Sunday, August 3, 2014

The case of the missing colt

Hambletonian 2014

On the left you see a photo of soph-colt trotter Father Patrick, driven by Yannick Gingras and trained by Jimmy Takter. It is a photo of the 2014 Hambletonian favorite when he was a two-year-old, winning a race at Mohawk from post 10.

On Saturday, Aug. 2, the sophomore Father Patrick was assigned post 10 in the 2014 Hambletonian at the Meadowlands. The post meant nothing to bettors; they made him 2-5 and were poised to collect their money when the best of the three Jimmy Takter-trained colts in the $1-million-plus race lined up with his foes behind the starting gate before more than 20,000 fans and industry members and a television audience over CBS Sports Network.

In the scant moments it took for the wings of the starting gate to open, Father Patrick resorted to galloping, surrendering his unique gait in a shocking display of movement that no one had ever seen him make. For Father Patrick and his many supporters, the race that was supposed to be his to make history, was history for him the moment he galloped.

10x   11/57 3/4   11/63 1/2   11/63 1/2   11/65   11/70 Those are the past-performance lines for Father Patrick's Hambletonian effort.

Trainer Jimmy Takter never saw exactly what the audience saw when the starting gate swung open because he was driving another colt he trained, Trixton. "I was waiting for 'Patrick' to come," Takter said about the stretch drive after the race. "I had no clue. I didn't see him so I knew something must have happened to him."

John Campbell, no stranger to the race as a winning and losing driver over the years, took charge of the race early with the third Takter-trained colt in the field, Nuncio. Trixton and Takter chased Nuncio. Trixton and Takter won; Nuncio and Campbell were second. The Takter-trained exacta pair was so fast that the rest of the field was far behind them.

Takter told press-box members later he was elated to come in first and second in the classic race and happy to be the winning driver but that he was convinced it would have been different if Father Patrick trotted in the race.

"If Father Patrick stayed flat," Takter said, he would've wound up behind me [and Trixton] and come up in that position and he would've blown by both of us in the stretch."

Trixton and Nuncio had a good deal of supporters in the win pool; both went off at variables of 4-1. The non-Father-Patrick-involved exacta paid only $39.60.

For the best part of the season so far, Trixton was winning powerfully but could not beat his stable mate Father Patrick. Trixton was clearly the second-best in the division. And, as he trotted into history as the 89th Hambletonian winner, everyone knew the second-best trotter was the real horse that caught a break.

Many of us longed for the emotional punch we felt when we saw other special horses come rolling down the stretch, grabbing the ground and gliding to victory, almost laughing at foes. It is a special feeling we are only exposed to when a special horse comes along. It allows us to witness a certain greatness which we long to adore. We were robbed of that rare moment at a crucial time in the sport's history.

It was certainly not the first time and won't be the last time that a revered horse lost a big event. But to many of us following the impressive steps that Father Patrick has taken to victory at two and at three, this is the one to grieve over because he didn't win or lose--he just ran off. That left so many of us feeling the same as Takter: Father Patrick would have won the Hambletonian. He will win again, for sure, but the greatest moment of his career, no matter where he marks victories again, is lost because Father Patrick just ran off.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hambletonian and ‘Oaks’ single contests with heavy favorites

After returning to the elim-heat format, where colts race more than once on the first Saturday in August to earn a berth in the Hambletonian final, the main event is forced into a single heat with only 11 colts dropping into the box. This is not much of a surprise, considering the presence of Jimmy Takter’s dominating colt, Father Patrick. As well, Takter’s Trixton and Nuncio are on board. That may be a triptych into history for team Takter. It is certainly enough horse power to have made the decisions of many colts’ connections to stay out of the race.

Some of the colts that have decided to show up for the $1,006,125 race are surprise entries considering their histories this season. This could make for fascinating results in the exotics, even with the mighty Takter trio.

The Hambletonian Oaks will go as a single mile as usual, though the soph-filly division has also been dominated by a Tatker terror—Shake It Cerry.

Below is a horse-by-horse analysis and suggested wagering elements for the events.

(In post position order)

One of the surprises, this son of Muscle Hill has done well in seven starts as a soph and came close to Nuncio recently but has only a wild chance of finding the circumstances to win.

JJ Alex
It must be a thrill for his connections to be a part of this field and that is where the thrills will end, for he has only won his maiden at two and been cashing a few place and show checks racing agains far less competition. He is another of the surprise participants.

Having the season of a lifetime, Ake Svanstedt found a way to be a part of the main event by using this lightly raced son of Donato Hanover as his ticket. The colt has only raced once as a sophomore and perhaps has no idea of the strength outside of him, no less that he is a character in an historic event. He is the third surprise entry.

This guy has been competitive, cashed checks and shown a lot of spunk against the division’s top tier but he has never truly threatened Takter’s best. He has chased Nuncio and Father Patrick to the wire, picking up seconds but never showing the ability to thwart their power.

When Father Patrick isn’t in the mix, Nuncio commands the field. We found this guy before Takter had him, when he surprised everyone trotting second to Father Patrick in the Breeders Crown elim (a great exacta) and final (an okay exacta). He may only inherit a win, based on dire, unforeseen trouble besetting “Patrick.”

Royal Ice
Trond Smedshammer brings to the cast a colt hardly noticed along the Hambletonian Trail, having broken his maiden this season and doing little else. Hardly raced at two, he is the biggest surprise to show up.

His only chance to beat his training partner Patrick was a third with trainer Takter driving, as Jimmy is scheduled to do in this mile. Regardless of any changes from that race to this, Jimmy needs to somehow out-gun his best, who we are coming to shortly. Certainly he can upset Patrick but again, extreme duress must fall upon his most dangerous foe.

Il Sogno Dream
He has come along nicely since we supported him at huge odds—we had him second at 18-1 to Trixton four back and he has improved since. Though he is not a terrific surprise to drop into the box, we thought he might pass to find an easier spot to win some money against glamour-boy trotters. Too bad there aren’t elim heats because he may do much better trying to get to the final than racing in it.

Harper Blue Chip
He went back to Canada to swipe the division from his Ontario group and did so easily because he was successfully active against the top tier here. We expected him in this group but don’t ponder a major threat without you-know-who getting into an unpredictable circumstance.

Father Patrick
Great horses overcome adversity. This is a great horse and he has already shown he can make up for inner-mile mayhem. Last year he had a strange shakeup in the stretch, losing enough ground to allow any horse to falter but he came back, made up the surrendered ground and won. At three he is untouchable. So what about the 10 hole is adverse? We don’t know and we cannot concoct a scenario where it makes so much of a difference that this monstrous trotter that continues to trounce his competition, loses this historic mile. Takter was visibly disappointed about getting post 10 but he handled it like a pro when interviewed. But in his heart of hearts he must know that what I and others are writing about this super colt is true, meaning Father Patrick has many more ways to win this regardless of where he leaves the gate.

Don Dorado
From tier two, this colt will have a built-in cover spot but the rail horse is not likely to leave quickly enough to make it worthy of the trip. This guy has a lot of potential and we thought he would be much better by now but he has not shown the super stuff necessary to make Father Patrick break a sweat. He may develop as the season ensues and certainly may mature enough to be a strong older trotter but it is highly unlikely we will be seeing him parade back to the winner's circle in this dance.

(In post position order)

Designed To Be
This the only filly to beat Shake It Cerry this season and she did it when “Cerry” had a tough, outside push early, still finishing second. After that, the public turned on Cerry, a bad move, and this daughter of Donato Hanover disappointed supporters making her the favorite twice because has not been able to shake Cerry down again. She will be bet hard, though, as one of the top choices.

Cee Bee Yes
Since winning at Yonkers she has not gone well enough on the mile oval to be taken seriously, going off at 40-1 in the Oaks prep, where we thought she could show some toughness. In the “Miller” she was also a pawn for Cerry.

Vanity Matters
She will have to look at the rest of the season to improve because she is out of her league here. Here trainer is great and always sends his stock out to compete but she will be lucky to get a check among the best in the division.

Harley Momma
She has had her problems and may be coming around to racing as well as she did before her injury but the Oaks is a long reach for a filly that has only won a single race after her maiden and did so against far less than these.

Take The Money
A promising contender that would have three-straight wins in top company coming into this race were it not for a bad break on the lead at Pocono two back. Trainer Julie Miller has every right to aim at Cerry here and with husband Andy on the mend and off the bike, using Dave Palone makes plenty of sense with this prospect.

Tweet Me
No wins against any in the division leave this gal out in the cold. She picks up some checks but is in no way a threat here.

Lifetime Pursuit
Stuck in the shadow of Cerry in the Takter barn, this filly has been somewhat disappointing and has not been able to keep up with the better in the crop.

Heaven’s Door
Another Ake student, this one shows talent but is unable to make a mark large enough to take her as seriously as others. In exotics she makes sense but under any other circumstances she must look to be an upset.

Cooler Schooner
Scratched sick last week, this filly was waiting for a good spot to really show her stuff but is she well enough to make noise in the big feature? As an exotic partner she may have merit but she isn’t looking like she can beat the best.

Nitro Nittany
She has a very good record but she has not shown the kind of talent that makes her any kind of contender here. As well, she has the far outside to contend with while handling the kind of class she doesn’t seem able to join.

Shake It Cerry
From the second tier, the best of the bunch may once again be the second choice and that could mean we get still another great price on her. She towers over all of these and whether she controls the fractions or slams on the accelerator she takes them all for loops every time. This may be a good spot for her to stalk Designed To Be when that one leaves until her marauder move or she may take over early on and ask them to catch her. Either way, she shines and should add this classic to her classy resume.

One more edition of the Hambletonian Trail blog will be published for 2014. TwinSpires and the Hambletonian Society will then start the Breeders Crown Countdown, featuring coverage of races with BC-eligible division members that warrant wagering consideration.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hambletonian Oaks sans elims, prep mile to final

The Hambletonian Oaks field is set and on July 26 at the Meadowlands a special prep event will be the last we will see of the field until Aug. 2 when the final is part of the stake-filled day’s program. As well, two colt divisions of the Arden Downs at the Meadows on July 26 have to be the deciding events for six eligibles’ connections whether or not to drop into the box for the main event.

The fillies go to the gate in the $35,000 prep and their prowess will be measured against the division’s best, Shake It Cerry. The grand filly is the Jimmy Takter heroine that may earn him both Hambo crowns. Though he also sends Lifetime Pursuit off in this affair, “Cerry” is the focus.

After her remarkable win at 7-2 last week when most bettors (not on our suggestion) let her go for the sake of Designed To Be (leaving from post 1 just in front of Cerry in this prep), it appears most people are convinced—as we continually remarked through the season thus far—that Cerry is the best.

We may be reiterating much of this prep analysis next week when it is time for the final but there is no way to wager against Cerry, who becomes a magnificent key for exotics only if we look deep into second-and-third candidates that will boost the price (hopefully a ton of bettors are not wheeling her).

Last week we liked Cooler Schooner to play the co-starring role but she broke early in the “Miller” and was eliminated. However, she went off at 13-1 and may go off longer in the prep. The other candidate is Cee Bee Yes. She has been highly under-rated while being competitive with the top tier of the division, so she should offer odds strong enough to help the exacta cause (she was 17-1 in the Miller, where she made two moves.

At the Meadows that afternoon, the first Arden Downs for the soph colts, worth $32,455, the eligible Sarcastic Man (one of three eligibles) leaves from the inside and is bound to offer a generous win price, much more than he should offer. On the outside, local hero Dave Palone will drive Stakes N Plates (eligible) and the crowd will swarm to support him. Sarcastic Man can be forgiven for his Reynolds loss (no colt was going to out-trot Nuncio) and his break in the PA All Stars, as well as his sires stakes loss in June at Pocono. He is a contender and the odds predicted make him the bet.

In round two, worth $32,855, Il Sogno Dream heads a trio of hopefuls, including Mister Bs Way and Amped Up Hanover. We were all over “Sogno” from his early soph campaign, capturing much of his six wins and four places for profit, including his second (19-1) to Trixton in the Goodtimes Final. He won’t offer much as a winner but as a key we still like him and we still think it possible he will go on Aug. 2. With him, take both of the other hopefuls, even though Mister Bs Way’s odds may suffer for having Palone along for the ride (still, he is 12-1 on the morning line). Amped Up Hanover has not logged into the win column much but is a tad better than the rest.

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hopefuls contest in late-season preps

With two weeks until the Hambletonian and one week until the Hambletonian Oaks eliminations, the “Trail” has entered crunch time. Hopefuls will compete on Saturday, July 19 in the Reynolds Memorial at the Meadowlands and the Canadian Breeders Championships at Mohawk.

Since the Reynolds for the fillies only attracted four, it will be run as an exhibition race. The male equivalent saw 22 drop into the box, dividing into two divisions on the pari-mutual card.

Nuncio, entering off a runner-up finish to Father Patrick in the Stanley Dancer last week, highlights the opening split. While he is the fiercest competitor in this split, Southwind Poseidon has been improving with every outing. Coming in off of back-to-back victories, he may not be able to defeat Nuncio, but he’ll certainly be in the mix. Uva Hanover, one of the nine hopefuls in this event, could also get involved.

The other episode is a Hambo-hopeful free for all, with all 11 staked to the trotting classic. Other than the match-up of Trixton and Truxton, don’t discount Datsyuk from the second-tier. Trailing Mister B’s Way, who frequently shows speed, Datsyuk should get an easy trip and provide value.

Both genders of sophomore trotters will compete in finals for the Canadian Breeders Championship. The colt final features eligibles Entranced and Harper Blue Chip, with Harper Blue Chip looking near unbeatable off of a victory in the elimination.

Margie is the lone hopeful in the filly final. While she barely made the final, Flexible Woman could be a live long shot. She was victorious on this track against Grassroots competition a few weeks back and came into the eliminations off of an impressive fourth-place closing effort at Grand River. Being locked at the pylons in the elim and caught behind a fading leader, watch out for this filly as she seeks redemption at a price.

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fillies still dreaming with sires stakes at Yonkers

Monday, July 14, at Yonkers Raceway, soph-filly trotters engage in more New York Sires Stakes divisions, which are lucrative affairs featuring some Hambo hopefuls.

It is still well before the time for connections to make a decision about their fillies in the Hambletonian Oaks (we are assuming no filly will enter the main event, though qualified to drop into the box) and the presence of such top performers as Shake It Cerry and Designed to Be may have scared away some probable entrees, but until time runs out, all things are possible.

The two NYSS divisions are worth six digits and the first ($111,500) offers five eligible gals. Market Rally will be a strongly wagered entry, with Glowngold the second choice but two other eligibles deserve attention. Lindys Crazy Doll is one for three, lightly raced and in a good launching spot with post 5. "Lindy"-breds are strong in these parts and trainer Tom Haughton will send this one out looking for the biggest part of the purse. Improvement topples the favorites and at a good price. Gammys Girl is the other hopeful.

The second NYSS split has only one eligible and that should be the only choice if you get a price you like. Beauty Of Gray has almost done it for us before, is competitive among her state-bred foes and with $113,500 on the line and still chances to dream of the "Oaks," this is the time for her to shine.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Top colt, filly contenders in major preps

The August-aimed colts and fillies are on board at the Meadowlands for the Stanley Dancer and Del Miller memorials, which may decide for each if they are going to the Hambletonian events. The two giant stakes are on the Meadowlands Pace program, July 12.

On July 11 at Mohawk, some filly and colt eligibles embark in Canadian Breeders Championships (CBC) elims. There is reason to look at these for betting purposes, with little hope that any of the nine hopefuls will return to America for the first weekend in August.

The $317,000 Stanley Dancer’s headline matter is the meeting of Father Patrick and Trixton, the two Jimmy Takter trotters that have been scourging the division this season. As well, Nuncio, on Takter’s watch this season, takes them both on in this mile.

Trixton rewarded those making him the highest priced yearling of 2012, coming from the Hambo-winner Muscle Hill, with a sophomore debut that stretched successfully into five-stright wins in six starts. Unlike Father Patrick, Trixton was lightly raced at two and is in full gear to join his sire in history.

Father Patrick’s sire, Cantab Hall, is a great sire but not a Hambo winner, and on paper, Father Patrick is immensely greater than Trixton. This is why he will be the top choice here (as well as because the crowd will not like the 12 post for Trixton) and Nuncio seems comfortable being the co-star of Takter’s giant trio.

There is no way for us to propose an upset but we can take Father Patrick as a key and eliminate the other two for a price. After all, we cannot dismiss the talents of the non-Taktarian [sic] foes included in the mix.

We suggest two other Muscle Hill products, Muscle Network and Martiniwithmuscle, to pump up an exacta and trifecta. The former is another Ake Svanstedt product. The crowd may not bet it solely on Ake’s involvement and allow for a price. The colt is improving and if he does so at a Svanstedtian [sic] rate, he will be trouble for the obvious Father Patrick foes. When “Martini” doesn’t skip gait he is a whirl of trot. Don Dorado’s price would dictate if he is added to the duo mentioned. With a key as strong as “Pat,” it may be worthy a few combos with the longer shots.

In the $213,500 Del Miller Memorial, the Takter topper is Shake It Cerry. She is a daughter of Hambo-winner Donato Hanover and aside from one defeat from Designed To Be this season due to a tough first half outside, she is one of the best soph-filly trotters to come along in a while. Another Svanstedt student, Heaven’s Door, has done well for him and us betting him and should be included in exotics if “Cerry” be your key. Cooler Schooler is a fine exotic companion, too, as trainer Jim Campbell always sends his stock out fit and fighting (bother John is scheduled to help by driving).

The night before those big miles, Mohawk has three splits for fillies and two for colts in CBC elims. Bettors best go with those still eligible for August antics (but likely not to drop in the box).

For the fillies that means Miss Aultsville, Muscle Babe and Belgravia in the first elim; Wings Of Ballykeel in the second; and Miss Luv, Margie and I Jasmine in the third. Chances are the betting crowd may let any of these go off as bargains, so check the prices, making these your prime contenders.

For the colts, take Entranced in the first CBC split and Harper Blue Chip in the second. Harper Blue Chip could be the only hopeful to drop in the Hambo box, as he is an improving colt that has raced with far better and produced more than any of the colts he faces in this eveny.

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

All Stars highlight prep week

While many hopefuls are sidelined for the Stanley Dancer Memorial next week, others will contest in three splits of the $90,000 Pennsylvania All-Stars (PAAS) at Pocono Downs on Saturday, July 5.

The opening split has a trio of eligibles in Paparazzi, Outburst and Jj Alex. While Outburst will take money due to competing against Father Patrick in the Earl Beal last week, Jett Star will likely be ignored. He too competed against Father Patrick but it was in splits of the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes (PASS). When competing against easier company, for example: non-winners of three, he raced competitively and won easily. With the right trip, he could out-trot this field at a price.

The middle division has a sextet of hopefuls with Sarcastic Man, Kapow Hanover, Amped Up Hanover, Stretch Cunningham, Truxton and Another Transcript. The first of the six, Sarcastic Man, was an early standout based on his performance in the Dexter Cup elimination, winning at 12-1 in 1:59.2. Since then, he’s had difficulty competing in the big leagues. He drew into a weaker division, which makes this week his best chance to rebound.

The closing episode features hopefuls Journey, Il Sogno Dream and Uva Hanover. The median of the trio enters off of back-to-back runner-up efforts in the Goodtimes; back class that will make him among the public’s top choices. To his flank is another dangerous rival, Dony Andreas. He’s an opportunist colt; he races his best from the pocket. He has the speed to get his perfect trip and is in against a company where he can surpass rivals through the passing lane. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

PA and NY events on Sunday; Colts make their bids in the ‘Beal’ deal

Buffalo Raceway will contest two divisions of the $122,600 New York Sires Stakes (NYSS) for colt trotters on the afternoon of Sunday, June 29. A quintet of Hambo hopefuls will continue their journey towards the first Saturday in August on the half-mile oval in Hamburg.

Mister Anson and Expressive Action are the lone eligibles in the premier episode, contesting against six other Empire-bred trotters. While Expressive Action will be one of the favorites, be on the lookout for Daley Lovin. He was aggressive in the last splits of NYSS at Saratoga, taking command on lap two and dueling towards three-quarters. He might be fitting for the half-mile game to be played this afternoon.

The other split features three hopefuls with Karets, Rocky De Vie and Flyhawk El Durado. Flyhawk El Durado, drawing post eight, has the speed to get into contention, even though his speed could not withstand the pressure of Gural Hanover, who starts from post six. With a tactical steer, Flyhawk El Durado could put up a fight with the likely favorite, even though he is the logical second choice. 

PA All-Stars events adorn the June 29 program at Pocono. Shake It Cerry comes back in the third of three episodes for filly trotters and we like her again. She is just too good to ignore at any time, though her price offerings are minuscule, at best.

The event's first split seems to belong to Broadway Socks. She is sharp right now and has it over this field. Again, price will be an issue if you make it one.

Finally Lifetime Pursuit dominates the second split, so key her and land an exotic or two, as upsets in this trio appear slim to none. 

The Earl Beal, Jr. Final has turned into a very big deal for soph-colt trotters, especially those en route to the August classic. The “Beal” is worth a half-million dollars and that has earned it a major spot on the Hambletonian Trail. Since its inception, however, for various reasons none of its winners have gone on to victory in the Hambo.

Dejarmbo won the first; he was not eligible for the Hambo. Googoo Gaagaa won the second; he had a pacing sire so he was not eligible for the Hambo; and Corky got into the Hambo final but finished third to Royalty For Life.

This year’s Beal presents nine giants of the division to date, including the season’s first meeting between the Jimmy Takter duo Father Patrick and Nuncio (his other colt giant, Trixton, is not here). At two, Nuncio was trained by Jim Oscarsson and was second best to “Patrick” in the Breeders Crown elim (which we supported on these blogs) and final.

Also present in the Beal due to strong elim action are a few colts that may become challenges to Takter’s duo, though the domination of Patrick seems undaunted. Here are some comments on the rest of the field:

Amped Up Hanover
The Ron Burke trainee is the least of Takter’s worries. Even with the inside post and the passing lane this guy needs the front to collapse for a path to the finish line, much like Domethatagain received last week at Pocono to beat Captaintreacherous.

Harper Blue Chip
This guy is improving and seems fearless, two elements that may mean he has not peaked. Those are dangerous qualities to have this time of the season as the dominant duo is at a peak (have we really seen the best of Patrick?).

Don Dorado
We have felt from the beginning of the season that if any colt was to build up enough steam to beat Patrick it would be this guy. He is getting better by the mile and when we see the best he has to offer at three it may be a major threat to Patrick (we already feel he will be better than Nuncio).

Along with “Armed,” this guy has a lot to prove but trainer Noel Daley may be moving him along more slowly than what has shown in only four races that make him the member of the field with the least earnings at three.

Well Built
Some of his gait issues clouded the start of his season and now we are edgy about how well built his stride may be, so to speak. On a good day he is fast and strong but by comparison to Patrick and some others here Well Built presents second thoughts.

Charlie Norris has never had a colt of this caliber and in another blend of crop this trotter may have been the top dog. But he has not shown the guts to topple the Takter team and he may have gotten as good as he will get.

Tom Fanning’s colt is getting some tough trips and bad posts, hampering most of his attempts to be a giant killer. He may have it in him because his Dexter Cup wins were impressive but he won’t get a chance to prove it nose to nose with bad posts and top-rated traffic.

On paper, Father Patrick is still the best but the Pocono oval can whip up a storm with a large hot field that presents adversity beyond repair in a single mile. A case in point is how Royalty For Life swept the Hambletonian heats but was humbled using his heat on the outside at Pocono in the Colonial.

The few scenarios that beat Father Patrick place any focus of upset upon Harper Blue Chip, Don Dorado and Sumatra, and that three will offer some hefty payoffs, probably in that order.

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

NY, Ontario, kick off stakes week

Preparation for the August classic is now beginning to reach full swing, with two divisions of the $124,800 New York Sires Stakes (NYSS) for fillies at Tioga Downs on Monday, June 23, and two divisions for colts of the Ontario Sires Stakes (ONSS) at Mohawk Racetrack on Tuesday, June 24.

The opening division of the NYSS features three hopefuls, Lindys Crazy Dolly, Slice Slice Baby and Glowngold. Yet, the interesting gal in this field is Maud Blue Chip. She makes her second start off of a month layoff, as well as her second start with Lasix. Since her debut was at Buffalo, it can be tossed out, since a half-mile oval may not be ideal for a return. She’ll start from post 5 and hopefully travel a better mile.

Market Rally highlights the second division, coming off an easy win against NYSS competition, the "Oaks" hopeful will likely take a majority of the wagering. The other eligible, Beauty Of Gray, appears to be her main threat, traveling first over to finish second in her NYSS division last week. She draws the rail, allowing her to go an easy mile to try and defeat the NYSS freshman champion.

Only one division of the ONSS features eligible colts. The duo in that division is comprised of Entranced and O Narutac Perfetto, who might be the best of the bunch in the second split. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Takter colts split divisions in Earl Beal, Jr. elims; more colts in New York

Among the eliminations in a stakes-filled program at Pocono on Saturday, June 21, two elims for the Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial feature some of the top glamour-boy colt trotters thus far this season. Who’s missing? Arguably the best of them, Trixton, is resting after his big win last week at Mohawk. This means he will not be able to face Father Patrick, who is in division two and handles the first event of the season that goes beyond Pennsylvania-breds.

Nuncio is in division one, so he doesn’t have to face his stable mate (when Nuncio began to make noise at two he was not with the Jimmy Takter team, as he is this season). Nuncio and Father Patrick are the only Takter colts in these blends; the rest are those that want to be giant killers.

In round one, the first of the $25,000 elims, we could be motivated to try to beat Nuncio, if only because he will be bet so heavily that he could wind up an underlay. We have had a fancy for Don Dorado and though we like him to make the final, winning this elim may be too much from the outside considering what is going on in two of the posts inside of him.

In post 3 we find the ever-improving and poorly named (a personal opinion, of course) Datsyuk. The Charlie Norris trained and driven colt has a real shot at a trip to New Jersey in August if he keeps up the aggressive work (three for four wins, one place).

Chris Ryder’s Well Built may have gait issues but when he is smooth he rocks well and easily. Along with Datsyuk, these two could deliver Nuncio his first loss, though he is bound to make the final. Datsyuk would be our first choice, assuming he will offer a decent price. Well Built is the other to use in league with Nuncio in exotics.

In the second division we won’t give any of the six challengers of Father Patrick any shot to be second or worse because Father Patrick appears as seamless as he was at two and he has made more money than all of his foes in this elim division without breaking a sweat and he has zoomed on this oval in one of his three wins (from three starts) this season.

Harper Blue Chip is getting better and he was real strong against Trixton in Canada last week, so he could be best of the rest of the “also-trotted” group. Sumatra is also one that may be overlooked by bettors and who deserves attention. Tom Fanning’s colt may not have shown us all he has yet and along with the aforementioned he could participate in the exotics and most assuredly will make it to the final.

Saratoga Raceway will contest three divisions, two containing Hambo hopefuls, of the $177,300 New York Sires Stakes (NYSS) on Friday, June 20.

The initial division features two eligibles, Expressive Action and Flyhawk El Durado. While Expressive Action is the sharpest of the field of six, Gural Hanover has the speed to get involved in the mile. With this being his second start back, he seems like the logical choice on the value spectrum.

Since the second division lacks hopefuls, the spotlight shifts to the final division, where Lukas Hall is the lone hopeful racing against five other foes. He returns off of a layoff onset by his break in the Empire Breeders Classic elimination, as well as adds lasix. His inside draw also makes him the one to beat. 

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pocono presents filly stakes

Wednesday, June 18 “Oaks” eligibles battle in two Pennsylvania Sires Stakes (PASS) at Pocono Downs.

Nine gals take to the gate for the first division, worth $98,100. Only three in the field are not aimed for August.

Donatella Hanover is a Jimmy Takter student that has taken a back seat to the herd of successful hopefuls coming from his barn. She has been a fan choice and failed three times this season and won only once. Still, she cannot be dismissed here. As well as coming to Pocono for the first time this season, she is well placed here and may revert to showing early foot against this bunch, as she has been out-paced at the Meadowlands, Meadows and Philadelphia recently. As well, even with the Takter brand, she will offer a good price.

Another $98,100 is on the line in the second PASS for femmes. The only way to describe this mile is to compare five eligibles and two non-eligibles to one filly. That reads: a field of eight verses Shake It Cerry.

One of the reasons Donatella Hanover is not a talked-about Takter homey is Shake It Cerry. She is three for three so far and on a path to make Bee A Magician’s champion 2013 season look less than spectacular. “Shake” is seamless in her gait and when she at last lets out the speed, she will prove to be faster than “Bee.”

So, what does this field have to offer her in the way of competition? If you find out, email us at TwinSpires and we will take your opinion into consideration. In the meantime, Team Takter’s accountant should take out his black-ink pen for another positive entry because this purse money is a wad he or she can take to the back, literally.

Don’t be surprised, by the way, if Lifetime Dream wakes up enough to make this a Takter exacta.

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Goodtimes, PA sires stakes test colts, Buffalo fillies come out

Among the $2.4-million in stakes action on Mohawk’s premier stakes night, June 14, the Goodtimes Final features a few prominent sophomores who are striding well into the first Saturday in August. Half of the 10 for the $272,100 mile are eligible for the classic, including Flyhawk El Durado, Trixton, Il Sogno Dream, Speak The Truth and Harper Blue Chip.

Trixton heads into the final with a four-win streak, with the combined margin of victories 26 ½ lengths. The dominant performer from the Jimmy Takter barn deserves to be an odds-on favorite but that doesn’t necessarily mean he cannot lose.

One of his few challengers is Harper Blue Chip, who was the runner-up to Trixton in the second elimination. Making his soph debut, he coasted around the oval, residing 4 lengths off of Trixton at the finish. Since he has a start under his belt, the Ontario Sires Stakes champion should give a better effort, especially since the big money is on the line.

Trixton’s other rival is Il Sogno Dream, who was the runner-up to Flyhawk El Durado, the winner of the first elimination. Adding hopples last start, he sat an easy trip and gave pursuit to Flyhawk El Durado once given room in the stretch, coming only ¾ lengths short of victory. While Trixton will be a tougher challenger, an easy trip and second start over the track should equal an improving horse. 

At Pocono the same night, more colts battle in three divisions of the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes, with purses of $73,000-plus each.

Three hopefuls go in round one, with our support for DD’s Hitman intact. He is ready to cash a win after two starts and one third and in a good spot from post 3 to beat the obvious choice, Amped Up Hanover. The other eligible is JJ Alex.

In the second of the trio, we will seek Nuncio’s defeat for the value probably offered Don Dorado. He is improving every race and seems ready to make it known he is around to stay on the journey to August.

There is nothing to say about division three but Father Patrick.

New York-bred gals are set to contest in the $118,200 New York Sires Stakes (NYSS) on Sunday, June 15 at Buffalo Raceway. Four "Oaks"-hopeful fillies will square off against eight others in two $59,100 divisions.

Division one features two eligibles, Glowngold and Beauty Of Gray. The latter of the two could be value in this field of six, having experience over a half-mile oval. She also raced well in the Empire Breeders Classic. Looking back to the end of her frosh campaign, she traveled first over against the best in the NYSS final, faltering slightly. She has two starts under her belt, which could be a sign that she’s ready to strike.

The other division consists of two hopefuls, Market Rally, who is the NYSS frosh champion, and Gammy’s Girl. While Market Rally is among the top contenders in this race, don’t overlook Keep The Cash. She heads into this race winning her last three races, one being at Western Fair (a 20-length recovery from a break). She is making her way up the class ladder and could be up to the challenge these gals will present. 

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

‘Empire’ championships highlight hopefuls at Vernon

The Empire State is once again in a spotlight, with its top colts and fillies competing in the Empire Breeders Classics (EBC) this Sunday, June 8, at Vernon Downs.  

The filly EBC carries a purse of $217,725, with three August-classic hopefuls competing for a piece (Glowngold, Beauty Of Gray and Slice Slice Baby). The nine gals lining behind the gate for this event make it a wide-open affair with value in many of our options. Of the two elimination winners, Crediama appears to have the most value. She won her elim impressively, sweeping by horses to take the lead and draw clear to a 3-length victory. That effort shows she has awakened and could be even stronger heading into the final. Slice Slice Baby might offer a good price in the exotics, with her closing ability compensating for her draw of post 9. Keying her with the favorite, likely to be Avalicious, might provide for a nice trifecta.

A trio of eligible colts comprise the nine-horse field in the $215,125 colt EBC final for the boys--Karets, Explosive Action and Rocky De Vie. Karets and Explosive Action won their eliminations last week, assuring them as probable favorites in this race.

Yet, the Trond Smedshammer-trainee Hallanet has shown promise in his two starts of 2014. Finishing third in a sires stake at Tioga, he followed it with a third-place effort to Karets in his elimination. Hallanet had made a move to the lead around the half, which could be the culprit for his faltering, although he was only a neck from victory. He draws well to get a stalking trip, something he needs to have any chance to win.

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Goodtimes will be had by colts

It’s time to head north, colts, because the Hambletonian Trail takes us to Mohawk for two weeks. First, the boys will battle in the Goodtimes elims on June 6. There are two divisions, each worth $30,000, and the best of these miles return next week for the final.

Four Hambletonian eligibles are included in the first field, with six just looking for some decent paydays. Certainly, Il Sogno Dream is yet to make the noise he is capable of making and there could be some problems getting loud enough to do so from post 9 but don’t count him out. His sires stakes effort two races back was an 8-hole journey at the Meadows and he was showing some muscle before breaking, which put him out of the contest. He qualified brilliantly afterwards. It’s always great to catch a winner before he or she reveals true talent to the majority of bettors. This could be one of them.

Of course Flyhawk El Dorado, who we liked from the start of the season, will have a lot to say about this affair, though his recent record will attract chalk players. The rest of the field looks like they will have to struggle, as Skates N Plates and Entranced, the other two hopefuls, look like they may get small shares on class alone.

In the second round for the Goodtimes boys, five eligible colts meet five others for berths in the final. And look who is here to guide them: Trixton. Jimmy Takter’s versatile son of Muscle Hill has been on fire, winning his recent three stakes with a total of 21-some-odd lengths. He has speed and he is not afraid to be a one-dimensional colt using it for all it is worth. If he were to be challenged here, two colts would take positions.

Harper Blue Chip has qualified twice and debuts his soph campaign from post 9 in this field. He should be a contender but we don’t know if he can open his soph season beating Trixton. On the other hand, Mister Bs Way may have what it takes to meet the first tier of talent en route to August. He is here and not at Vernon for the “Empire” finals because he broke in that elim and finished fourth as the even-money choice against tough stuff . He should wind up the best wager if you go against Trixton.

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Currier & Ives paint filly pictures

On Wednesday, June 4, the Meadows presents a trio of Currier & Ives events for soph-filly trotters.

For $31,120, six "Oaks" hopefuls compete in division one, the first five at the gate versus Shake It Cerry.

The dynamic Donato Hanover progeny from the Jimmy Takter barn has only finished in second place twice at two and has opened her soph career with a pair of stunningly easy victories. So far at three, she is simply faster and more splendidly gaited than any division member. Our forecast is that she may be better than Bee A Magician, last year's arguable Horse of the Year that so dominated her division--the only foes she faced--that she won all of her efforts. Team Takter looks to be locked and loaded in both glamour divisions and it is going to take divine intervening to stop him.

Shake It Cerry will win division one and with only five others in the contest, all wagering appears moot.

Division two is worth $31,620 and presents seven soph females. The two hopefuls hold all the cards. Morning-line choice Broadway Socks hasn't gotten into her best gear yet as she looks for her third-straight win. The other hopeful, Martini Master, could get to "Socks" given the right trip and may be worth the win bet with the exacta boxed. She gets a pass on her loss last out and should race back to her sharp second the race before.

A sextet lines the starting gate in the third Currier & Ives, worth $31,120. Takter's Lifetime Pursuit should be the choice since she is one more in his powder-keg battalion of trotters this season. The pair of hopefuls in the rest of the field include Passing Jetta and Westfiftyfirst.

Passing Jetta is the lone Oaks hopeful by sire Lear Jetta. Jonas Czernyson trains her. She has won her first start at three and has not proven to be on the same level she was at two when Lifetime Pursuit beat her. We'll take a shot with her this time around since we expect some value versus the Takter terror in post 1/

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

August-aimed colts and fillies line up in state-bred battles

The miles extend this weekend for Hambo and “Oaks” hopefuls, as lucrative state-bred action continues in the East, with plenty of betting opportunities going along for the rides.

On Friday, May 30, Vernon Downs hosts elims for next week’s Empire Breeders Classic (EBC) events. The elims are only $12,500 each but the rewards for being in the finals’ fields offers far more. Here are comments, featuring our suggested contenders, for both sexes’ divisions.

EBC colts, div. 1
Three of the six in the field are hopefuls. Lukas Hall, from the rail, should be the favorite and the winner. Rockie De Vie debuts at three and may need this race, while the third hopeful, Karets, needs to show more to be competitive.

EBC colts, div. 2
Mister B’s Way and Expressive Action lead the hopeful parade of six but Wild And Crazy Guy may be as good as them right now, though he has not a prayer for the classic.

EBC fillies, div. 1
Slice Slice Baby is the only eligible and yet we support Annies List, who sits on a win.

EBC fillies, div. 2
Beauty Of Gray, an eligible, debuts but the other eligible, Glowngold, comes off a fine win and should kick another one into gear.

That Friday at the Meadows, Pennsylvania Sires Stakes splits offer their usual wad of dough ($70,000-plus per event) and the first appears to be another walk in the park—this time the park near Pittsburgh—for Father Patrick. It has already become impossible to bet against him. He is the perfect key for exotics if you can hitch him up with an inflated projection on the toteboard. Last season we were successful doing this with Nuncio, who is now Father Patrick’s roommate. With four other eligibles available for second, third and fourth place in the wagering, you may want to use Jett Star, who has nothing to gain but a great payday for being second and who has a ton of experience already in this theater.

Speaking of Nuncio, he is bound to be the favorite in the second round, as three other hopefuls go after him in a field of eight. One of our big winners from last week, Auspicious Hanover, will go after him and perhaps show the kind of challenge that proves Nuncio may be a second-tier competitor. Also dangerous at the probable price is Il Sogno Dream, who has won one of only two soph races and is dangerous even from the 8 hole.

The trio’s conclusion comes in a field of eight with a quintet of August wishers. The strangely named Datsyuk may be the choice here, though Sarcastic Man, a Dexter Cup elim winner, is the top earner (he has raced 15 times already). For a price, you may put stock in the rail horse, Uva Hanover, raring to debut off of a sharp qualifier that was near as fast as the marks of any in this field. Trainer Linda Toscano sends this boy out to win.

May 31 at the Meadowlands finds the colt and filly state-breds going for their throats in respective New Jersey Sires Stakes finals, worth $100,000 each.

The unmitigated force of the glamour-boy trotter battalion in the Jimmy Takter barn this season so far is frightening. In the colt final here we find Trixton, who has dominated the Jersey boys so easily he seems to whistle past their graveyard attempts. This is a powerful field and handicappers will still have a hard time finding reason for Trixton to fail, which only makes his strength appear greater. Team Takter may find its worse enemies this season come from the brotherhood of trotters aiming at August.

So, here is a field of 10 with many cases for defeating Trixton but all we can see is this guy soaring down the stretch ahead of nine other fine trotters. If that is the scenario, then he is a true key for exotics and not a win bet. Look for strong offerings in the win pool for exotic companions, like Lightning Force, from post 10 and Resolve.

Eight fillies line up for their final. We may hope that the crowd is impressed with My Inspiration and Cee Bee Yes, even though the latter leaves from post 10, but we like coming right back to Heaven’s Door. It will be the third time we support her and it could be the charm considering we were correct about her prowess last time, though she was disqualified after finishing second as the favorite. She should not hold the top spot with bettors in this field where Moonlight In Miami will also pick up some money to balance the others mentioned on the toteboard.

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Holiday filled with contests for hopefuls

New Jersey, New York, Ontario and Pennsylvania tracks host the girls and boys of August this Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, May 23, colts and fillies are battling again at the Meadowlands in New Jersey Sires Stakes (NJSS).

A single, $27,500 NJSS for the colts looks to be a value pack with three strong contenders, all hopefuls.

Sumatra broke on the charges last time but the Dexter Cup winner has a serious stride that may not wander in this effort.

Lightning Force, our choice last out who was second to Trixton, is showing strong fettle in chase to the best of the moment.

As well, beaten choice Martiniwithmuscle is stepping well and raring to battle for a berth in the August classic.

This triptych may result in a healthy trifecta and certainly Sumatra could be an overlay key if the wagering goes as it did last time.

Two $40,000 NJSS filly divisions take their spots in the Saturday program at the Meadowlands as well.

Cee Bee Yes, the Lady Suffolk winner, takes to the mile and will most likely be the public choice. Look out, however, for Ake Svanstedt’s Heaven’s Door because Ake has strong stable content with definite intent to make big impressions other than his speedy older trotter, Sebastian K. From the outside, Mistresswithmuscle meets Cee Bee Yes again, after finishing a distant third to her mostly due to a gate break from which she recovered.

Extreme value may be waiting for bettors in round two with Resolve. She came into her soph campaign a winner after finishing her frosh season in good stride at Vernon, doing well in a Simpson against tough ones.

Also on Friday, a pair of New York Sires Stakes for colts at Tioga includes only four eligibles, a pair in each of the $62,400 splits.

In the first split, Flyhawk El Dorado returns after a fine effort in a “Simpson” at the Meadowlands, finishing third to Trixton.

In split two, the two Hambo possibilities, Expressing Action and Karets, should be the exacta stronghold elements. Either way in a wager will suffice, especially if the crowd is more supportive of entries with no path to August.

On Saturday night at Mohawk, twenty-seven sophomore fillies will contest in three eliminations for the S.B.O.A Stakes. Of the twenty-seven, seven have their sights on the Oaks on the first Saturday in August.

Elimination one highlights hopefuls Wings Of Ballykeel, Muscle Babe and Sweetie Hearts. In this wide-open betting affair, we’ll take a shot with Tosca from the center of the gate. She raced incredibly well in the Celias Counsel at Mohawk in early May, finishing third with a first-over trip in the final. She’ll be a threat to the trio of Oaks hopefuls if she minds her gait.

Famed sire Kadabra, producing the 2013 Hambletonian Oaks champion Bee A Magician, sired one hopeful in the second elimination, Miss Liv. She has shown breaks in her last two pari-mutual starts, with her last including an addition of hopples. Two major threats stand in her journey to the winners’ circle: Danica and the likely favorite Magic Feeling. Magic Feeling comes into this elimination off of a series sweep in the Celias Counsel. Danica, starting from the rail, has been performing against low-leveled non-winners of two at Woodbine. She could improve tremendously to get a victory tonight, and perhaps at a price.

The last of the eliminations attracts three Oak eligibles: Herecomesthebride, I Jasmin and Margie. Margie is the most interesting of the three, shipping to the Great White North off of a romp against maidens at Vernon Downs. Her trainer is George Ducharme, of Royalty For Life fame. It appears he also dreams of possessing the filly-rendition of the classic his colt obtained effortlessly last season. Her main threat is Riveting Rosie, a hometown favorite at the Campbellville oval. The Peaceful Way and Ontario Sires Stakes champion makes her second sophomore start, after breaking in her debut. Margie, if not the favorite, might be worth $2 come post time. 

Sunday at Pocono, two divisions of the $66,424 Coaching Club Oaks highlight their card. In the first division, Lifetime Pursuit highlights the three eligibles in the quintet (the other two being Broadway Socks and Cannonball). Her debut wasn’t sublime due to her lack of stamina turning into the stretch, losing the lead and finishing fifth. She could certainly rebound off that dismal performance. However, Highest Peak is another filly improving into this event. She competed against Shake It Cerry in the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes (PASS) last week, challenging her in a first-over move by three-quarters. She couldn’t sustain her challenge and finished 7 lengths off the Dan Patch winning filly. With the right trip, this filly could be a nice price to open up the two divisions.

The second division features four eligibles, highlighted by Shake It Cerry. Contesting her will be Tweet Me, Cooler Schooner and Struck By Lindy. In this quintet, Shake It Cerry once again reigns supreme. The other fillies in this event should examine her talent, so that they can adjust to the action of giving chase to this improving filly. Shake It Cerry is quite a gal to watch, (more so than she is for a wager since she is always heavily bet to win) and if one wishes to be bold, one may predict she doesn’t lose a race at three. She seems tons better than Bee A Magician and may prove it by actually always beating strong contenders at three. 

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Father Patrick returns

On Wednesday, May 21 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, two Historic Dickerson divisions are on the card. The traditional Grand Circuit stake this year is highlighted by the return of last year's super frosh colt trotter, Father Patrick.

He is the only eligible in the second "Dickerson" split, worth $37,262 and it seems the perfect vehicle for a payday while prepping for what is predicted as a huge season. Father Patrick is the obvious early choice to win the Hambletonian, which would be another Jimmy Takter trot success in a line of U.S. victories.

Father Patrick rules over the Dickerson field in more ways than President Putin can cover Ukraine borders with soldiers. Coming back at three with 50-percent of his talent makes the Dickerson a qualifier that will pay in dollars, so to speak, as he swallows a small field of sophs that we may never hear about again in the context of a contest including Father Patrick.

In round one of the Dickerson, worth $36,512, Auspicious Hanover is the sole eligible in the small field and should take over as he aims for dollars and momentum to get to the August classic.

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Colt events top bill

Thursday, May 15 and Friday, May 16 finds fields of colt eligibles in splits of the the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes (PASS) at Harrah’s Philadelphia and the season’s start of New Jersey Sires Stakes (NJSS) at the Meadowlands. At the Meadows on May 17, top-rated filly Shake It Cerry returns.

On May 15, in the first of three PASS splits, a trio of eligible colts gets in line against three with no “Trail” hopes. Returning for the fourth start of his soph campaign is Journey, the colt we feel may offer an edge in price with an improved performance. Journey has already won two of three, a better showing than his frosh season, and he enters the stakes ring with much potential. A good showing is expected as trainer Don Montagne aims this Donato Hanover product at glory in August.

The other two eligible colts, Outbust and Exodus Hanover, make their sophomore debuts, the latter a PASS winner on this surface at two as a huge choice.

Split two, worth $75,300, presents a quintet of colts with August dreams. One of our early successful discoveries from last season, Nuncio, is now in the Jimmy Takter barn at three and gets the buzz. He appears to be up against a very soft group but that doesn’t take into account possible improvements that one can only read between the lines.

We make Raise The Curtain, an eligible, a contender that may go under the radar. He raced well against Father Patrick, if we are to measure colts against Father Patrick at three, and he won his ’14 debut and was second next, both times at Woodbine.

As well, eligible Fashion Tagman has suffered some tough trips at Woodbine and will be overlooked here, possibly mores than “Curtain.” These two loom dangerous to Nuncio in this mile, if not through the season.

The third PASS division, also worth $75,300, presents one of our choices for a top earner this season, Don Dorado. He appears to have matured and to be ready to continue his late-season frosh rise to stardom. Something about his gait and general presence is strongly the same as his Hambo-winning sire and if that is an omen then Father Patrick may be in for some stiff competition heading for August. As for price, he may be worth a short price, especially if he blows the field away and a chance at the price he offers in this race begins to look humongous in the weeks to come. 

The Meadowlands brings colts together in two NJSS events. The fillies have a pair but only one is a betting race.

The first colt split is worth $21,500. It’s a contest that includes the earliest rivalry in the division with Dexter Cup-winner Sumata facing Trixton, who won over this surface impressively last week and is another in the Takter team on the Hambletonian Trail.
Add to the duo the seeming ascension of Odds On Amethyst (one of six colts by Muscle Hill, so any “sire factor” for handicapping purposes is moot), a threatening King City (though still a maiden) and a contentious Lightning Force and you have a perplexed evaluation chore. Where you would receive the best value wager is near impossible to predict but we will take the chance with Lightning Force, based on the gelding’s late-season form at two which could continue to improve.

The second $21,500 NJSS for colts offers Well Built a chance to stay on gait and begin a profitable soph season. Two of his four soph efforts found him in a gallop. His trainer, Chris Ryder, says that is a setback, having full confidence in the colt’s prowess. Well Built is coupled with another Ryder student, Southwind Poseidon, who did not race at two and is very green; both are eligible to the classic.

Muscle Network will get play as he debuts at three but he is not eligible and is coming off a qualifier where he won but broke badly. Looking to be in fine fettle and strong of gait is Martiniwithmuscle, who becomes our choice. He was lightly raced at two but graduated with his first win and has taken two straight at three.

The betting NJSS for fillies is a seven-horse field with only one non-eligible, the Chocolatier gal, Coin Collector. That one is one for two so far in a field of first-time sophs and gets our call. We have supported fillies by this terrific sire before due to a great percentage for winners and expect a great price for what should be a strong contender in the bunch.

The Meadows hosts a pair of $99,000 PASS miles on May 17. Division two will probably belong to champion filly Shake It Cerry. Post 7 in a field of seven should be no problem if she is raring to start her soph season anywhere near as sharp as she performed at two. 

In the first split we once again support Raging Sea, who failed at 3-1 last week, finishing sixth. She should improve here enough to win, perhaps at a better price?

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Philly for fillies and Jersey for boys

Thursday, May 8, “Oaks”-eligibles take a shot at big purses in the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes (PASS) for sophomore filly trotters at Harrah’s Philadelphia. Then, on Friday, May 9, the John Simpson Memorial for soph-colt trotters is a betting affair at the Meadowlands (a “Simpson” filly mile with a field of three is a non-betting feature.

The first of three splits ($74,132) presents only three eligible fillies, Silent Opera K, Designed To Be and Vanity Matters from a field of seven. “Silent” is coming off of two good late-closers at the Meadows, while the other two have not raced since the 2013 Breeders Crown, in which they both broke in eliminations. Those two are the probable favorites and we like “Vanity” best, hoping for a second-choice price.

The next PASS split ($73,732) has only two eligibles, Donatella Hanover (the probable favorite) and Raging Sea, in a field of six. Raging Sea is lightly raced and deserves support. She may not get a lot of action, making her more appetizing. If she is much better an shows it, you will be getting a price on her that will be difficult to come by again soon.

Finally, another $74,132 division has only one ineligible in seven on the gate. Expect Take The Money to take the bulk of the bets, as she is on a winning skein at three. But Noon Tea Party and Bikini So Teeny should have a say in this, with “Noon” the fresh face as a soph and a record that puts her second a few times to top-rated Shake It Cerry. The three mentioned could, in fact, be the stars of the trifecta in any particular order.

May 9 at The Meadowlands brings out the colts in a $51,543 Simpson stake. Eleven battle on the two-turn mile with seven eligibles for the Hambletonian.

We like the chances for Deweykeepumnwhy to win and hope that Well Built, who broke in the Dexter Cup prep as the big favorite, once again woos the crowd. “Dewey” debuts at three in this event. He appears to have the speed of his Hambo-winning sire and a tactical ability as well, having come from behind strongly at two from outside posts. He has qualified well and is in the perfect spot to command this group. Flyhawk El Durado, also an eligible, will negotiate the distance from post 9 but has the class to make noise late. And Trixton, another from the soph crop of Muscle Hill, has every right to improve and may be around for a piece of the trifecta late.

Keep watching the Hambletonian Trail blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Dexter Cup starts the sulkies rolling for August

The Hambletonian Trail is now opened for business and it is filled with road bumps and rabbit holes and a herd of horses, colts and fillies, hungering for crowns in the August classic. 

As we have for some years now, in cooperation with TwinSpires and the Hambletonian Society, we bring you top betting analysis for the eligible colts and fillies of the Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks. Each race along the "Trail" involving the possible contenders will be handicapped and offer contenders from our wagering experiences over the past few decades.

May is here and thus, we begin with the colts.

Saturday, May 3 brings on the boys and a single mile into the $115,370 Dexter Cup. 

The event this year presents eight soph colts, with five raring to start on the Trail. Certainly there will be a strong focus on the first soph product of Hambo-champ Muscle Hill—King City (also-eligible Well Built did not make the final). 

King City has only been out twice, with one second, but the Jonas Czernyson trainee is obviously aimed at making a lot of noise down the Trail. Well Built may be out of this one but the Chris Ryder barn looks to build a strong contender in him for the classic in future events.

Tom Fanning’s Sumatra is one of two Muscles Yankee kids—Dave Briggs the other—that is just getting started at three. “Briggs” has already won two and hails from the productive Jimmy Takter barn. Sarcastic Man, by Tom Ridge, has to deal with post 8 at Freehold for trainer Gail Wrubel. He won the prep elim last week at 12-1 from post 7 with 13-1 King City on his tail, getting second. Well Built was the favorite but he broke at the gate and was eliminated. Sumatra, the crowd’s second choice, was third. Well Built’s bust knocked out “Briggs,” “Wish” and non-eligible“Derby.”

Schnittker’s Sheer Action, from post 5 in the final and a non-eligible, had the toughest trip of the prep, being forced outside while avoiding runners and reaching the top by a nose at three-quarters. He travels uncoupled from a 9-1 three-prong entry last week and will be much higher than that in what could be a terrific upset. 

We have to go with Sheer Action, though he won't be a participant in the August classic. He may have the goods on this group on this day and will be a price worth backing.