Stellar Saturday cards at Mohawk Raceway and Yonkers Raceway on tap

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Ted Black

September 2nd, 2016

This coming Saturday night both Mohawk Raceway in Canada and Yonkers Raceway in New York will offer stellar cards with each offering lucrative stakes that would earn top billing if they were offered on any other card.
YonkersSaturday night a pair of races just past the midway point of the card at Yonkers will enable the three-year-old colts of oth gaits to garner the spotlight. The eighth race is the Grade I, $500,000 Yonkers Trot for three-year-old colt trotters, the middle jewel of racing's Triple Crown for trotters then one race later the famed New York half-mile oval will offer the Grade I, $500,000 Messenger Stakes, the middle jewel in harness racing's Triple Crown for sophomore pacers.

In terms of chronology and potentially long-term importance, the Yonkers Trot merits top billing simply because it features Marion Marauder, hero of the Grade I, $1 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands in early August and the only horse in either event with Triple Crown hopes at stake. Control The Moment, hero of the Grade I, $400,000 Cane Pace at the Meadowlands on Hambo Day, bypassed the Messenger Stakes after finishing third behind Betting Line and Racing Hill in the Grade I, $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine at Pocono Downs.

Saturday's eighth race at Yonkers is the $500,000 Yonkers Trot which features Hambletonian winner Marion Marauder (Scott Zeron) for trainer Paula Wellwood, daughter of the late, great Canadian conditioner William Wellwood. Marion Maruader won only once in 13 starts last year, but he has emerged on the scene this summer as arguably the best three-year-old trotting colt in the land - others might still side with Southwind Frank - and he will seek to keep his Triple Crown hopes in tact when he leaves from post four tomorrow night.

Marion Marauder made quick work of his foes last week in the Yonkers Trot elim, brushing to command and then strolling past the half in 58.4 and sprinting home in hand to score in 1:56.2 in his first start ever on a half-mile oval. Marion Marauder prevailed last week as the 3-10 choice and he will likely get equal backing again tomorrow evening, while his main two threats again drew inside of him.

Iron Mine Bucky (George Dennis), a Maryland-bred son of Explosive Matter trained by Greg Haverstick, finished third in his elim last week from the rail and drew that coveted spot again for the final. One of only three trotters in this group to earn a berth in the Hambo final - the other two being Marion Marauder and Lagerfeld - Iron Mine Bucky has ample gate speed as indicated by his near wire-to-wire effort in the Colonial consolation at Pocono Downs last month. He is considerably more talented than his 1-1-4 slate and $135,000 bankroll would suggest.

Two spots to his outside is Smalltownthrowdown (Dan Daley) a solid second behind Marion Marauder in the Yonkers Trot elim last weekend. Smalltownthrowdown has performed superbly in the New York Sire Stakes events this summer, winning divisions at Yonkers, Monticello and Buffalo Raceways, three of New York's half-mile ovals. He bypassed a start in a NYSS split on Wednesday evening at Batavia to garner one more chance at upending Marion Marauder tomorrow night in the Yonkers Trot final.

One race later in the Grade I, $500,000 Messenger Stakes for three-year-old pacing colts and geldings, the middle jewel of pacing's Triple Crown does not include opening leg winner, Control The Moment nor does it have division leader, Betting Line, who will be competing that same evening in an Ontario Sire Stakes split at Mohawk. But the race features Racing Hill (Brett Miller), the second-best sophomore pacer in the land who arrives off a second-place finish behind Betting Line in the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine Stakes at Pocono Downs.

A sophomore son of Roll With Joe trained by Tony Alagna, Racing Hill sports a solid 4-5-1 slate and $960,000 bankroll from 10 starts this year including wins in both the Grade I, $400,000 Adios final at the Meadows and the $500,000 Max Hempt Memorial at Pocono. He will leave from post three as the 1-5 favorite in a group that appears largely overmatched on paper, especially with Betting Line and Control The Moment elsewhere.

In fact, the main threat to Racing Hill could be stablemate Dr J Hanover (Scott Zeron), who has won six straight races and five of six starts over the oval. A son of Somebeachsomewhere out of a Western Ideal mare, Dr J Hanover won the Battle of the Brandywine consolation in 1:50.1 at Pocono Downs in his most recent outing on the same night that Betting Line dusted Rcing Hill in 1:47.2. He won four straight outings against conditioned foes at Yonkers before that for Alagna, taking a mark of 1:54.2 twice before lowering it at Pocono.

That same night at Mohawk a quartet of lucrative stakes finals will take center stage on a stellar card that will virtually kick off with a pair of $105,000 Ontario Sire Stakes events for three-year-old colts pacers. Sintra (Jody Jamieson) rates the solid choice in the first split, but the second will feature Betting Line (David Miller) who looms as the 1-9 favorite while riding a nine-race win streak for trainer Casie Coleman that includes victories in the Battle of the Brandywine, the Milstein Memorial at Northfield Park and the North America Cup final over this oval.

Then one race later in the $427,000 She's A Great Lady final for two-year-old filly pacers, Idyllic Beach (Yannick Gingras) and Agent Q (David Miller), who were one-two in 1:51.1 in the faster of two eliminations last weekend, will vie for favoritism in this spot. Idyllic Beach rallied from well off the pace to nail Agent Q in the final 100 yards last weekend and a similar scenario could play out again tomorrow night. Maryland-bred That's The Ticket (Sylvain Filion) posted a 58-1 shocker to take the other split in 1:52.

Then two races later in the $215,000 Simcoe Stakes for three-year-old filly pacers, all eyes will be focused on Pure Country (Gingras) and Darlinonthebeach (David Miller) who drew the two inside slots for this event. Pure Country owns a 6-2-2 slate and $760,000 bankroll from 12 starts this year for Takter, but Dalrinonthebeach owns an 8-2-1 slate and $475,000 banked from 13 tries including two victories over Pure Country, the most recent being the $350,000 Valley Forge Stakes at Pocono on Aug. 20.

Then one race later in the $660,000 Metro Stakes final for two-year-old pacing colts, Ocean Colony (Gingras) and Ideal Wheel (David Miller) will renew their rivalry after finishing one-two in the fastest of three elims last weekend when they reached the wire a head apart in 1:50.1. Ocean Colony has won his last two for Takter after failing to hit the board in his first three outings, while Ideal Wheel won his first two outings for Coleman before finishing fourth in a Nassagaweya split and then second last weekend in his Metro elim.

Beyond Delight (Filion) has the rail after rallying to capture his Metro elim in 1:51 for trainer Tony O'Sullivan, while Blood Line settled for third in that event and gets post nine tomorrow. Windsong Napoleon (Phil Hudon) posted a 54-1 shocker in taking his elim in 1:51.3 last week and should be at least 15-1 in here. Maryland-breds Calvin K and Classic Pro were second and third, respectively, in the split won by 'Napoleon'.

Then three races later on the card the focus will be on the older horses as Mohawk presents the $615,000 Canadian Pacing Derby, featuring 10 of the best older pacers in training. Reigning horse of the year, Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) will leav from the rail as the slight favorite while Always B Miki (David Miller) will start from post nine for Takter. Wiggle It won their most recent encounter, the $325,000 Dan Patch at Hoosier Park, but the Canadian Pacing Derby is hardly a match race.

Defending champion State Treasurer, Canada's horse of the year in 2015, has won his last two starts and three of his last four for trainer Dr. Ian Moore after opening the slate on a nine-race skid. Shamballa (Rick Zeron) owns a 3-2-3 slate and $315,000 bankroll from 10 starts and was recently third in the Dan Patch after taking the U.S. Pacing Championship at the Meadowlands on Hambo Day, upending both Wiggle It Jiggleit and Always B Miki. All Bets Off (Matt Kakaley) has been the best of the Ron Burke trainees this season and brings a 3-5-5 slate and $435,000 bankroll from 18 starts into this affair.

Harness racing fans throughout the Mid-Atlantic region will likely be paying close attention to the Canadian Pacing Derby. Wiggle It Jiggleit, the Delaware-based reigning horse of the year and All Bets Off, clearly the best of the Burke brigade this season, are almost assuredly going to garner invitations to the $200,000 Bobby Quillien Memorial Invitational at Harrington Raceway on Monday, September 19. Shamballa got invited last year and finished third as the favorite behind Mach It So and Foiled Again, but his best races have come on the bigger ovals such as Mohawk, Woodbine and the Meadowlands.

Always B Miki is clearly the main threat to Wiggle It Jiggleit on Saturday and in the chase for champion aged pacer and pacer of the year honors, but he has avoided competing on the half-mile ovals this season and will likely decline an invitation from the Harrington race office. Defending champion Mach It So will be racing in the $45,000 Open Handicap at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday night, while potential Quillen invitees The Real One and Luck Be With You are idle this weekend.