by Brett Sturman
Between waiting on a decision to see if Ariana G would opt to the Hambletonian in the absence of Walner and the Meadowlands being successful in the barring of top race mare Lady Shadow, this week leading up to the Hambletonian wasn’t lacking any drama. With those subjects and others, let’s go through the top races one by one.
$113,950 Shady Daisy: Talk about a barn change. Ella Christina was bombs away last weekend in her division in the Adioo Volo when she won at 56-1 on the barn change from Nancy Johansson to Nick Surick. It was hard to see that one coming when looking back at prior lines, but now she faces even tougher and would be an even bigger shock. The other Adioo Volo winner from last week at The Meadows is also in here and Blazin Britches set a lifetime mark in 1:50:1 in that race; both Ella Christina and Blazin Britches have supplemented to this race. The Brian Brown trainee also goes from Trace Tetrick to David Miller and that ought to count for something; a solid test against #6. Idyllic Beach has been going against tougher in all six of her starts this season and she did all she could last out to chase after Agent Q in the Shalee to be second best; no disgrace there.
$176,250 Steele Memorial: What an odd and frustrating trip that Hannelore Hanover got last out in her Spirit of Mass race at Plainridge, through no fault of driver Yannick Gingras. Every time Gingras went to make a move out of the three hole, Svanstedt popped the pocket with Resolve only to go nowhere – this happened continuously in the race. Regardless, it’s back to racing against fellow mares now and she was untouchable when last seen here on the Meadowlands Pace card; seems tough to go against. Emoticon Hanover was a sharp front-end winner last out on that same Pace card and everything that we’ve seen in these parts from trainer Luc Blais has been firing. She couldn’t get to Hannelore earlier this season in Canada but may be able to give her a run for her money now. Pasithea Face S will probably attract attention in her second start since for Takter since arriving some Sweden. That last quarter of :26:1 stands out, but I’ll note that every horse in that race came home in :26 and change.
Race 3 $1 Pick 4: 3-8 / 1-5-7 / 2-4 / 3-7 $24
$360,650 Peter Haughton: If Meadowlands boss Jeff Gural has a rooting interest in this race, it’s probably anyone except You Know You Do. That colt is one of a remarkable six horses in here that are trained by Jimmy Takter, but this one is co-owned by Howard Taylor with whom Gural continues to fight with. Despite the 2-1 morning line, this one hasn’t proven to be as fast yet as a number of others although Yannick does go here over a number of other ones he could have chosen. Samo Different Day brushed and crushed in his elimination at a big price in a fast mile. Met’s Hall had the tougher trip last out in that 1:54:2 mile and is one of the obvious contenders.
$330,800 Jim Doherty Memorial: Phaetosive capitalized off some wild fractions in her elimination last week to win going away in an amazing 1:53.1. Manchego is the other top contender and no one’s been able to come close to touching her just yet; intriguing showdown coming.
$303,050 John Cashman Memorial: Crazy Wow has never been better than he’s been over the past couple of months and he gave way late at Plainridge a week ago after coming under pressure multiple times throughout the race. It’s back to Yannick now and he’s just a race removed from the fastest qualifying mile ever for a trotter; he can upset. Marion Marauder shined on this day one year ago when he won the Hambletonian over Southwind Frank and he’s been mowing them down in grinding fashion in almost every race since. Zeron times the wire with this one perfectly nearly every time and he lands the ideal post to stalk once again; a deserving favorite. Flanagan Memory owns a good history the seldom times he appears here and won on this day two years ago. Lookslikeachpndale is another one of these Luc Blais invaders that shocked last time; picks up Dube. JL Cruze got the trip last out and scored in huge upset fashion; I doubt it’ll happen again but you never know. Resolve looks like he could be tailing off just a bit and I’ll swing against if the price is short.
$334,325 Cane Pace: It’s a rematch between Huntsville and Downbytheseaside and what can I say that you don’t already know? The wide trip for the first half of the mile in the Adios likely cost Huntsville and the move back to the big track should help. Downbytheseaside ran out of real estate when he was about to get to Huntsville three weeks ago in the Pace and I can’t wait to see what we get this time. Burke’s entrant R J P had belated pace down the inside in the Adios, but wasn’t a factor against these rivals in the Pace; would need a hot battle up front early.
$100,000 Hambletonian Elimination: Victor Gio It has climbed the ladder quickly and it’s tough to get a read on him since he’s been racing against older conditioned foes, but he was second last out in one of the fastest trotting miles ever and at the end of the day it’s Takter and Gingras. I think they’re sitting on a good one. Stanley Dancer winner Long Tom has been excellent this year since returning like a new horse for Melander; one of the obvious contenders to not win just this elimination but the entire thing. International Moni looks no worse for the wear since returning from a bout with illness; will be storming home as usual. Giveitgasandgo and Bill’s Man are both entrants from the Butenschoen stable; regular pilot for both horses is Callahan and he goes to Bill’s Man; may or may not be telling.
Race 8 $1 Pick 4: 5-7-8 / 1-9 / 2-10 / 4-8-9 $36
$100,000 Hambletonian Elimination: Devious Man took a run at Walner in his division of the Dancer and turned in a respectable performance to be second. With that rival not racing in the Hambletonian, the Beal winner Devious Man inherits the role of lukewarm favorite. His speed always gives him a shot and if he’s to win the final he should be able to handle this group. There’s nothing to knock with What The Hill and he’ll be in the thick of things starting from the rail. Enterprise was game last week in nearly fending off International Moni.
$224,400 Sam McKee Memorial: With the official announcement Thursday that Wiggle It Jiggleit will not start this year due to injury, the older pacing ranks continue to lack depth, but you can’t say that they aren’t a competitive group. They’ve put on a show the last couple of weeks between the Haughton here on Pace night and most recently the Gerrity at Saratoga. Mach It So has turned it on in the last couple of weeks for Bamond since the driver change to Miller and he was touted here two weeks ago at 16-1; unfortunately all of that value is now gone. Mel Mara was an easy play against two back when starting from the second tier and I’m inclined to play against him once again; speedster would need things his own way on the front. Wakizashi Hanover is razor sharp at the moment as a number of other starters from this barn have been lately; offers some interesting value from post 9 for a horse that should be going forward early. Boston Red Rocks went a game trip two back but hung when it counted; still has earned my respect in recent weeks.
$500,000 Hambletonian Oaks: The connections of Ariana G have settled on what looks to be a “sure thing” by electing to race their filly in the Oaks instead of the Hambletonian, and it’s probably in the best interest of the horse to do so and avoid multiple heats against colts. There really isn’t a reason to go against as this one’s proven time and time again that she’s too good for this group.
$1,000,000 Hambletonian Final: Victor Gio It, Devious Man, Long Tom
$200,400 Lady Liberty: As we all know by now the Lady Liberty will go on without the presence of the top pacing mare in the country, Lady Shadow. Due to a recently reported therapeutic medication overage from Betsy Ross at Harrah’s Philadelphia in May, Jeff Gural was able to use that to bar Lady Shadow from racing. It would have been a treat to watch Nike Franco N slug it out with Lady Shadow once again, but what we’re left with is a raging Nike Franco N fresh off a 1:48 clocking renewing her battle with Pure Country. That rival almost held on last week despite setting scorching fractions but Nike Franco N rattled home in :25.4 to beat her; seems like a two-horse affair.