by Dean Towers
On elimination nights, this can sometimes be heard from grandstands, simulcast centers, and homes across North America:
“They should stop racing elimination races as pari-mutuel affairs, because they’re horrible for the betting public”
“The chalk gets an easy lead and nothing happens.”
“Eliminations are boring.”
Maybe those arguments carry some water, but at Mohawk on Saturday we could throw them right out the window.
In the first elimination, the expected easy, boring win for the 1-9 shot Downbytheseaside was a pipe-dream. After settling fifth, the strapping son of Somebeachsomewhere out of Sprig Hanover was tested through an all-out sprint :53.1 middle half, and this left him soft at the end of his mile. The colt had too much class compared to his overmatched foes and he still held on nicely for the win.
David Miller sounded a little disappointed in his postrace interview and it’ll be interesting to see if that was warranted or not. Regardless, when 1-9 shots win exactly like they’re supposed to, handicapping is an easy game. If not, we sharpen the pencils.
Skipping over to the third elimination, the fun continued. What looked like a textbook quarter-pole move by David Miller and the very fast Fear the Dragon didn’t end up being so easy because of Hurricane Beach. The Somebeachsomewhere—Blazing Yankee colt, driven by Louis Roy, simply would not sit the hole, and pressed Fear the Dragon in a :27 backstretch move. After putting away Hurricane Beach, Fear the Dragon and David Miller had to survive a late break in stride caused by a head number that was laying on the track.
Yes, those two eliminations sure were boring weren’t they? Nothing to see here, move along.
Thankfully, what many consider the division leader – Huntsville – had things much easier in his elimination. Eased back early by driver Tim Tetrick, Huntsville roared to the front, quickened the tempo with a :26.4 third quarter and won as easy as a horse can. If one nitpicks (as we as handicappers often do) it was a little concerning that the colt drifted in the lane. But again, that’s nitpicking.
Come next Saturday night, it’s pretty clear bettors will flock to Huntsville, Fear the Dragon and Downbytheseaside in that order, with the former being the heavy chalk.
Looking at the horses who did not win, but kind of impressed can sometimes yield some fruit and there were a couple who caught my eye.
Against Fear the Dragon, Ron Burke’s Filibuster Hanover looked really sharp off cover. He was one of the most live horses in the lane of the evening. Another Burke pupil – Miso Fast — came from way back in his elimination and looked like he had some fire. I could see both those horses in the superfecta, with a decent starting slot.
For handicappers, next weekend’s final can probably be boiled down to what price one wants to take on Huntsville. Personally I am not a chalk player, and with his drift in the lane, along with the fact we could see him challenged early with at least one Brian Brown entrant, I will look elsewhere. I’ll probably take a shot that Downbytheseaside is tightened up with those strong fractions, and use Filibuster Hanover in the supers.