Weekend harness recap

Ted Black

October 26th, 2014

While thoroughbred racing fans are obviously eagerly looking ahead to this weekend's Breeders Cup Championship races on Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita, standardbred fans had plenty to savor this past weekend when both Yonkers Raceway and Woodbine Racetrack hosted stakes-filled cards.

Saturday evening Yonkers Raceway hosted both the $500,000 Yonkers Trot for sophomore trotting colts and the $500,000 Messenger Stakes for three-year-old colt pacers. Both events are part of the sport's respective Triple Crown events and in one of them, one horse can now claim two leg titles and perhaps have a case for sopohomore trotting colt of the year and maybe even trotter of the year.

Nuncio easily prevailed in Saturday's $500,000 Yonkers Trot as the 1-9 favorite with Hall of Fame driver John Campbell in the bike and now the Jim Takter-trained son of Andover Hall can boast victories in two legs of the Triple Crown, having previously captured the Kentucky Futurity over his accomplished stablemate, Father Patrick.

Nuncio has been overshadowed all spring and summer by a pair of talented stablemates, including Trixton, the Hambletonian winner who has since been retired. Nuncio finished second to Trixon in the Hambo and he has often bee viewed as a bridesmaid, but this fall he is starting to emerge as a genuine talent.

In fact, Nuncio has now won 10 of 15 starts this year and banked over $1.3 million and he has never been worse than second in 25 lifetime tries of which he now owns 15 wins and earnings of $1.75 million. Saturday night he made quick work of Datsyuk (Charlie Norris) en route to capturing the 60th edition of the Yonkers Trot in 1:56.

One race later on the card, All Bets Off (Matt Kakaley) rebounded from a dull, fourth-place finish in his elim to capture the $500,000 Messenger Stakes in 1:51.1. A sophomore son of Bettor's Delight trained by Ron Burke, All Bets Off has now won n11 of 15 starts and banked over $900,000 this year and joined the short list of contenders for divisional honors.

Then two races later in the $150,000 Lady Maud for three-year-old filly pacers, Act Now (George Brennan) delivered her second straight sharp score when she brushed to command befrore the quarter and simply drew off from her foes to a five-length score in 1:53. The Western Ideal filly trained by Nikolas Drennan is slated to compete next in the Matron Stakes at Dover Downs on Thursday, November 6 and then the Breeders Crown elims at the Meadowlands on Saturday, Nov. 15.

One race later in the $250,000 International Trot Preview for aged trotters at one-mile and one-quarter, Natural Herbie (Verlin Yoder) continued his Cinderella season with a determined victory in 2:24.4. A four-year-old Here Comes Herbie gelding owned and trained by Yoder, Natural Herbie has won 12 of 23 starts this year and banked $360,000.

Perhaps the best effort in that event, however, was delivered by European import, Commander Crowe. He left alertly along the inside to park two foes and forced Sebastian K to go off stride. He yielded to Arch Madness (Brennan) before the half, sat a loose pocket, surged inside to gain a brief lead then was overhauled late by Natural Herbie.

At Woodbine Racetrack on Saturday night the two-year-olds were on display. The two best efforts of the night were delivered by two budding stars as Jk Shesalady (Yannick Gingras) remained unbeaten in 10 career outings to capture the $500,000 Three Diamonds Stakes and Artspeak (Scott Zeron) rebounded from a pair of miscues to capture the $600,000 Governor's Cup for his eighth win in 10 tries.

Standardbred fans should certainly keep the Thursday, November 6 card at Dover Downs on their list of best racding days ahead when the Delaware five-eighths mile oval offers Matron finals for two- and three-year-old pacers and trotters of both genders on one stellar card.