Hollywood’s Hits: Nine notable things about the 2017 racing season

December 17, 2017

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by Bob Heyden

Lots of things happened in 2017 not seen before in the sport’s history — at least a very long time. For instance…

1. Two 1:48.4 victories at the Meadowlands by a sophomore filly — 3 weeks apart. On July 15, Agent Q in the Mistletoe Shalee and Blazin Britches on Aug. 5 in the Shady Daisy. Both were driven by David Miller. These two fillies are likely to be the top balloting choices. They are the top two money-winners among all sophomore pacing fillies. Both fillies went off at 30 cents on the dollar, it was 80 degrees for both and Idyllic Beach was on the board behind both. (2nd to Agent Q, 3rd to Blazin Britches)

2. If Marion Marauder can edge out Crazy Wow for the division title among the older trotting horses and geldings, it would be the first time in 48 years that a Triple Crown winner — trotter or pacer — would have come back the very next year and won at least a divisional title. Nevele Pride won his third straight HOY title in 1969 after his Triple Crown season of 1968. Speedy Scot was the Trotter of the Year in 1964 after winning his Triple Crown in 1963 and Scott Frost was both 3 and 4YO Horse of the Year in 1955-1956 after becoming the sport’s first ever Triple Crown winner. Marion Marauder won more money than any other older trotter, but had only three victories. 10 3-3-2 $769,000 the richest ever Triple Crown winner (lifetime) was second in the Yonkers International for his biggest payday ($250,000).

3. A female trainer was first or second in all three trotting Triple Crown races — again? One year after Paula Wellwood won the Triple Crown with the aforementioned Marion Marauder, Julie Miller was either first or second in each leg of the Trotting Triple Crown — Devious Man second in the Hambletonian, Top Flight Angel in the Yonkers Trot winner and Devious Man again the runnerup in the Kentucky Futurity.

4. I’ll bet you a “Fiftydallarbill” that Donerail never left New Jersey — ever.

True. The son of Valley Victory never did leave the Garden State, not even once, for his career, which saw him win the Peter Haughton and capture freshman honors in 1994. He came back at 3 and retired in July, 1995 with a 1:55.4 mark. Now, the Breeders Crown-winning Fifty Dollarbill is on a similar path, but in Indiana. The Breeders Crown winner never left the Hoosier State, and every one of his pari-mutuel starts was at Hoosier Park. (He debuted in a non-bettor at the Indianapolis State Fair).

5. Manchego. If she is named HOY — or if Ariana G is so named — it would be a first. A trotting HOY siring a HOY. Muscle Hill is the sire of both. Machego was 12-for-12, favored in every start, won by a combined 46-and-a-quarter lengths, won four $250,000 races and drew outside of post position 5 just once. (seven of her 12 starts from post 4) Three times she paid the minimum $2.10 to win.

6. First 3-peater Su Mac Lad was the Trotting Horse of the Year in 1960, 1961 and 1962. The first 4-peater Fresh Yankee was the Trotting Mare of the Year” in 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972. The first 5-peater Peace Corps won division titles in 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992. But, no one in history has ever done what Pure Country is on the cusp of doing — winning the top pacing filly award at two, three and four. That’s right, no pacing filly, not even Eternal Camnation or Miss Easy won the division title three straight years. It will be especially interesting considering that Pure Country won just five-of-16 races and her four biggest wins saw her emerge victorious despite not being the betting favorite in any race.

7. Bruise brothers Fear The Dragon and Downbytheseaside? Consider, the stablemates for Brian Brown were the two richest performers of 2017. Both debuted in May and both raced in the Nov. 30 Progress Pacce finishing 1-2. They were also 1-2 in the North America Cup. Downbytheseaside equaled his personal best of 1:48.3 in his final start.

8. Consider that Manchego and Plunge Blue Chip were a combined 21-for-22 in 2017 in the same 2yoft division and never once faced each other. Now, how about Blazin Britches, the 11-time winner and $540,000 earner never once raced in any event that was won by Agent Q — a 10-time winner and the division’s highest earner? How could this be? True, they did both compete in the Breeders Crown prep (third and seventh) and Agent Q twice was in a race that Blazin Britches won, but what about Mano-Mano? Are the days of Western Ideal-Dragon Again or Real Desire-Bettors Delight gone forever?

9. Going into 2017, who would have thought that Trace Tetrick would win two Breeders Crowns while brother Timmy had the rare shutout, or that the three Trotting Triple Crown race winners — combined — would have a 21.6 per cent winning percentage for the year — 11-for-51? Hambletonian winner Perfect Spirit was five-for-11; Yonkers Trot winner Top Flight Angel was four-for-18 and Kentucky Futurity winner Snowstorm Hanover was two-for-22. Or that Dr J Hanover would get things going with a 1:46.4 Graduate mile in June and that mile would hold up as the fastest for the entire year, making 27-year-old Doug McNair the youngest ever driver in the sub 1:47 club, or that Jordan Stratton and Peter Tritton would be behind the first ever Down Under horse to post consecutive $500,000 seasons in North America — Bit Of A Legend?

HOY trotters 1-2-3?

The last time trotters finished 1-2-3 in the Horse of the Year ballot was in 2007 when Donato Hanover (157 votes) defeated rookie Deweycheatumnhowe (13), with fellow rookie Snow White getting 11 votes.

Quiz

Q. Who was the last trainer/driver to have a Horse of the Year?

A. Ray Remmen in 1990 with Beach Towel.

50 per cent solution?

The 1995 Horse of the Year ballot looked like this:

119 ½ votes to C R Kay Suzie and 81 ½ votes to Jennas Beach Boy.

You mean after 12 months of racing (Jenna did race on Dec. 26 at the Meadowlands of his 3YO season defeating the older free-for-allers) someone still couldn’t decide?

Headliner Award

In 1949, the “Headliner” award was given out each year, basically running alongside the Horse of the Year balloting. But in a couple of those years, they differed:

In 1958, HOY went to Emilys Pride, but the “Headliner” went to Belle Acton

In 1954, HOY went to Stenographer and “Headliner” went to Adios Boy/Scott Frost in a split vote

In 1949, HOY was Good Time but the “Headliner” was Proximity.

In the 1949 and 1954 years, the “Headliner” was right on the button. The winner would go on to be HOY the next year(s) — 1950 Proximity and 1955-56 Scott Frost.

Twin peaks

Nobody’s come close to doing this since. Stanley Dancer twice had the 1-2 finishers in the Horse of the Year ballot:

In 1962, Su Mac Lad won over Henry T Adios. In 1972, Albatross won over Super Bowl.

(Linda Toscano did this last – once – in 2012 with Chapter Seven over Market Share)

The only two

Only twice in the 70-year history of the Horse of the Year balloting has a winner won all of his races consecutively.

In 2006-2007, Donato posted 19 straight wins in 22 tries.

In 2008-2009, Muscle Hill won 20 straight races to close out his career. His only loss was by a neck to his entrymate Homer Jay in his 2008 NJSS debut.

Yannick Gingras — The Early Years

Yannick Gingras was jogging horses at age 5, training horses at age 10 and was 18 when he got his license, though he didn’t start driving regularly until age 20.

He won three of 23 races and $12,036 in purses in 1998 as his career kicked off.

His first series win was at the Meadowlands in the 2003 Horse & Groom with Pinetucky. In 2004, he was the USHWA Rising Star Award winner the same year he drove Meadowlands Pace favorite (9-5) Timesareachanging. The pair finished second in what was Gingras’ Pace debut. Timesareachanging would be Gingras’ first Dan Patch Division winner. That same year, Gingras drove the winners of $3,885,099 to rank 23rd in North America. It was his first top 25 finish.

Did You Know…

… The 1958 Governor’s Cup was for three-year-old trotters and was won by LaBelle?

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