by Brett Sturman
Through the first two legs of the Levy series thus far there is only a single horse that hasn’t lost yet, and it’s the upstart Missile J. No one’s been more impressive than the NY-sired American Ideal gelding and what’s even more remarkable is that he’s racing against older horses for the first time in his career as one of only two four-year-olds that have started in this series.
Trained last year as a 3-year-old by Linda Toscano but this year by Scott DiDomenico, Missile J’s history at Yonkers is well documented. He won the $300,000 Art Rooney here last year as one of a number of his stakes wins in the state and has proved throughout his seven wins this year that he can win anywhere he’s sent to. Despite banking over $313,000 last year as a sophomore, he was never regarded as one of the top tier horses in the crop although what we’re seeing now is a potential transformation to a more serious free-for-all type.
Although both of his Levy wins have come from off the pace, which is no small feat at Yonkers, he can probably do it on the front end if need be as shown by his down the road score at the Meadowlands in February against well-meant foes. Enough can’t be said about his performances thus far against the older, more seasoned war horses and he’s gone from an intriguing outsider at the onset of this series to clearly one of the main contenders to win the series final.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, McWicked has seen his stock plummet over the course of the past two weeks and I’m somewhat surprised to see that he’s back in-to-go this Saturday for the third leg of the series. He seemed good to go for the series after two nice looking preps and was bet down to 50 cents on the dollar in his opening leg but hasn’t yet been up to the challenge. Perhaps he’s still working towards his better form as he recovers from throat surgery, but the reality is that he’s only raced eight times since 2015 and might not be up to this level of competition.
In other Levy happenings, Rockin Ron has emerged as trainer Ron Burke’s best contender of his four entries. He’s second in the Levy standings to only Missile J with a second and a win to his credit, although stablemate and hard-knocking horse All Bets Off is making a good account for himself as well despite coming up short last week at 1-5. Bit Of A Legend N has been good with back-to-back runner-up performances, but still seeks his first win in a series that he swept through last year. Tritton barn mate Provacativeprince N was game in winning two back but then was dueled into defeat last week as the even money favorite; he probably should have been better that night against a game front end longshot.
Mach It So has been surprisingly flat in his first two series starts. You could excuse the first one while making his first start back, but he lacked any real punch last week despite getting a nice second over tow. The past month hasn’t been kind to Our Sky Major N. There were high hopes for the import as of two weeks ago, but he sat out the series last week to gain a score in a conditioned race at the Meadowlands and now is doomed with another outside post when entering back in the Levy this week; I still think there’s potential here. Bettor’s Edge should have won last week but didn’t; a great example of having to weigh the record of a horse against the record of its trainer.
While not entirely Levy related, I’m sure that many noticed Yonkers and the Meadowlands running races on top of one another throughout the night on Saturday. In one case, Yonkers’ eighth race and the seventh race at The Big M went off exactly three seconds apart.
In Yonkers we have a track with the highest quality of racing but where no one bets, and at the Meadowlands we have lesser quality horses with multi-million dollar handle. The relationship between the two tracks has been contentious for some time, but for the sake of interested spectators these tracks should work together the same way they’re able to coordinate with other tracks.
Speaking of the Meadowlands, the track is feeling the pinch with the new season at Pocono Downs now underway and Harrah’s Philadelphia opening back up on Sunday. It happens this time every year and total entries at the Meadowlands this weekend consists of 188 horses, down 12 from last weekend and down 22 from just two weeks ago.
Up north, there is no preferred for aged pacers this weekend at Woodbine although the N/W $28,000 conditioned race might as well be. Of the seven entrants, five of them were in last week’s preferred and the only difference this week is that they all get away from American Virgin who had won four preferreds in a row and five of the last six; even a first over grind last week couldn’t stop him.
Lastly, Saratoga Harness announced earlier this week that any horse that scratches from post seven or eight will not be allowed to re-enter until after seven days. This rule isn’t entirely novel, but the aim of it is clear. A peek into the post position statistics from Saratoga this year show a noticeable drop off in win percentage once you go beyond post six, as one would expect, but what’s interesting is how close the winning percentage of remaining post positions are. Posts one and two both have 39 wins from 226 starts but not far behind is post four with 37 wins and post five with 34 wins. It is unusual to see that level of distribution on a half mile track. The percentage of winning favorites at the track remains at a ridiculous 43 per cent; the remaining 57 per cent of favorites who actually lose must come largely from myself.
Last Week’s Bankroll: $920
Total Wagers: $68
Total Return: $89
This Week’s Bankroll: $941
Hoosier Park – Saturday, April 1
Race 8: Hoosier Park kicks off its season tonight that will culminate with the Breeders Crown in October, but first things first. NEW TALENT invades from Woodbine where he left that track on a winning note in N/W 3 conditioned race. Some of the recent horses he was up against have gone onto do much better things such as Machal Jordan (winner of his race two back) and this one might fit the Hoosier track well; I’d expect a square price. OUR LUCKY CHIP seems a step slower than most of these right now but exits a game speed try and the rail will obviously help. COSMICPEDIA returns to the Midwest after three recent tries at Yonkers; prior Miami Valley form is hit or miss. DELIGHT FAHSION was involved in a 1:50:4 mile two back.
$25 Win 5
$5 Exacta Box 1-5
Race 13: In the F&M open feature, CLIMATE HANOVER is only three races removed from a 1:52:2 win from post 7 at Northfield and one would have to think that rates to a sub 1:51 mile if it were contested at Miami Valley, which is where many others in this race are coming in from. The seven-year-old has both the seasoning and post advantage over many of her main rivals; could offer a price as the logical choice. SHADY CAROLINE goes for Burke but makes her first start since January; that recent qualifier at Meadows home base looked good. ENDEAVORS FANTASY is the other 4-year-old in here in addition to #8 and she comes off a nice second place finish last out to the classy Jerseylicious; Widger may need to invent some early speed. WILD WANDA ships north from the friendly confines of Pompano although she did win here last year in 1:50:3; STABLE EYES invades from Cal Expo on a tear against lesser.
$25 Win 3
$3 Exacta Box 2-3-7