Top standardbreds set for action this weekend

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Ted Black

August 24th, 2018

While many thoroughbred racing enthusiasts will be focused on Saturday's Grade I stakes-filled card at Saratoga Race Course highlighted by the $1.25 million Travers, often dubbed the Midsummer Derby, harness racing fans will have ample quality trotters and pacers to view this weekend at several venues.

Hambletonian heroine Atlanta, currently the sport's top rated horse of either gait or gender, will contest the Casual Breeze Stakes at Mohawk Raceway against Hambletonian Oaks heroine Manchego, the defending division champion. Atlanta will make her first start since taking the Hambo in early August at the Big M, while Manchego will look to rebound from an unlucky setback last weekend at Tioga Downs behind Hambo runner-up Met's Hall.

Then on Saturday night at Mohawk, reigning harness horse of the year Hannelore Hanover will seek to regain her winning ways in the Maple Leaf Trot eliminations, which also attracted former stablemate Crazy Wow, Ariana G, Marion Marauder, Will Take Charge and JL Cruze among others.

Saturday evening at Yonkers Raceway, Stay Hungry will clash with Springsteen and Jimmy Freight in the deeper of two Messenger Stakes eliminations for three-year-old colt pacers. Hero of the $280,000 Cane Pace, the first jewel of pacing's triple crown, on the Hambo undercard, Stay Hungry will seek to keep his triple crown hopes alive in a rare visit to a half-mile oval.

That same evening at Yonkers, older stalwarts Great Vintage, Something In L A and Bit Of A Legend N will take their next steps toward a possible berth in the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Invitational at Harrington Raceway on Sep. 17 when they clash in the $44,000 Open Handicap. All three arrive boasting their most recent victory in the Open Hcp and each will have subsequent starts in the Open on Sep. 1 and 8 in their final two preps for the Quillen. Bit Of A Legend N is the defending champion of the Quillen.

Sunday evening Ocean Downs will host two $67,000 Maryland Sire Stakes finals for two-year-olds then on Tuesday evening Courtly Choice, the sport's top three-year-old colt pacer, will head to Yonkers for a New York Sire Stakes event. Courtly Choice won the $272,000 Empire Breeders Classic final at Tioga Downs in 1:48.3 and is the leading candidate for pacer of the year and Maryland-bred harness horse of the year.

Speaking of Maryland-breds, Still Having Fun will seek to maintain his winning ways when he competes in the Grade I, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial on the Travers Stakes undercard at Saratoga on Saturday. A sophomore son of Old Fashioned trained by Tim Keefe, Still Having Fun has been idle since capturing the Grade II, $400,000 Woody Stephens Memorial on the Belmont Stakes card and will look to notch his first Grade I triumph and fourth win in seven starts this year in the Jerkens.