Sunday Harness Preview for 8/10/2014

Molly Jo Rosen

August 10th, 2014

by Ted Black

While most Sunday standardbred cards are filled with overnight races that are typically in the mid-level range, a pair of harness racing tracks will offer stakes-filled programs this evening that should keep fans and owners on their toes.

Perhaps the best race of the weekend will take place Sunday afternoon at Tioga Downs in New York when that five-eighths mile oval hosts the $250,000 Empire Breeders Classic final for three-year-old colt & gelding pacers. Last week's two eliminations basically trimmed the group in half and while the elim winners often battle for the major spoils in the final it appears the two best colts in this event also met last weekend.

Following a dismal seasonal debut in the Art Rooney elims, He's Watching has made up for that effort in numerous ways. The Dave Menary trainee has since displayed more than a hint of his two-year-old brilliance when he was undefeated from eight starts and garnered the Dan Patch Award as divisional champ. He raced well in the North America Cup elims and then won the Grade I, $775,000 Meadowlands Pace in an unbelievable 1:46.4.

He's Watching (Tim Tetrick) overcame a first over journey in the slop to win last week's Empire Classic elim and should loom as the 3-5 favorite in the final. The reigning champ has won four of seven starts and banked over $560,000 this year and currently rates as the top sophomore pacing colt in the land and among the top five horses of any age or either gait. But those who do not like backing short-priced favorites will not have far to look to find a logical contender.

Despite drawing post eight for the final, Jk Endofanera (Brian Sears) is certainly a genuine threat. Last week the Ron Burke trainee led most of the way before being overhauled late by He's Watching and will have to improve considerably to upend the favorite in the final. Jk Endofanera captured the Grade I, $1 million North America Cup at Mohawk in 12-1 upset fashion two months ago, so he could post a surprise here albeit at closer to 3-1.

Sunday evening at Ocean Downs, a half-mile track in Maryland five miles west of Ocean City, the seaside oval will focus on Maryland-bred two-year-olds of both gaits and genders. Many of them will be looking to follow in the footsteps of past Maryland-bred stars such as Bettor's Delight, Muscle Hill, Muscles Yankee, No Pan Intended and Rainbow Blue who were able to prevail in lucrative open stakes against the best trotters and pacers on the continent.

In the opening race on the card, a $16,000 Maryland Standardbred Race Fund event for freshmen trotting fillies, both Sign N Drive (Victor Kirby) and Callmemza (Jonathan Roberts) arrive having won their respective career debuts, but the more seasoned maiden Stories To Tell (Truman Gale) looms the one to beat. Although winless in five starts, she does own a 2:01.2 victory in a qualifier at Vernon Downs and she has spent her entire career facing New York Sire Stakes rivals.

In the second race, a $16,730 MDRF event for two-year-old pacing fillies, Smart Zone (Corey Callahan) looks like the obvious choice. A daughter of Rocknroll Hanover trained by Erv Miller, Smart Zone has also yet to win from five starts in her career but she has faced much tougher in New Jersey Sire Stakes races at the Meadowlands and open stakes foes in the Tompkins Geers at Tioga Downs.

Looking to upend Smart Zone, however, are three horses with half-mile track experience. Miss Audacious (Frank Milby) was second at Saratoga last week and draws the rail. Hillbillyshwwetshrk (Roberts) has made all three starts at Ocean Downs and was second in her most recent outing. Bag Lady Blue (Art Stafford, Jr.) won a MRDF split last month over the seaside oval by five lengths in 2:00.1, but draw the outside seven hole here.

One race later in the third, a $16,000 MDRF split for two-year-old colt pacers, four of the five starters look poised for a victory.

Quick Art (Jim Morand) won his debut at Harrington then was second in a MDRF split here last month, but gets the rail; KJ Ben (Art Stafford, Jr.), debuted at Goshen then won a MDRF split here; Rigged To Go (Ross Wolfenden) was a distant third in his debut against MDRF rivals, but bounced back to win a non-winners of one race here; Toms Tornado (Roberts) has been second in each of his first three starts and will leave from post four looking to end his bridesmaid status.

Two races later in the $30,000 MDRF event for two-year-old colt trotters, Broken Record (Callahan) returns to the scene of his only previous score from four outings and looms as the 1-5 favorite despite leaving from post six.

This Muscles Yankee colt trained by Ray Schnittker of Deweycheatumnhow fame, won two starts back over the seaside oval in 2:00.1 as the 6-5 choice then was eighth in his Peter Haughton Memorial elim at the Meadowlands. He proved no match for Centurion ATM - ironically another Maryland-bred - who returned last weekend to win the Peter Haughton final by four lengths in 1:53.1. There are no rivals of his caliber in this event.

One race later in the other MDRF split for freshmen pacing fillies, railbound Rumor Mill (Kirby) will look to prove that her 40-1 upset in a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes split on Wednesday evening was no fluke. The daughter of The Panderosa trained by Jim King, Jr. drew inside of her toughest foe, Andi's Peanut (Truman Gale) who was second against similar in her career debut here last month.

Two races later in the eighth, the other MDRF split for freshman filly trotters, Miss Jocelyn (Les Givens) draws the rail and will be the slight favorite in a group that also includes Bethca Ur My Baby (Bill Long), Marshalinn (Bryan Truitt) and Sherbert (Tyler Raymer). Betcha Ur My Baby sports the only win in the field, a pedestrian 2:06.1 score in a prior MDRF split over the seaside oval.

One race later in the ninth, the second MDRF split for two-year-old colt pacers, all of the focus will be on the undefeated Toms Typhoon (Jim Morand) who will leave from post two. A Cam's Card Shark colt trained by Roger Hans for owner-breeder Tom Cooke, Toms Typhoon has won all three of his starts capped by a recent 1:56 score in a $42,000 Maryland Sire Stakes final. At no point in the wagering should he be any higher than 1-5.