Top standardardbreds on display day and night on Saturday

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Ted Black

July 28th, 2017

Tomorrow afternoon and again tomorrow evening at a pair of harness racing venues that typically have little in common in terms of size and location, both the Meadows near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the Meadowlands in northern New Jersey in the shadows on the Manhattan skyline, harness racing fans will have a chance to see the top sophomore pacers and trotters compete.

Saturday afternoon's program at the Meadows in highlighted by the latest edition of the $400,000 Adios Pace final for three-year-old pacing colts and geldings, the track's signature event known as the "race for the orchids" and it attracted the two best sophomore pacers in the land - Fear The Dragon and Huntsville.

Fear The Dragon is currently rated as the top harness horse in the nation of any age, either gait or gender in the most recent Hambletonian Society/USTA Top 10 poll based on his sharp scores in both the $750,000 North America Cup and $500,000 Max Hempt Memorial final. After bypassing the Meadowlands Pace - trainer Brian Brown opted to send Downbytheseaside there instead - Fear The Dragon rebounded to win his Adios elim last weekend in 1:50.3 despite a first over journey into a solid back half.

Huntsville, last year's champion two-year-old colt pacer for trainer Ray Schnittker, rebounded from a narrow defeat at the hoofs of Fear The Dragon to just outlast Downbytheseaside in the Meadowlands Pace and then won his Adios elim last week in 1:49.3 despite being used hard to make the front before the half. Huntsville is currently rated second in the USTA Top 10 poll behind Fear The Dragon and last year's two-year-old champ will get another chance to overtake the current division leader tomorrow afternoon at the Meadows.

Those not willing to take a short price on either Fear The Dragon or Huntsville - either one could go as low as 4-5 tomorrow - will have a chance for a decent price with upset prospects Western Hill, Miso Fast and Blood Line. All three have made their presence known in various major stakes this spring and summer and either one of them could post a double-digit upset if either of the two division leaders fails to fire.

Saturday's opening race at the Meadows is a $29,000 Arden Downs division for two-year-old pacing colts where Iluvtomakemoney looms the odds-on choice based on his two wins from three career tries. But Go West Go Fast could pose a serious upset despite being winless in three tries, the last two against the favorite. Two races later in the next Arden Downs split, Instructor and Yupper should get top billing.

In the races prior to the Adios, the accompanying Adio Volo for three-year-old filly pacers was split into two divisions worth $65,000 each. In the ninth race, the sharp Rosemary Rose arrives with seven wins from 13 starts this year, including tallies in her last two outings, while Color Me Jasmine has won five of six starts this year. Awash has recorded only one win from six tries, but she has rarely been off the board in her two seasons on the track.

Then one race later in the second Adio Volo split, Blazin Britches (Trace Tetrick) arrives from Hoosier Park with six wins in seven seasonal outings, while Freakonomics (Tim Tetrick) brings a solid 4-4-2 slate from 10 starts, including victories in her last three tries. Brazuca has won three of five starts this year and was third in the James Lynch Memorial final at Pocono Downs and fourth in the Mistletoe Shalee at the Meadowlands and looms the class of the field.

Saturday night's program at the Meadowlands is highlighted by two eliminations for the Grade I, $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks for three-year-old filly trotters. Sadly, the main event on the Saturday, August 5 card at the Big M, the Grade I, $1 millon Hambletonian, lost considerable luster when Walner was forced to bypass the race with a mild injury. Catch driver Tim Tetrick admitted the trotting colt could have gone in 1:49 if turned loose and expressed a genuine sadness for not being able to drive the Linda Toscano trainee in the Hambo.

Saturday's first Oaks elim features Ariana G (Yannick Gingras), undoubtedly the best sophomore filly trotter in the land whose lone setback this year came against male rivals in the $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial behind Devious Man and Long Tom. Ariana G should coast into the Oaks final where she will likely be joined by Glitzey Gal, Fine Tuned Lady and Treviso for this split.

One race later in the second Oaks elim, Magic Presto and Overdraft Volo will bring similar records and vie for favoritism. Magic Presto sports a solid 3-2-1 slate from six starts this year, while Overdraft Volo has won three of five outings for trainer Julie Miller. Both should reach the Oaks final next weekend, but there their task gets much more difficult with Ariana G awaiting their arrival.

Then several races later in the 11th, the $20,000 Preferred Pace could easily be mistaken for a six-figure stakes. Stalwarts Mel Mara (Corey Callahan), Wakizashi Hanover (Tetrick), Bettor's Edge, Lyons Snyder, Rockeyed Optimist and Sweet Rock will all clash in a compact group in which 1:48 - on a fast track, that is - might be required of the eventual winner to cross the wire first. All six are likely prepping for the upcoming U.S. Pacing Championship on the Hambo undercard and several of them could get invited to the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington Raceway on Sep. 18 and the $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway on November 5.