Standardbred stakes heat up along with the weather

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Ted Black

July 21st, 2016

While many residents throughout the Mid-Atlantic region brace for another round of hot, humid conditions this weekend, standardbred fans will want to find a cool place to watch and wager on the numerous stakes at a trio of tracks.

Saturday afternoon the Meadows near Pittsburgh will host two eliminations of the Adios Stakes for three-year-olds on a solid card that also includes a pair of Pennsylvania Sire Stakes divisions for three-year-old filly pacers.

In fact, the first and fourth races on the card are the two $80,000 PASS splits for sophomore filly pacers. In the opening race, Newborn Sassy and Call Me Queen Be, both regulars in open stakes, return to face PASS foes. Then three races later in the fourth, division leader Pure Country (Brett Miller) draws the rail and seeks her sixth win in nine starts this year for trainer Jimmy Takter. Her main threats appear to be I Said Diamonds and Darlinonthebeach, who actually handed Pure Country her first career defeat earlier this year.

Both the eighth and ninth races on the program are the two Adios elimination splits for three-year-old colt pacers. The top four finishers in each split plus the fifth-place finisher with the highest earnings will return for the $450,000 Adios final one week from Saturday. At one time, the Adios was a heat race, but like many of its counterparts the stakes has been reformatted to elims one week before the final.

In the eighth, Racing Hill (Brett Miller) drew the rail and will look to regain his winning ways after a solid, second-place finish in the $730,000 Meadowlands Pace last weekend. He sports a 2-4-1 slate and $625,000 bankroll from only seven starts this year for trainer Tony Alagna, but Racing Hill has already won the Max Hempt Memorial final at Pocono Downs and been second in both the North America Cup and Meadowlands Pace.

Looking to topple Racing Hill in the opening elim and possibly join him in the lucrative final are Lyons Snyder and Check Six. Lyons Snyder owns a 4-2-1 slate, while Check Six owns a 5-1-1 and banked over $460,000 from nine starts this year for trainer Ron Burke.

Then one race later on the card, Burke trainees highlight the proceedings. Manhattan Beach (Matt Kakaley), Big Top Hanover (Yannick Gingras) drew inside and American Passport is better than his winless record indicates.

Then Saturday evening at Saratoga Harness, the focus will be on the older pacers as the New York half-mile oval will host the $260,000 Joe Gerrity, Jr., Memorial, featuring the well-traveled, reigning horse of the year, Wiggle It Jiggleit and recent George Morton Levy Memorial hero Bit Of A Legend N.

Both Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) and Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton) arrive with identical records of nine wins from 14 starts this year and they dead-heated for first in their lone meeting in the last Levy preliminary leg. Wiggle It Jiggleit has maintained his good form since, winning the Battle Of Lake Erie at Northfield Park and the Graduate final at the Meadowlnds, while Bit Of A Legend N has not regained his winning ways since taking the Levy final in April for trainer Peter Tritton.

But this edition of the Gerrity is still shaping up to be anything but a walkover for Wiggleit It Jiggleit. He has danced some tough dances in recent weeks having to face Always B Miki and Freaky Feet Pete repeatedly, while Bit Of A Legend N has raced sparingly and also gets the rail for this event.

But those who do not want to view the Gerrity as simply a match race also have several talented options. Doctor Butch, who sports a 4-6-5 slate and $150,000 bankroll from 21 starts, All Bets Off, who sports a 3-5-3 slate and $370,000 bankroll from 13 outings, Artistic Major, Sunfire Blue Chip and PH Supercam, a previous Levy final hero and Gerrity champ, will loom serious prospects despite outside draws.

Saratoga will also host a pair of New York Sire Stakes events for three-year-old colt and gelding pacers. Artmagic (Stratton), Talk Show (Jason Bartlett) and Roll Away Joe (Jim Morrill, Jr.) headline the first $90,000 split, while Missile J (Tim Tetrick) and Fine Diamond (Matt Kakaley) should dominate the second split despite outside draws.

Then on Sunday night Ocean Downs will host four Maryland Sire Stakes finals for the two-year-olds of both gaits and genders, while three of them will be part of the parimutuel card.

The opening race on the night is the $40,000 MDSS final for two-year-old colt trotters, but this non-betting event is virtually a walkover. Hybrid Henry (Brian Burton) has won all three of his starts for trainer Richard Hans and sports a stellar 2:00 mark over the seaside oval. His sire, Cam's Rocket, is a pacer, but the freshman trotting colt is definitely a potential star.

The first parimutuel race on the card is the $35,000 MDSS final for two-year-old filly pacers and this event also features a standout. Miss Valerie (Roger Plante, Jr) has won all four of her starts and owns a 1:58 mark over the strip, but could get tested Sunday night by railbound Goodfridaymiracle (Eddie Dennis) and Cheap Aint Fast (Frank Milby).

Two races later on the card the freshman filly trotters will be on display in the $35,000 MDSS final. Les Givens trainees Camita (Jim Morand), Holy Trout (Bill Long) and LG's Hotshoegirl will vie for favoritism. Holy Trout has won three of six starts. Then two races later in the $37,500 MDSS final for freshman colt pacers, Mr Ham Sandwich (Russell Foster), Toms Tarzan (Burton) and Adios Muchachos (Morand) will vie for favoritism and top honors.

There are also several solid overnight races on the card. Concert Artist, Toms Titan, Caviart Tyler and Bad Man Sam will battle in the B-2/B-1 Handicap, then Time Out I'm Tired, Diamondkeeper and Firecracker Freddy will seek to emerge as the leading candidate for horse of the meet in the A-1 Handicap.