by Brett Sturman
With all 2- and 3-year-old divisions requiring eliminations along with an elimination for older mare pacers, 17 elimination races in all will be held between Friday and Saturday to determine the finalists for the following weekend’s 12 Breeders Crown finals. Here are some thoughts to ponder as the 37th edition of the Breeders Crown gets rolling.
The Breeders Crown makes its return to Hoosier Park, and the last time that the Anderson, IN track played host to the Breeders Crown was in 2017. That year, Indiana-sired horses produced three Breeders Crown winners and put the Indiana program on the national map. Hannelore Hanover had already been established as a top-level trotter by that point, but Fiftydallarbill surprised against 2-year-old colt trotters and Beckham’s Z Tam did likewise against heavily favored Downbytheseaside in the 3-year-old pacing division. Indiana-breds are well represented throughout the Breeders Crown divisions this time around, but how many can take home top honors?
From last week’s Indiana Sire Stake Final winners, one of the better chances is in the form of Somethingbeautiful (Always A Virgin) in the 2-year-old pacing fillies division. Now 8-of-9 on the year, her lone defeat came in the Kentuckiana when she was beaten only by Test Of Faith in a game speed try. Test Of Faith isn’t Breeders Crown eligible and with her out of the mix, Somethingbeautiful seems on par with any of the other top freshman fillies. We’ll get another read on her as she takes on the likes of Fire Start Hanover, Caviart Audrey and Making Waves in tonight’s (Oct. 23) elimination.
Three-year-old trotting filly May Baby (Guccio) is another that’s in one of the more favorable positions. With Ramona Hill scratched and you could argue that Hypnotic Am and Sorella may not be at their very best right now and even with a peaking Love A Good Story, this division is there for the taking. May Baby showed promise earlier against these types prior to her ill-fated Hambletonian Oaks attempt and overall is talented enough to win.
Priceless (Rockin Image) turned heads last week when she won her Indiana Sires Stakes (ISS) Super Final for 3-year-old pacing fillies by going down the road through fractions of :25.3, :54.1, 1:22.1, 1:49.1. Two-year-old ISS champion from last year wasn’t at her best through much of the year, but was sparked in her second start last out for the new barn. Of course, the road through this Breeders Crown goes through Party Girl Hill, but Priceless wasn’t too far off her earlier this year at Woodbine; could be even better now with Julie Miller. Other ISS Super Final winners in the Breeders Crown include: JK Going West, Swift Swanda, Rockin Nola, and Swan In Motion.
As the saying goes, what divisions will actually come down to the Breeders Crown? Many divisions are still fairly wide open, and that includes Horse of Year which too remains up for grabs.
Tall Dark Stranger leads the most recent weekly Hambletonian Top Ten poll by the narrowest of point totals over Party Girl Hill, though he maintains a more comfortable margin by first-place votes (21-14). Both 3-year-olds paced to identical 1:47.2 clockings in their respective Tattersalls Pace divisions two weeks ago. I would have thought that Party Girl Hill taking on – and beating – her male counterparts may have vaulted her into the top spot, but it didn’t happen – yet. If either of these 3-year-olds were to come up short of anything than a Breeders Crown win, it would leave the door wide open for the other to claim the driver’s seat for year-end honors. Regardless of their Breeders Crown performances, both 3-year-olds have their divisions locked down.
In the 2-year-old colt trotting division, is Captain Corey as good as advertised? The unbeaten sire stake champion raced outside of Pennsylvania for the first time last week in an easy prep at the Meadowlands and I’m anxious to see how he does against this group. Even with the defection of newly minted world record holder Southwind Tyrion, there’s loads of competition in this elimination alone. Venerate broke last out just as he was engaging Southwind Tyrion into the stretch; but Venerate, the Mohawk Million champion can close relentlessly. Dancinginthedark M has been fast all year long for Melander and is another with speed that Captain Corey hasn’t faced yet this year. Part of his allure is that he’s by Googoo Gaagaa; a world record trotter by a pacer whose already had much success as a trotting sire overseas. This is one group where a Breeders Crown win could go a long way in nailing down divisional honors.
The open pacing mares’ division has been dominated by pacing queen Shartin N the past three years including last year’s Horse of Year campaign, but this year the Breeders Crown means something. Shartin N has lost a couple in a row, including a narrow defeat two back at Dayton to a resurgent Kissin In The Sand, who since crushed last out in the Allerage. These two mares combine for just under $4 million in career earnings and if either were to win next week’s final, they should get the nod for the division.
In the most wide open division, what’s to make of the 3-year-old trotting colts? I’d say that if either Amigo Volo, Back Of The Neck or Ready For Moni were to safely make it into next week’s finals and then win, that they’d be in line to win divisional honors. But any of them winning isn’t even a certainty. Back Of the Neck picked the worst time to miscue in the Kentucky Futurity when he was about to go right by Beads. Instead, he broke, and Amigo Volo was able to capitalize off the perfect trip and win. Ready For Moni broke two back when it looked like he was in position to win Canadian Trotting Classic and then never got involved in the Futurity.
If Perfect Sting were to win his elimination and Breeders Crown final, he’d move to a perfect 10-for-10 career record. In the International Stallion Stake it looked that Summa Cum Laude had his number mid-stretch, but Perfect Sting closed belatedly to nail that rival in the final stride. Those two rematch in their elimination Friday and are joined by Highlandbeachbest; a recent acquisition for the Nancy Takter stable that’s been performing well.