Weekend Harness Recap

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Ted Black

November 16th, 2014

Last weekend the Meadowlands hosted the eliminations for numerous, but not all, divisions for the various Breeders Crown finals that will be conducted at the New Jersey one-mile oval this weekend and the results of the preliminaries proved quite revealing.

Last Friday evening the pacing and trotting fillies and mares of both gaits were on display and when the stonedust settled the focus was clearly on three fast freshman fillies, one pacer and two trotters.

In the first of two Breeders Crown eliminations for two-year-old filly pacers, the race was actually billed as a matchup between the unbeaten JK She'salady (Tim Tetrick) and the talented Sassa Hanover (Yannick Gingras) and the race gained added focus when Gingras opted off JK She'salady - the top standardbred of either gate or gender - to drive Sassa Hanover.

Soon after the gate folded in that Breeders Crown elim, Sassa Hanover gained command and led the field into the far turn where JK She'salady grinded her way up first over to join the leader. At that point the stage was set for a dramatic showdown and onlookers would see why Gingras took Sassa Hanover over JK She'salady heading into the Crown.

But when JK She'salady looked Sassa Hanover in the eye leaving the three-quarter mark, the unbeaten filly had no problem with her anticipated rival. In fact, JK She'salady overhauled Sassa Hanover with such ease that Tetrick never tapped her with the whip or pulled the earplugs. Sassa Hanover lasted for the place spot but was clearly no match for the winner.

While JK She'salady and Sassa Hanover had their initial showdown last weekend, a pair of talented freshman trotting fillies will meet this weekend in another Breeders Crown final that should decide divisional honors.

Mission Brief (Gingras) won the first Crown elim for two-year-old trotting fillies in 1:54.1 for her eighth win in 12 starts this year for trainer Ron Burke. When she has stayed flat, Mission Brief has performed remarkably and owns a lifetime mark of 1:50.3 that is the fastest ever for her category and one that even the top older trotting males have a difficult time attaining.

Then in the other Crown elim for this division, Wild Honey (Gingras) cruised to her ninth win in 10 starts when she led throughout for trainer Jim Takter. Wild Honey has won nine straight outings since finishing second in her career debut and will get an acid test this weekend in the Breeders Crown final for two-year-old filly trotters. If Mission Brief stays flat, she wins but if she makes a break as she did in the Goldsmith Maid final, Wild Honey would prevail and possibly usurp the Burke trainee for division honors.

Saturday night's various Breeders Crown eliminations for the boys also produced some intriguing results, which will set the stage for some interesting finals with divisional honors at stake.

This season the three-year-old pacing colt division has yet to produce a standout and heading into the Crown elims there were at least a handful of sophomore pacers that could have staked their claim to the Dan Patch Award for this division. At least one of them failed miserably on Saturday.

In the first of the two Crown eliminations for three-year-old colt pacers, Always B Miki (David Miller) brushed to command down the backside and then held safe JK Endofanera (Ron Pierce) to score in 1:50, while He's Watching (Tetrick), last year's freshman pacing colt champ and earlier hero of the Meadowlands Pace in 1:46.4, faded after a first over bid and did not earn a berth in the final.

Always B Miki has won 12 of 19 starts and earned nearly $800,000 this year for trainer Joe Holloway and is among the serious contenders for divisional honors heading into this weekend's final. But so is JK Endofanera, who has won 10 of 17 starts and earned over $950,000 for Burke and was gaining with every stride in the lane last weekend.

Several races later in the second Crown elim, Limelight Beach (Gingras) kept his hopes alive for a divisional title when he led throughout to score in 1:49.3 for Burke. The Little Brown Jug hero owns a solid 5-8-1 slate and $620,000 bankroll from 19 starts this year and he held safe McWicked (Brian Sears) who raced well despite a first over journey in his elim while getting Lasix for the first time.

Although the title of champion two-year-old colt pacer will likely go to Artspeak, hero of both the Metro Stakes and Governors Cup finals for trainer Tony Alagna who is idle until the spring, perhaps a genuine upset possibility in the Crown final goes to In The Arsenal.

Already boasting wins in both the Lawrence Sheppard final at Yonkers and the Matron Stakes at Dover Downs, In The Arsenal (Sears) overcame post 10 to gain command on the first turn, led the field to midstretch then was overhauled late by Tracuer Hanover and Lyons Levi Lewis. But In The Arsenal should benefit from that tightener and he could peak next weekend in the Breeders Crown final even if division honors may not be at stake.