Tough to split freshman divisions for year-end honors
Voters will have difficult choices to make in all four Dan Patch divisions for rookies.
by Brett Sturman
In contrast to last year’s easy-to-predict 2-year-old Dan Patch winners, this year could go different directions in four frosh divisions. And even with the subjective nature of the selection process, there likely won’t be any ‘wrong’ winner as legitimate points can be made for all those in most serious contention. Here are my thoughts, as well as a prediction who the most likely winners will be.
TWO-YEAR-OLD MALE TROTTER
Beginning with the 2-year-old division with the highest profile horses, it’s solely between Karl and T C I, who have proven to be superior to any other 2-year-old trotters.
What’s remarkable is that prior to this year, no 2-year-old male trotter had ever earned over $1 million. This year, both T C I and Karl have accomplished that; while being in the same crop. It speaks to just how dominant the two have been, and how impeccably managed they’ve been by their trainers, Ron Burke with T C I and Nancy Takter with Karl.
To come right out with it, I’d say that T C I has earned the divisional honor. That said, it seems there’s a perception — maybe a correct one — that Karl is the more freakish of the two, and his string of impressionable late-season wins may propel him over the top in the eyes of voters.
The path taken by T C I was a well-traveled one. In a six-week span between the end of August and the beginning of October, T C I’s schedule and resume looks like this: He won the Wellwood final at Woodbine Mohawk Park, the Pennsylvania Sire Stake final at Pocono, the Peter Haughton at Hoosier, the Mohawk Million when returning north of the border once again, and then won his International Stallion Stake at Lexington.
T C I’s two wins alone — in the Mohawk Million when he broke at the start and spotted the field maybe 20 lengths, followed up two weeks later when he bested Karl by the slimmest of margins in their first showdown — warrant the strongest of divisional consideration.
On the flip side, there’s no denying the brilliance of Karl. He won three times this year in a time of sub-1:52, the best of which came in 1:51.2. Whatever it was that team Karl took away from that narrow defeat at Lexington’s Red Mile, was on full display in the Breeders Crown final where Karl’s win over T C I in their rematch was resounding. If Karl does go on to win the 2-year-old honor, it will be that Breeders Crown win that did it. From there, he went on to toy with rivals in the $267,500 Kindergarten final despite post 10, and then closed out the year by dominating again in the $423,000 Valley Victory.
Reading the tea leaves, Karl has a couple of first-place votes in the final Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll, so there could even be momentum growing for Trotter of the Year consideration as well.
TWO-YEAR-OLD FEMALE PACER
This division will likely end up going to Geocentric, though that’s not to say consideration shouldn’t be given to other fillies.
For most of the season, Geocentric garnered the headlines through her series of fast wins against overwhelmed competition in Kentucky Sire Stake races. Perhaps her most notable win, though, came in the Pennsylvania Sire Stake final race when she lasted by a neck over My Girl EJ. Following a win back at Lexington in an International Stallion Stake and a largely uncontested win in a Breeders Crown elimination race, she had the race taken to her in the Breeders Crown final and faded, in what would be her lone loss in 10 starts this year. It’s not to take anything away from how great of a 2-year-old season she had, but it does warrant a mention that her only wins outside of sire-stake competition was in the ISS and in a BC elimination.
But if not Geocentric, then who? In an uncharacteristic less-than-stellar drive from Dexter Dunn in last week’s Three Diamonds final, My Girl EJ finished second at odds of 1-9 to Caviart Belle. If she had won that race, I believe she would have won the division. With earnings just shy of $700,000 and a mark of 1:49.1 taken in that record Breeders Crown final win, My Girl EJ is both the highest earning and fastest 2-year-old pacer, period. How will voters see her 13 5-6-1 record to Geocentric’s record of 10 9-0-0?
For that matter, Caviart Belle may not be far off either. She owns a win over My Girl EJ in a PA-Sire Stake, won the Eternal Camnation, and closed out the year with big money wins in the Kindergarten final as well as in the Three Diamonds. Pass Line, second in the Breeders Crown Final, has had a notable season too.
TWO-YEAR-OLD MALE PACER
This is the most wide-open of the 2-year-old divisions and I’m sure a lot of names will be out there under consideration. Captain Albano is probably in the driver’s seat for the divisional award, and his record closely mirrors that of the 2-year-old filly just discussed, of Geocentric.
For Captain Albano, he has seven wins through nine starts, and was never worse than second. Outside of his impressive sire-stakes wins, he has victories in both Grand Circuit races at Lexington, the Bluegrass, and International Stallion stakes. He, too, won his Breeders Crown elimination. He lost in an upset as the heavy favorite in the Crown final to Gem Quality, though he’s still likely regarded as best in the division.
There’s a variety of others out there who are interesting such as Legendary Hanover, Gem Quality, late season bloomer Captain Luke, and a few others, but I’m not sure the overall record is there to support overtaking Captain Albano.
TWO-YEAR-OLD FEMALE TROTTER
Like the male side of the 2-year-old trotters, this has the feel of coming down to just two. Those being Soiree Hanover and Warrawee Michelle.
As with T C I, I’d be inclined to give the nod to Soiree Hanover for the overall body of work. Warrawee Michelle did beat her fast-closing rival by a neck in the Breeders Crown, but Soiree Hanover bested her by an almost identical margin in their race prior in an International Stallion Stake. With six wins in 10 starts and earnings of over $600,000, she’s easily the highest earning female trotter in the division.
Warrawee Michelle turned it on in the latter part of her season and she could still easily gain the divisional honor with just four wins, especially if more weight is given to her Breeders Crown win over Soiree Hanover. Mentions should go out also to Indiana-sire champion Ponda Title who also was second to Soiree Hanover in the Jim Doherty, as well as Kentuckiana and Matron champion R Melina, who would have had an even stronger case had she delivered in last week’s Goldsmith Maid, a race that was won by Pizzelle.