hambletonian last Saturday afternoon on an exceptional, stakes-filled card, the spotlight this weekend will shift to two tracks not accustomed to taking center stage - Hoosier Park and Northfield Park.

On Friday night at Hoosier Park the main event will be the $325,000 Dan Patch Stakes for free-for-all pacers, with many of the participants perhaps wanting to get an early start over the track two months before the Breeder Crown elims and final slated for the Indiana oval in later October.

A full field of 10 talented older pacers will be behind the gate for the Dan Patch, named in honor of arguably the greatest standardbred in the sport's history, but only nine of them will actually be on the gate as Wakizashi Hanover (Tim Tetrick) will start from the second tier.

Of those on the gate, All Bets Off (Matt Kakaley), McWicked (David Miller), Freaky Feet Pete (Trace Tetrick), Dr. J Hanover (Doug McNair), Rock N Roll World (John De Long), Rockin Ron (Ricky Macomber, Jr.) and Check Six (Yannick Gingras) will all be among the contenders in a race where the post-time choice may be 4-1 or slightly higher. All Bets Off, one of three Ron Burke trainees in the field, is listed as the 7-2 morning line favorite, but McWicked, Freaky Feet Pete, Rockin Ron, Check Six and Wakizashi Hanover will all get ample support.

Of the other two Burke trainees, Rockin Ron has typically fared better on the smaller tracks and recently won the $55,000 Open Handicap at Yonkers Raceway and could be the trainer's choice for the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington Raceway five weeks from now. Check Six ended a prolonged skid by posting a 19-1 upset in the $225,000 TVG Free-For-All on Hambo Day, but that was only his second win of the year and the four-year-old will need to prove that victory was no fluke.

At one time, Freaky Feet Pete was the darling of the midwest, winning numerous Indiana Sire Stakes at Hoosier and even defeating 2015 horse of the year Wiggle It Jiggleit on two occasions. But after spending much of the 2016 chasing horse of the year Always B Miki in numerous 1:47 miles, Freaky Feet Pete has yet to regain past form and arrives with a modest 1:50.2 tally as his lone victory from four seasonal outings. The winner of the Dan Patch may have to travel the distance in 1:48 or faster to garner the lion's share of the prize on Friday night.

One race earlier on the card, Hoosier will host the $30,000 Gregg Haston Memorial for aged pacers and that event will likely go in 1:49.1 or slightly faster. Local stars Gerries Sport (Trace Tetrick), Duel Of Truth (Peter Wrenn) and New Talent (Todd Warren) all sport sib-1:50 triumphs over the strip and either of them could succeed in this event. Immediately after the Dan Patch, owners, trainers and interested onlookers will be quickly comparing final clockings between the main event and the Gaston to see how they rate.

One night later the spotlight shifts to Northfield Park, a half-mile track near Cleveland, Ohio, where the three-year-old colt pacers will be on display in the $300,000 Carl Milstein Memorial.

Much of the attention in the Milstein will be focused on Fear The Dragon (David Miller), the sport's top sophomore and the highest rated horse of any age, gait or gender in the latest Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown Top 10 poll released on Tuesday. Fear The Dragon has won nine of 10 starts this year and banked nearly $925,000 for trainer Brian Brown, including victories in the Max Hempt Memorial at Pocono Downs, the North America Cup final at Mohawk and the Adios Pace at the Meadows.

While Fear The Dragon is the top horse in the land and also drew the coveted rail, prompting the track to nix show wagers, seven other sophomores will attempt to overcome the division leader and their posts to post the upset.

Blood Line (Mark MacDonald) has only won once in eight starts this year, but drew post two for trainer Jimmy Takter. Maryland-bred Classic Pro (Trevor Henry) is one of the sport's very few free-legged pacers and he was third in the Meadowlands Pace. Bags To Riches (Tim Tetrick) has won seven of 11 starts this year for trainer Jason Skinner, including a gritty, first over score in the $100,000 Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund final at Harrington on Governor's Day. Downbytheseaside (Brian Sears) sports five wins and $540,000 banked from nine starts this year for Brown, but gets post seven here, while R J P (Gingras) was second in the Grade I, $300,000 Cane Pace at the Meadowlands last weekend but will have to overcome the dreaded eight hole for Burke.