Divisional honors on the line heading into Breeders Crown

by Brett Sturman

Almost every 2-year-old and 3-year-old division remains unsettled heading into the final two weekends of October, and this is one year where it really does come down to the Breeders Crown. The road to a win in the Crown finals begin this weekend with nearly two full cards of elimination races, and here is what’s on the line in each division.

2-year-old colt trotters: Green Manalishi S has the inside track for sure. A winner of the Wellwood final and a Bluegrass division, he was also second in the Peter Haughton and in a division of the International Stallion Stakes. A win in the Breeders Crown would lock it up. Green Manalishi S is trained by Marcus Melander (another impressive training effort by the way with Cruazado Dela Noche), who also trains the unbeaten New York Sires Stakes (NYSS) star Gimpanzee. That one enters his Crown eliminations with a perfect 7 for 7 record and if he were able to step up with this caliber of horses and remain unbeaten, he would likely overtake his stablemate. Coming on strong, too, is Cantab Fashion. He comes off a record 1:51.4 mile last out at Lexington when he was able to fend off Green Manalishi S in a big push through the stretch. If he were to continue to move forward from that and win the Breeders Crown, a legitimate case could be made.

2-year-old filly trotters: With wins in signature races such as the James Doherty and Peaceful Way in addition to a win in the Bluegrass, The Ice Dutchess controls her own destiny in claiming divisional honors. A win for her in the Crown would leave no doubt as to is tops, but she could be challenged by another impressive young trotter out of New York. Woodside Charm dominated NYSS competition including a record 1:53.4 mile at Saratoga and then blasted them last out at Hoosier. If she were to win the Breeders Crown and continue her unbeaten ways, the division would have to go to her.

2-year-old colt pacers: The two most likely contenders to win seasonal honors go at it this weekend in the same elimination. Stag Party and Workin Ona Mystery square off in what could be a preview of the Crown final. Stag Party was the impressive Metro winner and makes his racing debut in the states; Crown win would seal the deal. Workin Ona Mystery is 5 for 5 and has stepped up his game mightily in each recent start. He’s come a long way fast from N/W 1 and just keeps going faster; another couple of win or at least a win in next week’s final and the division goes to him.

2-year-old filly pacers: This is another division that seems to be between two horses; in this case Warrawee Ubeaut and Tall Drink Hanover. Warrawee Ubeaut comes off the fastest mile ever paced by a 2-year-old regardless of gender. That 1:48.3 mile, combined with a win in the Breeders Crown seems like it would be hard to deny her the division if it plays out that way. But also laying claim is Tall Drink Hanover. That filly isn’t anywhere to be found on the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll, but maybe that’s in part because she hadn’t raced in the U.S. until her most recent race. She won the She’s A Great Lady and bested Warrawee Ubeaut in the elimination for that stake; would be a more than deserving champion if she were to beat that rival again with everyone watching in the Crown.

3-year-old colt trotters: Coming off the fastest ever mile trotted by a 3-year-old, Six Pack has regained his grip on the division with that 1:49.1 mile in the Kentucky Futurity. Looking back at it now, it’s interesting to think how things could have played out with a different outcome from his Hambletonian elimination. But things are what they are, and a Crown win would clinch the division for him. If he loses, however, it does open the door possibly to others. Crystal Fashion actually beat Six Pack here at Pocono in the Beal in June, and then since won a Hambletonian elimination (over Atlanta) and the Canadian Trotting Classic (over Met’s Hall). He couldn’t get to Six Pack in Lexington but if he does so here in the finals, then things could get a bit interesting. Met’s Hall has been ultra-consistent in the second part of the year and a Crown win would be a giant resume enhancer.

3-year-old filly trotters: Here we go again with Atlanta, Manchego and to some extent Phaetosive. In winning the Kentucky Futurity for fillies last out, it was Atlanta’s first win since the winning the Hambletonian final and put her back into the #1 spot in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll. Enough can’t be said for her knack to win twice this year in the back end of heat racing (the Futurity and the Hambletonian), and at the moment she’s viable to win more than just the division. But a loss could make things interesting. Hambletonian Oaks winner Manchego could make a case if she were to win the Breeders Crown, and Phaetosive may not be that far behind either. She actually won the only time that all three of these star fillies raced together in the Elegantimage and if she were to beat them both again in the Breeders Crown, she’d have the record to support her cause.

3-year-old filly pacers: Kissin In The Sand has been nothing less than brilliant all year long. She’s accepted a bye into her Breeders Crown final and has long wrapped up the division regardless of what happens next Saturday.

3-year-old colt pacers: This has been one of the most wide-open divisions all year long and remains so today. Leading the way is Courtly Choice, and a win in the Breeders Crown would lock up the division for him. A supplement to many races this year, his big wins are the Meadowlands Pace and the Little Brown Jug, as well as the rich Empire Breeders Classic. Not far behind him however is Stay Hungry, who has really come on strong over the past couple of months. He’s won the Cane, the Messenger and that disqualification from his Jug elimination win was unfortunate. But if he were to repeat as a Breeders Crown winner having won it last year at 2, a very strong argument could be made for him to overtake Courtly Choice. As a longshot, I wouldn’t totally rule out Dorsoduro Hanover. He hasn’t been as loud as some of the others, but he’s won the PASS final, the Adios, and was second in the Meadowlands Pace, the Jug and the Tattersalls Pace; a pretty impressive resume when you think about it. Things could get interesting if he were to win the Crown.