by Brett Sturman
It’s a good thing that Saturday is Meadowlands Pace night because otherwise it would have been impossible to top the two world record performances on display at the track last week. And in one of the better things about harness racing, there’s little rest this time of year for the best horses as newly-minted speed champions Lather Up and Atlanta are right back in action highlighting a stellar undercard, if you could even call it that considering the high-level quality.
Greenshoe and Green Manalishi S are in separate divisions of the Stanley Dancer, and both make their first starts back since HRU’s The Guru mused last week about how they could have been so far out of position when last seen in the Earl Beal at Pocono for $500,000. I wonder the same. Going back to that race for a moment, it really underscores, in general, the responsibility that drivers should have. In the case of Greenshoe, it goes without a shadow of a doubt that the best horse in the race didn’t win the race. I get that it’s horse racing and the best horse doesn’t always in, but it can’t be because a driver has a horse that’s 10 lengths the best sitting sixth on a track that’s won by the 1-2 horses 80 per cent of the time.
As fate would have it for Greenshoe, he lands the outside post 7 in his division of the Dancer going as race 5. So what will Sears do now? I’m certain he’s capable of it, but Greenshoe doesn’t typically leave. He’s back to a mile track and would have every chance to close through the Meadowlands stretch, but if coming from last I’m not sold that he could catch the likes of #’s 1 and 3. Don’t Let’em won in 1:51.4 last year as a 2-year-old and comes off fast 1:51.4 qualifier where he and Pilot Discretion fought right through the wire. These are fast colts and I think it forces Sears hand early from the outside, with Don’t Let’em providing the slight upset.
In race 3’s other Dancer division, Green Manalishi S seems poised to get back on track. He surged in his seasonal debut two back and then was forced to go wide around dull and then breaking cover last out at Pocono and that scenario isn’t one likely to work out. David Miller picked up the drive last out on Swandre The Giant when Gingras opted to Osterc in the Beal final, and both drivers retain those same horses Saturday with Miller opting for Swandre The Giant over the Nifty Norman-trained Reign Of Honor. The most likely outcome is that Green Manalishi S will win at about 4-5, but it’s hard to even play the race with the small field and anticipated feel of no race flow.
In the $450,000 Hambletonian Maturity, Atlanta and Six Pack go back at it after a race for the ages last week that produced the fastest ever trot in Meadowlands history and the fastest trotting mile ever by a female when Atlanta got up in 1:49.1. It’s too bad for Six Pack that he couldn’t hang on last week because that was the biggest mile of his career after being parked past a :26 quarter and :54 half before finally clearing to the lead, to then open up in the stretch only to be nailed by a wide Atlanta. For Atlanta, she continues her drifting tendencies and it didn’t look like she was going to reach even with a couple hundred yards to go. Six Pack went off at 7-1 last week and I’d suspect will offer something closer to 4-1 this time around while Atlanta will drift up a bit from the 1-5 odds she had on her last week. Credit to Manchego who was much improved last week from all her prior starts this season; her and Atlanta have the tactical edge on Six Pack who must navigate the second tier at the added 1 and 1/8 mile distance.
Whereas the big trot race is realistically between two horses, the William R. Haughton Memorial for FFA pacers is far more wide-open. Yes, the race features Lather Up who comes off that spectacular 1:46 race and any repeat of that try will win this, but will he be as good this week? To his credit, he was keen throughout the mile last week in the pocket and then was pacing on his own through the entire stretch so it’s not like he inherited the world record by not doing any work on his own. Always A Prince went off as the favorite last week in that record mile and did most of the dirty work paving through near record time fractions only to give way late. He lands the slight post edge on Lather Up and gets a new driver in David Miller; I’d think he’s capable of turning the tables. This Is The Plan saved ground last week and then came on late to nail down second; post 10 in a 12-horse fields seems to make his presence being felt now much less likely. McWicked gets the call as the 5-2 morning line favorite as he raced well in defeat in both Franklin races at Pocono, but this is a highly competitive field I wouldn’t want too short a price that is just 1 for 4 on the year. Western Joe excelled here this time last year but doesn’t look as strong at the moment. Highalator bounced back with a vengeance last out to take a career 1:48 mark.
This year’s version of the Golden Girls looks awfully similar to last year’s edition in which Shartin N went into that race heavily favored and will do so again. Last year, Shartin N lost after setting unsustainable fractions on the front, and was picked off by Diva’s Image who flew from out of the clouds. They rematch this year, but Shartin N is coming into this looking as solid as she ever has and it would take something unforeseen for her to lose again. The race also contains 4-year-olds Kiss In The Sand and Youaremycandygirl. Despite those two being at the top of the division the last two seasons, they are a combined 0 for 12 this year.
In the Mistletoe Shalee, Warrawee Ubeaut deserves to be favored but she won’t go into this with the same aura of invincibility that she had a few starts ago. She and chief rival Treacherous Reign dueled themselves into defeat in the Lynch and two prior to that came up a nose short in the Fan Hanover to that same filly; this race will be hers to win or lose as Gingras will likely have her controlling things on the front. Stonebridge Soul got the dream trip in the Lynch and Tetrick will be leaving with her once again trying to secure a similar early position; will have the extra added distance to work with prior to hitting the first turn. Tall Drink Hanover had no shot from post 9 last out and this spot is more reasonable; waiting for her to return to that 2-year-old form. Trillions Hanover raced gamely in defeat last out in her Lynch consolation; a race that went a tick faster than the final.
In the big race, the Meadowlands Pace has historically been kind to favorites and short-priced horses, and this race shapes up accordingly. Aside from a freak break from Captain Crunch when he jumped a shadow, the reigning 2-year-old champion has easily been the best of the glamor division this year and will loom an odds-on price to finish off the North America Cup-Meadowlands Pace double. He jogged in his elimination last week after quarter moving and that exact scenario could play out again. Driver Scott Zeron won the track’s signature trotting event last year with Atlanta is my (and many others) pick to win the premier pacing race this year with Captain Crunch. For horses underneath, Best In Show outraced his odds last week and gets Sears back; I’d expect him to take an early shot once again. Bettors Wish was dominant in winning his Pace elimination last week and now gets another crack at Captain Crunch; he was second to that foe in the North America Cup final. Workin Ona Mystery isn’t done any favors by the post draw, but he does have newly minted hall-of-fame nominee Tim Tetrick going for him. Tetrick’s already won this race 5 times and the Brian Brown colt is more than capable in his own right; just needs to find a way into it.
Meadowlands Pace Picks: 1-7-9-4