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.

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