by Ron Gurfein
Tidbits: What a fascinating time of year in the horse business. The weather is beautiful, all the tracks are going full tilt, the 2-year-olds have been unveiled and the major stakes have begun. Hope you’re all enjoying the fun.
The Meadowlands is not an easy track on which to drive, as was quite evident in the performance of Louis-Philippe Roy on Jimmy Freight, the Adriano Sorella-owned supplement to the Crawford Meadowlands Pace. First of all, the front end has been a death trap of late unless the horse had seconds on the field. On top of that, instead of backing down the half he threw in another 27-second quarter that was totally unnecessary. If he backs the second quarter to :28 or :29 I personally think he is a winner.
Kudos to Tony Alagna for the training clinic he put on Friday at the Meadowlands, winning one race a night at the Big M is an accomplishment, but four is amazing.
What on earth are you going to do with all those good colts? I did say in last week’s column that if Stay Hungry was driven like a normal horse he would win his division. Maybe I should have said the same on Jimmy Freight.
My selections for the final of the PACE and various other stakes appear below. Anyone within a reasonable distance from the Meadowlands Saturday night should make an appearance. The weather will be great and the racing is packed with stars all night long. There are nine major stakes and two eliminations on the card. It is well worth coming. Friday night is packed with some fabulous 2-year-olds, as well.
I do have a suggestion that may perk up a little extra interest in this year’s Hambletonian. How about having Roger Huston as the guest announcer for the Hambletonian and the Oaks? Mix it up a bit guys.
Art Zubrod asks: What do you think of the first-crop sires’ performance thus far?
To me, it has been nothing short of amazing. Father Patrick and Captaintreacherous had a much better quality of mares than Trixton and Sweet Lou, yet they all are doing quite well. After racing for basically less than a month, close to 70 per cent of the pacing foals have raced and 50 per cent of the trotters. Father Patrick’s numbers are truly amazing as he only had 47 registered foals compared to around 100 for the others and he has nine in 2:00 already Trixton has eight.
On the pacing side, Captaintreacherous has had 12 in 155 and Sweet Lou 10 in 1:55.
Think about it, one month in and two first-crop sires have 22 in 1:55 combined. Some of the most talented youngsters representing their sires are: No Mas Amour 1:52.2 and Warrawee Ubeaut 1:52.4 (Sweet Lou), Captain Ahab 1:52.2, De Los Cielos Deo 1:52.2 (Captaintreacherous), Mother Bonnie 1:55 and No Drama Please 1:57.4 (Trixton), and Greenshoe 1:55 and Whispering Oaks 1:55.4 (Father Patrick).
Speed kills, especially with 2-year-olds. I can only hope that this unusual display of early speed has no deleterious effect on the horses. A very smart horseman told me a long time ago that the day will come when all the records will be held by 2-year-olds. We are well on our way.
Nick Salvi asks: You did pretty well last week handicapping what’s THE FINAL ANSWER?
The Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace: I really think last week was much easier to handicap. In the final I can find a few horses that you could bet on. I would throw out This is the Plan, Babes Dig Me, American History, Hayden Hanover and Nutcracker Suite. Once again, I will pick Jimmy Freight to win, hopefully with a more frugal drive. Thinkbig Dreambig is ready for this group for sure and expect him to push Jimmy to the limit. Courtly Choice had two dream trips in a row. I don’t expect a third. Stay Hungry got the drive he needed to win, could repeat if my top choices get roughed up. Dorsoduro Hanover is as good as any of them but from the 10 he needs serious prayers.
Best Bets for the Big M Friday:
Race 3 KINGS COUNTY — One of the best I have seen
Race 5 WHISPERING OAKS — Brilliant filly
Race 7 GREENSHOE — if Melander calms him down he is as good as it gets
Best Bets for the Big M Saturday:
Race 3 PHAETOSIVE — Returns to last years form
Race 4 WOLFGANG — Been on this bandwagon since early last year. Insures Hambletonian favoritism tonight
Race 7 INTERNATIONAL MONI — Makes up for unfortunate trip last week Race 9 SHARTIN N — Appears unbeatable
Bill Nelson Asks: Everyone speaks of the number of Hambletonians you have won. How many did you lose?
That’s a great question. I will say that eliminating two colts that were sent to me the week before — Trustworthy and Condo Commander not exactly household names — I did very well. The three wins we all know. Then I had two seconds with MB Felty in 1991 and Cantab Hall in 2004. I had a fourth with Raphaelo Ambrosio in 1999, the year Self Possessed won. I had two fifths with Confident Victory in 1998 and Great Success in 2007. I had only two out of the money with Divinator in 1997 finishing eighth and Muscle Bound in 2005 finishing seventh from post 10.
So in answer to the question there were only two real losers, as the others all made money.
Thanks again to all my readers for the kind words and please keep the questions coming in. Have a wonderful week.
Have a question for The Guru? Email him at GurfTrot@aol.com.