by Brett Sturman
The 52nd edition of the Delvin Miller Adios final is a handicapping puzzle. At this stage in the season we basically know what we have with each of the top 3-year-olds, but it doesn’t make figuring out who will win the $400,000 signature race at the Meadows any easier.
American History (5-2) should end as the tepid favorite, so let’s start with him. Trainer Tony Alagna won this race in 2016 with Racing Hill, and American History is the stronger of the two entrants from that barn in this race. No disrespect intended, but he seems like a play-against at the anticipated short price. Elimination winner from last week had things his own way when brushing to the front through a controlled early pace en route to a safe 1:51 score.
His 1:47 win from a few back was eye catching as was his Meadowlands Pace elimination when he was an excellent second to eventual Final winner Courtly Choice, but he’s been well beaten the last couple times he’s raced with the big money on the line. Connections chose to start from post 4 after Hitman Hill elected to start from post 3, and he’ll have to be used early to get around that rival. A win would more than double his career bankroll to date.
Dorsoduro Hanover (3-1) is one of two in the Adios final for Ron Burke who amazingly is still in search of that elusive Adios win at his home base; rates a favorable chance to pick it up with this horse. I reluctantly sold this one short in the Pace due to the bad post and was proved dead wrong, and this Somebeachsomewhere gelding came right back last week to get nailed at the wire in an elimination that went over a full second quicker than the other one. Matt Kakaley has gotten along with him perfectly and although his biggest wins to date have been in PA-restricted races, he’s obviously more than good enough. He’ll be my top pick.
Hitman Hill (7-2) will probably end up being closer to 2-1 if I had to venture, coming off the heels of his fast elimination win last week. His $13 mutuel in that race was pretty generous considering trainer Oakes and his two Hempt races at Pocono the end of last month. There’s nothing to knock here and with the post edge on his two key rivals there won’t be any doubt about the early strategy from driver Brett Miller.
The post gods continue to be cruel to Thinkbig Dreambig (9-2) who lands yet another outside starting slot. This one hasn’t shown early speed since he was just starting out at Pocono and Philly, but it may be time Stratton takes an early shot. Even if he continues to close like a freight train, there’s only so far back that you can be at this track and expect to be able to reach. If for some reason he were to drift into the 8-1 range he may warrant a swing.
That was a big type of bounce back mile from Done Well (9-2) in his elimination, closing from an impossible spot to be a within a length of American History. He’s had a few tough trips this season and is a more formidable horse than that 1 for 6 record on the year indicates; will be interesting to see what Tetrick does. Figures to be heard from at some point. Wes Delight (15-1) blasted and held on to finish third last out in his elimination. He may have tailed off just a touch of late but any of those earlier season miles would give him a shot.
Adios selections: 5-3-8-4
Hambletonian Oaks picks
Most of the connections in here couldn’t have been too sad to see Atlanta opt for the Hambletonian to face the boys, but even without her this year’s Hambletonian Oaks field will be one of the strongest ever.
In the first elimination, Manchego (9-5) makes her first start since that remarkable 1:49:4 world record mile two weeks ago when she missed by a nose to Plunge Blue Chip. She didn’t look her best in either the Beal final when she broke or in the Beal elimination (which she won), but couldn’t have been any better when last seen. That was the Manchego we’ve come to know these past two seasons and someone else in here is going to have to trot a storm to get by her.
Bill’s Lady (8-1) comes off a game speed try and has been a reliable type of late for Butenschoen and Callahan. Hey Blondie (4-1) will be the obvious alternative and second choice to Manchego. Chuck Sylvester-trained filly rallied willingly two back into a fast mile before connecting for the win last out as the odds-on choice; comes from off the pace again. Piranha Fury (12-1) is better than her last pair and now picks up Sears. Seviyorum (5-1) closed in :26.2 last out off a no-shot trip at odds of 2-1, presumably will be put into play earlier now.
In the second Oaks elimination we get a marquee matchup of Plunge Blue Chip versus Phaetosive. Plunge Blue Chip lands the role of 9-5 morning line favorite although I’m not sure that Phaetosive won’t be the eventual race time choice. After fruitlessly chasing around Atlanta in New York for a couple races, Plunge Blue Chip surged past Manchego in the Del Miller in the race of a lifetime. Can she be that good again?
Phaetosive (2-1) was clearly the second-best freshman trotting filly last year and has picked up right where she left off. She’s been vicious in her last pair and finally showed some early speed in her most recent; gets the nod in what should be a tremendous elimination. Lima Novelty (6-1) crushed here two back from the second tier in a bulky 12-horse field and then jogged next out at Vernon. She might not be too much slower than #’s 5 and 8; could give them a good run possibly. Live Laugh Love (5-1) is yet to miss the board this year in 7 starts.