Weekend harness racing recap

Ted Black

November 25th, 2014

Those standardbred racing enthusiasts who have long subscribed to the axiom that "It All Comes Down to the Breeders Crown" were doubly rewarded last weekend when the Meadowlands in New Jersey hosted all 12 Breeders Crown finals that likely decided the numerous divisional champions, pacer of the year and potentially an unprecedented horse of the year selection.

Last Friday evening at the Meadowlands the focus was on the fillies of all ages and both gaits when the track hosted four Breeders Crown finals, two of which cinched divisional honors for the winner. Mission Brief (Yannick Gingras) led throughout to capture the Crown final for freshman filly trotters in 1:51.4 for her ninth win in 13 starts this year, cinching that title and giving her connections early thoughts of perhaps tackling the boys next summer in the $1.5 million Hambletonian.

But several races later on the card, Shake It Cerry (Ron Pierce) captured the Breeders Crown final for three-year-old filly trotters after racing second over and fanning three-wide on the far turn en route to a handy score in 1:52.2 for her 15th victory in 17 seasonal starts. Shake It Cerry has essentially won every major stakes since finishing eighth in the Hambletonian Oaks and she will not only garner divisional honors for trainer Jim Takter, but will likely get consideration for trotter of the year and even horse of the year.

In the other two Breeders Crown finals last Friday, favorites failed and the respective winners will hardly get much support for divisional honors. Reigning horse of the year Bee A Magician (Brian Sears) led throughout to capture the Crown final for trotting mares and was left up despite appearing to impede favorite Classic Martine (Tim Tetrick) in the lane. Longshot Sayitall BB (Gingras) won the Crown final for three-year-old filly pacers, while favored Color's A Virgin (Trace Tetrick) could not overcome an unlucky, third over journey and settled for fourth.

Then on Saturday night the eight Breeders Crown finals contested that evening provided a good blend of winning favorites and mild upsets, with at least two of the winners joining the conversation for gait champion and possibly horse of the year.

Midway through the card, JK She'salady (Tim Tetrick) lived up to her role as the 1-9 favorite when she brushed to command down the backside and then held safe the gritty, first over bid of Sassa Hanover (Gingras) to edge clear late and capture the Breeders Crown final for two-year-old filly pacers in 1:50.3. The supremely talented Art Major filly capped a perfect 12-for-12 campaign with another sharp score and enhanced her chances of becoming the first two-year-old pacing filly to ever garner horse of the year honors.

Several races later on the program, Father Patrick (Gingras) regained some of his lost luster when he led throughout to capture the Breeders Crown final for three-year-old colt trotters in 1:51.4 over a game, parked-the-mile E L Titan (Pierce) and stablemate Nuncio (John Campbell) who simply had nothing to offer in the lane despite a perfect pocket trip.

Father Patrick has now won 12 of 17 starts and earned nearly $1.7 million for Takter, but he is more likely to be remembered for the races he did not win - Hambo, Kentucky Futurity and Matron - than for his major stakes scores. Nevertheless, Father Patrick may have sealed the division honors with his victory although his stablemates, Trixton, hero of the Hambo, and Nuncio, winner of the Kentucky Futurity, Yonkers Trot and Matron, both have strong cases for the award.

Normally the champion three-year-old pacing colt earns plenty of consideration for pacer of the year and horse of the year, but even though McWicked (Sears) likely secured divisional honors with his determined score in the Breeders Crown final for the glamour division, it seems highly unlikely that he will get much consideration for pacer of the year or horse of the year. JK Endofanera (Pierce) the full-brother to JK She'salady, gave way late despite a pocket trip and faded to third while drifting out noticeably.

Pinkman (Gingras) looked sharp winning the Breeders Crown final for two-year-old trotting colts in 1:53.2 for Takter, while the venerable Thinking Out Loud (Campbell) closed valiantly in the lane to topple the Burke brigade of Sweet Lou, Foiled Again, Clear Vision and Bettor's Edge. In all likelihood, however, Sweet Lou will still take home the Dan Patch Award as champion older pacer following a season in which he won 10 races and earned over $1 million and was in the conversation for horse of the year briefly during the summer.

Between now and December when the ballots are distributed to the 200 voters who will determine divisional honors and horse of the year, many harness racing enthusiasts will contemplate whether one of the sport's top sophomore trotters, Shake It Cerry, Father Patrick or Nuncio, did enough during the campaign to trump the undefeated JK She'salady for horse of the year honors or whether the fantastic freshman filly did enough to earn her place in history as the first two-year-old filly pacer to ever earn the horse of the year title.