Tracks offer solid Saturday night cards

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Ted Black

January 8th, 2016

While many sports enthusiasts are eager to watch the Wild Card round of the National Football League playoffs get under way on Saturday, serious standardbred racing fans will focus their attention on the cards at Yonkers Raceway and The Meadowlands tomorrow night.

Most 0f the upper level trotters and pacers that normally compete at Yonkers are still getting a mild freshening before beginning their respective 2016 campaigns, but many of the hard-knocking overnight horses are set to return following a modest one-month vacation. But several horses racing on Saturday night have already made their seasonal debuts at other venues and they could have an edge in sharpness over their returning rivals.

In the second race, a non-winners of $12,800 last five starts class for older pacers, Mississippi Hippy (Brent Holland) fits the class perfectly and raced well in his 2015 finale at this level. But Panchester United (George Brennan) finished fifth in his seasonal debut last weekend at The Meadowlands for trainer Ron Burke and looms the one to beat in this spot. He could also win this event and still fit the same class next weekend.

One race later on the card, a non-winners of $18,000 last five starts class for older pacers, UF Rockin Dragon (Mark MacDonald) is certainly the one to beat. Not only did the Mark Ford trainee draw the rail for this event, but he finished fifth in the Open Handicap last weekend at The Meadowlands while his seven rivals here were still on vacation. He should benefit from the inside draw and the fitness edge tomorrow night.

Then one race later in the non-winners of $12,000 last five starts class for pacers, Martini Hanover (Brian Sears) figures to be difficult to beat. Not only did the Chris Ryder trainee draw post two, he also raced twice during the break in the 3-5-Year-Old Open Handicap at Dover Downs against the likes of Major Uptrend and Bad Boy Matt. He has enough speed to secure good early position and also should own a fitness edge over his six rivals who were idle since the previous meet ended.

Then much later in the 11th, the finale on the card, give two horses a serious look in this non-winners of $25,000 last five starts class for older pacers. Both Forty Five Red (Brennan) and Sweet Beach (Daniel Dube) raced at The Meadowlands last weekend and should be sharp for this event. Forty Five Red rallied first over to defeat conditioned foes in 1:51.1 for owner-trainer Ricky Bucci, while Sweet Beach faded to seventh after a first over trip in the Open Handicap.

That same night at The Meadowlands the first two races look very intriguing and there are several worthy early daily double plays among the opposing groups of pacers.

The opening race on the card, a non-winners of four races or $25,000 lifetime class for youthful horses looking to climb the condition ladder, take a swing on Elusive Point. This four-year-old Art Major stallion trained and driven by Donald Dancer won his last five starts at Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland, including his last two in career-best 1:54.4 clockings. Initially a $65,000 yearling purchase trained by Ron Burke, Elusive Point earned slightly more than the $18,000 that Dancer and Neil Gargiulo paid for him six months ago and looms a value play in his Big M debut.

Then one race later in the $25,000 Open Handicap for older pacers, the three horses on the outside all have a legitimate chance to score. Kingofthejungle (Andy Miller) saw his modest three-race win streak come to an end last week when fourth against this group, but could rebound for trainer Mark Capone. Doctor Butch (John Campbell) rallied from well off the pace to finish second in this spot last week and figures to be more aggressively handled off the gate tonight, while Bushwacker (Corey Callahan) arrives as the defending champion of this event and sports three wins in his last four starts for trainer Chris Ryder.