by Brett Sturman
In addition to eliminations for the “Fall Final Four” stakes at the Meadowlands Saturday which already has some good subplots, there are a number of other horses and races on the card that catch the eye.
The first race of the night is an ordinary near-bottom level race for trotters carrying a meager $8,500 purse, but from a nostalgia standpoint it features the Big M return of former stars of many moons ago Quick Deal and Master Of Law.
Quick Deal once won here in 1:51:4 when he won a Meadowlands feature in 2014 but now 9, has only raced 11 times over the last 23 months. Similarly, Master of Law who once beat Sebastian K also in the year 2014 in the Centaur at Hoosier, has only made five starts total between 2016 and 2017. Long since removed from trainers Burke and Takter that these champions enjoyed their best success with, how do they rate on Saturday?
The well-traveled of late Master Of Law will probably go off as the favorite despite post 10 and a break last out at Plainridge. He cut the pace in a 1:51:4 mile at Lexington four back in a race that included former Hambletonian champ Pinkman and that alone should make him tough.
Quick Deal on the other hand makes his first start for a new barn but recent form
doesn’t look as good and he’d be a surprise. One horse that could beat them both is Gold Medal Swan who debuts for trainer Mark Silva and lands the rail. Invading from Woodbine, we may see some improvement and should offer a good enough price to find out.
What will we see this week in the third edition of the Pick 10 survivor bet? It’s been a tale of two different stories thus far with everyone being eliminated after just race 3 two weeks ago following big longshots in races 1 and 3, but then last week there was a sole survivor that made it through all 10 races. Many other races throughout the night don’t have a clear cut favorite either, all of which will add to trickiness of the wager now.
Of the four big stakes eliminations, it’s the Governor’s Cup that contains the most intrigue.
In an already wide-open race for the top 2-year-old colts and geldings, the horse Springsteen (Rock N Roll Heaven—American Charm) makes his Meadowlands debut. The winner of the Matron stakes less than one week ago, he now moves from trainer Rene Allard to Mark Harder as Allard is barred from racing at the Meadowlands. The horse is interesting because when he won the Matron last Monday he did so in just his third start for Allard, although Springsteen had clearly showed serious potential earlier this year when trained and driven by Chris Ryder in Canada.
The question now becomes from a handicapping standpoint, what can we expect out of Springsteen on the change to Harder. It’s noteworthy that brother Simon Allard will be at the Meadowlands to drive Springsteen. Allard drove the colt to victory at Dover last out but has only driven a total of two times at the Meadowlands going back to at least July of 2014. I think that even on the trainer change Springsteen will stay sharp, but it is somewhat of a guessing game. While it’s debatable how much he’s improved since going to Allard, he blew past a horse in the Matron that nearly won the Breeders Crown and is a serious contender in his own right, regardless of trainer.
The morning line favorite in the race is Lost In Time who didn’t fire in the Breeders Crown as the 3-5 favorite and now has the outside post. American History puts his undefeated streak on the line for trainer Tony Alagna; he’s won his three lifetime starts by a combined 18 lengths. Fashiononthebeach nearly shocked here last week at 48/1; Jeff Gregory gets the deserving return call.
Not to be outdone in the trainer change department, the seemingly villainous (through no fault of her own) Lady Shadow debuts for her new connections in a leg of the TVG Mares Pace. Recently selling online for $310,000, she was purchased by a group of owners that includes trainer Richard Banca who happens to not be allowed to race at the Meadowlands. As such, Lady Shadow goes from Banca to trainer Mark Ford.
The dilemma for those betting is that at least in the case of Springsteen we see the trainer change from Allard to Harder, but since Lady Shadow hasn’t yet raced since the sale, it gives the appearance that she’s bypassed Banca altogether and went directly to Mark Ford as the trainer.
What Lady Shadow will do is tough to predict. She hasn’t been at her best since other previously mandated trainer changes throughout recent months but she does own a good Meadowlands history. There’s no questioning her class but how hard will she be used in her first start for new connections from an outside post for only $25,000? Pure Country makes her first start since that strong sweep to win the Breeders Crown and is capable of anything. Nike Franco returns to friendlier confines and lands the post edge.
As for the three remaining Fall Final Four races, seven of the top 10 will advance to the final in the Three Diamonds next week. Kissin In The Sand was ultra-impressive for Nancy Johansson last week and she’ll be heavily backed to make quick work of her foes tonight. Reign On Me was one that I thought could have beaten Kissin In The Sand last week but she clearly was second best; goes from the rail to post 10 now. In the theme of trainer changes, Pueblo Blue Chip goes from Menary to Burke and makes her first start since the Breeders Crown; could easily surprise. Strong Opinion finally gets away Crown champion Youaremycandygirl after four straight races; Aldine Hanover could be a sneaky longshot play.
In the Goldsmith Maid, all but a single horse will make the final to race against the awaiting Hey Blondie. Basquiat has now been favored twice in a row – at even money no less – against fillies she should not have been favored against (Phaetosive and Hey Blondie). That said, she has a tactical advantage over her main rivals and will deserve her favoritism now. Seviyorum obviously has a huge kick but is likely to be coming from far back; I don’t know if this elimination is the right spot to back her even though she’ll be moving forward late. Piranha Fury is an interestingly play in that she showed potential at Lexington even with those breaks and now goes from Kyle Husted to Dave Miller.
In the Valley Victory, Wolfgang beat Samo Different Day last week at Dover to win the Matron, and that rival has received a bye into next week’s final. Met’s Hall seems overdue for a win and really is better than most of these. The horse that beat him in the Breeders Crown got the better trip and he’ll have every chance to win this. Fourth Dimension didn’t fire in the Breeders Crown as the big favorite; maybe it was the weather and now he draws the rail. Not to be forgotten from post 9, Fashionwoodchopper has beaten all of these at one point or another.
$50,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 ticket (races 8 through 11): $0.50 ticket 5-7-9 / 7-8-9 / 6-9-10 / 3-9 Cost $27