Weekend harness recap

Ted Black

October 7th, 2014

During a weekend in which the last two remaining undefeated teams in the National Football League both suffered three-touchdown defeats, many of harness racing's top trotters and pacers also suffered setbacks at the Red Mile in Lexington, Kentucky as the discussion for trotter of the year, pacer of the year and horse of the year became broader.

In fact, Sunday afternoon at Lexington offered two of the sport's biggest upsets, especially among the trotters. In the $173,000 Allerage Open for older trotters, Sebastian K (Ake Svandstedt) failed to deliver on a 1-5 promise when he was overhauled late by 31-1 outsider Creatine (Trace Tetrick) in 1:51.2. When he first landed on the American shores, Sebastian K was the unmistakable giant of sport, winning major stakes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania while recording a spectacular 1:49 triumph at Pocono Downs.

But in the months since his early onslaught, Sebastian K has now suffered a trio of shocking setbacks, one each at Mohawk Raceway in Canada, Hoosier Park in Indiana and now at Lexington. His invincibility has long been denounced, but Sebastian K is still the obvious selection as champion older trotter and he is still among the short list of contenders for trotter of the year and horses of the year. But with each passing upset, Sebastian K is hardly reminding voters of his early success and instead hinting at his vulnerability.

Several races later on the Lexington card, Nuncio (John Campbell) finally shed his bridesmaid status in major stakes when he outlasted his talented stablemate, Father Patrick (Yannick Gingras) to capture the $435,000 Kentucky Futurity in 1:51.3. Nuncio, who has never been worse than second in his 20-race career, has often been overshadowed by stablemates Father Patrick, last year's champion two-year-old trotting colt and the beaten favorite in the Hambletonian, and Trixton, the Hambo winner who has since been retired.

But Sunday afternoon, on a day of upsets at the Red Mile, Nuncio finally got a measure of revenge when he gained command in a 27.2 opener and maintained an honest tempo by the half in 54.1 and by three-quarters in 1:22.2 and then held safe Father Patrick for a length score. Both talented trotters, as was Trixton, hail from the Jimmy Takter barn. Father Patrick is still the division leader, but the Yonkers Trot, Matron Stakes and Breeders Crown all could play a role in numerous titles this fall.

In the last race of the day on Sunday in Lexington, State Treasurer (Tim Tetrick) rallied second over to post an 8-1 upset over Foiled Again in 1:48.3 in the $160,000 Allerage Farm Open for pacers. Sweet Lou (Ron Pierce), once deemed invincible, faded to fifth and has now suffered three straight setbacks since enjoying a 10-race win streak earlier this summer. Once the undisputed leader of the Burke Brigade, Sweet Lou may eventually yield division honors to his durable, illustrious stablemate, Foiled Again, who continues to impress at age 10 and edged closer to the $7 million mark in career earnings with his latest gritty second-place finish after a prolonged first over journey in which he provided live cover to State Treasurer.

Even last year's horse of the year, Bee A Magician (Brian Sears) could not avoid the setback syndrome at Lexington on Sunday. Sent out as the lukewarm 2-1 favorite in the $90,000 Allerage Farm Filly & Mare Open Trot, Bee A Magician launched a first over bid down the backside and into the far turn, surged to command over Maven (Gingras) at the head of the lane then was overhauled late by Mistery Woman (Andrew McCarthy) who posted the 10-1 upset in 1:51. Unbeaten at age three during her horse of the year campaign, Bee A Magician has recorded only two victories in 2014.

While upsets were in vogue on Sunday, they were not the monopoly. In the $224,000 Kentucky Filly Futurity for sophomore trotters, Shake It Cerry (Pierce) continued her bid for a second straight division title when she brushed to command before the half and then cruised home four lengths clear in 1:52.2 for Takter as the 1-5 choice. Then several races later on the card, Yagonnakissmeornot (Pierce) overcame a parked-the-mile journey and excess cover to capture the $90,000 Allerage Farm Filly-Mare Open by a nose in 1:49.3 for trainer Rene Allard to continue her belated bid to join the short list of contenders for champion aged pacing mare.

Even the best juvenile pacers were not immune to the upsets. Artspeak (Scott Zeron) saw his perfect record come to a halt when he made an uncharacteristic break and settled for third in the Bluegrass Stakes, his first setback in eight career outings. Artspeak had won his first seven starts, including the Metro final at Mohawk and was beginning to gather some momentum for pacer of the year honors. He still could join that list with wins in the Matron and Breeders Crown this fall.

Perhaps the best performance of the weekend was delivered by a two-year-old, however, when JK She'salady (Gingras) romped to a five-length score in 1:50.2 in a Bluegrass Stakes for juvenile pacing fillies. Undefeated in seven starts, JK She'slady may have usurped Artspeak as the best juvenile pacer in the land of either gender with her latest powerful score and she could be on target to gather serious consideration for pacer of the year honors with victories later this fall in the Matron and Breeders Crown.