Tetrick believes Post 9 won’t hinder Confederate

The Hall of Fame driver said the uber-talented 3-year-old has a legitimate shot against older horses in Saturday’s FanDuel, even with the outside post.

by Brett Sturman

One amazing thing about harness racing is that for most of the year, there’s no shortage of high-profile races. It’s already been one month since the Breeders Crown — a traditional ending point for most of the sport’s best horses — but here we are at the end of November with one final night of major stakes racing ahead full of divisional and legacy implications.

As projected two weeks ago, the highly anticipated matchup between 3-year-old Confederate and older horses in the FanDuel Championship Open Pace has come to fruition. Confederate, trained by Brett Pelling, will be seeking to be the first 3-year-old pacer to win this race. It is a task that would have been difficult under normal circumstances, but became much tougher following the post draw.

Having drawn post 9 while rivals Bythemissal and Tattoo Artist have drawn posts 3 and 4 respectively, it truly has put Confederate and driver Tim Tetrick in what I would think is an unenviable position. Though, to his credit, Tetrick doesn’t see it that way at all.

“Honestly, I don’t think it’s a terrible draw and I really don’t mind it,” said Tetrick. “When I first looked at the way the draw shook out, you have the rail horse that shouldn’t leave, and then all the horses that have posts 2 through 6 all could be used, and I think I’m going to slide over into a good spot. With Bythemissal in post 3 and Tattoo Artist right there in post 4, and with Brett Pelling’s other horse [Allywag Hanover, post 6] there’s going to be speed and I’m on the outside of that which I don’t mind.

“Even if I get away fourth there’s going to be speed to follow and I don’t mind being first up going into the last turn, I like that spot, especially if they go to the half in :53. I’d rather have post 9 than the rail in this spot. That way I can kind of just float out there and follow the speed. Sometimes from the rail you’ve got to make the speed, so I don’t always like that position. Like when I won the Hambo Oaks out of the 10-hole, I knew I could win from that post and it just depends on how the other horses draw.”

Post positions aside, Tetrick remains as confident as ever in Confederate, and with good reason.

“I think my horse is as good as anybody,” said Tetrick. “In the Open Pace Breeders Crown final, I almost beat both [Bythemissal and Tattoo Artist] with Lou’s Pearlman. As those two horses battled and went to the half in :53 and then I’m first up with Lou’s Pearlman; I finished second to Bythemissal and finished ahead of Ian Moore’s horse, Tattoo Artist. If Confederate were in the same spot, I think he rips their bridles off.”

With the FanDuel Championships presenting one of the rarer opportunities for 3-year-olds to take on older horses in races of these magnitudes, the angle of 3-year-olds against older horses are often played up.

For Tetrick, the dynamic of racing a 3-year-old against older is different in each situation.

“Bythemissal for example is in a similar boat as Confederate,” Tetrick said. “He’s 4, but he didn’t race at 2, so he’s really on just his second year of racing, and within the year he’s getting sharp. But then, that’s different from a lot of other horses who have raced for longer times. Plus, we don’t have the war horses that we used to have; they just don’t last as long. Like, 10 years ago when Captaintreacherous tried the race as a 3-year-old, that was a completely different group he was against with Foiled Again, Sweet Lou and Pet Rock. Those were 7, 8, 9, and older war horses that just had a different mentality. Plus, one thing that helps my horse [Confederate] is that he’s mostly raced all year off a helmet. He knows how to race that way. Captaintreacherous was almost always on the front or moving to the front in almost every race he was in, so that’s a difference too.”

In other FanDuel Championship races and on the other end of post position fortunes, 3-year-old Tactical Approach has found the rail in a field of seven horses in the FanDuel Open Trot. He’s been outstanding since his win in the Hambletonian, and it’ll be genuinely interesting to see how he lines up against the older trotters.

If the race took place a month ago, it would have seemed like a reach that Tactical Approach could trot with the likes of Alrajah One IT, but Breeders Crown night may have changed that perception a bit. For really the first time since he raced in North America over these past two seasons, the Breeders Crown took just a little of the mystique off Alrajah One IT. A tough trip to be sure from the outside post that night, he hasn’t raced or even qualified since, so perhaps there could be an opening for Tactical Approach who won his Breeders Crown that same night in four-fifths of a second faster than Southwind Tyrion won the Open Trot.

Of the four different 3-year-olds taking on older in the FanDuel Championships throughout the card, Twin B Joe Fresh in the Open Mares Pace is another one with a strong chance to break through. It’s a small field of only five, and Ryder and Dunn might not be any more intimidated by this older field than they would be in a standard 3-year-old field that included Sylvia Hanover, who no one wants any part of.

Like the Breeders Crown trot races, the 3-year-olds in this division went one full second faster (1:49.2) than the Breeders Crown Mares pace, won by Max Contract in 1:50.2. Max Contract enters this race in career form and a win could maybe make things interesting between her and Grace Hill for the division. Also in the race is Mikala, who owns a 1:47.4 mark from earlier this year when she shocked in the Dorothy Haughton, as well as the speedy Racine Bell, with Boudoir Hanover starting from the outside post 5.

The FanDuel Championship Open Mares on the trot side is another smaller field of five, with Bond being the 3-year-old trotting filly representative. It seems like an arduous task to go up against the likes of stablemate Jiggy Jog S in a battle of Breeders Crown winners, as well as against M-M’s Dream, but Svanstedt has elected to give it a shot.