The March marching of the older pacers begins this weekend as the 2019 harness racing stakes season launches at Yonkers Raceway. Each year for more than a decade we have sounded the traditional beginning of the stakes season with two elongated series for older pacers at the classic New York raceway. Horse pacers journey through the weeks in The George Morton Levy. Mare pacers battle in the Blue Chip Matchmaker series. Each series offers five preliminary rounds to make it to their respective finales, on April 20.
Say hello to spring, say hello to stakes.
For Thursday, as an overture, we feature another swipe at Saratoga’s first five races and all of the wagers offered that afternoon.
The horses-to-watch (H2W) list contenders remain as serious considerations for any and all wagers you endure, so do your own handicapping and then consider our H2W selections. Consult the H2W for all of your harness action.
Saratoga / Races 1,2,3,4,5
Thursday, March 14
Here is another five-race rundown at the harness “spa” with single- and multiple-race exotics. The targets from which you may choose include a Daily Double, exactas and triples, a Pick 3 and a Pick 5.
From last week’s “Fiver” this Pick 3/Pick 5 presents Time To Win. Staying at this level for the third time, The Time To Win looked a bit dull the second time. In this group he should resort to racing as he did when he first stepped up, which could mean a win or at the least, finishing an exotic partner. Stirling Cameo worked well to get second last time, dropping to this level and looks alive here.
Also returning from last week is Open Table. With a morning line (ML) of 5-2 and her decent, general form, she has all the markings of a soft favorite with a better chance than her price, which would not hurt the return on a Daily Double.
Lynn Bin Con Kin was a beaten favorite last week, losing to Bonzai Beach, the ML choice in this race. “Lynn” may have needed that race, having scratched twice already in 2019. She was short on the engine but this week she may surprise with a more relaxed, cover trip.
An exacta with “Bonzai” appears price-pure with Lynn on top and a sharp addition for a triple bargain includes Fade To Gold in her second race after a needed drop in class.
Oh Whata Night John was caught on the lead at three-quarters and suffered from the duel, finishing fourth at 6-1. A higher ML in this event is a bit of a gift and a key to pumping up all exotics because “John” should not be short in this one. A win strongly aids all of the exotics.
Oporto Hanover goes for the first time in Michelle Crawford’s barn, a positive sign all the way around. “Oporto” is rested, has qualified soundly and along with John has a better chance to win than her ML indicates. Expect a strong mile from Oporto, as well as Crawford’s continuing success this meet.
At six, Aunt Betty has plenty left for a strong campaign at Saratoga levels. She has raced with better at Dover and kept her connections in business by earning better than most do in New York. At her ML odds she is worth the bet, having lost two races as the favorite since starting 2019 being sick.
MATCHMAKER FIRES I
Friday, March 15 Yonkers hosts five $40,000 divisions of the Matchmaker Series for pacing mares in Races 5 through Race 9.
The talents of the seven in the field make this a combative division to launch the series. On the inside is one of the high-priced winners we gave our readers last week, Write Me A Song. That was her prep for the series and her first race of the season for prolific Yonkers trainer Lance Hudson. Ron Burke sends Camera Girl to post. She was impressive winning from the toughest outside post at Northfield last week after a few romps at the Meadows. To her right is millionaire Newborn Sassy, who cashed 24 checks from 36 races last year, many at Yonkers. Medusa also comes from the Meadows with fine credentials.
Among those mentioned is a lot of speed-leaving horseflesh, except for Write Me A Song, who should save a ton of ground while the others shuffle about. However, if locked into the rail path (no more open stretch available), “Write” may not be able to make a winning late move. However, that’s a chance worth taking because Write will not be the favorite, giving us one more shot at a good price in what looks like a good series for her. As a price-pumping partner in an exacta, consider Ideal Lifestyle to the right of Write.
Another seven take flight in this division, a somewhat quieter battle than the opener. There will be a good deal of Down Under (AUS) horses in both the Yonkers series and one in this group, Bettor Joy N, has already shown a fancy for the track and is our top contender for price and purpose. Jim King, Jr. trains this closer leaving from the 2 hole in her third race of the season.
Twice second in two series finals, AUS-bred Sell A Bit N should get a bunch of fan money, even though her 2019 season has gotten off to a dull start against lesser stock at Yonkers. We like Delightful MemphisN for exotic action. She will be bet hard, though.
Matchmaker R 7
Lakeisha Hall was sharp at five, though she entered her season at six with little spark. Burke gave her a shot at Yonkers last week and she was well supported coming off of a good qualifier. The ever growing stable of Gilbert Garcia-Herrera sends Queen Lostris N in quest of her sixth win of seven starts since last season, all at Yonkers. She will attract some change, for sure.
Dover shippers from the top mare class in Delaware chart as top contenders in the series and Apple Bottom Jeans may be the best of them. If the crowd leans toward those mentioned above she could offer a decent price; as one of the choice she may stillbe worth the win bet.
Burke’s Feelin Red Hot could be the public choice. She has been prepping in Ohio, making massive early moves due to being handicapped to start in tough posts and she still picked up checks and won some. She will be challenged by Itty Bitty, who has been making money at Yonkers while well bet in the top class.
We have been watching and endorsing Shezzza GNP N to no avail after she won at 20-1 for trainer Peter Tritton and we expect her to race better in this division than her last two (where she was 79-1 and 43-1).
New Zealand-bred star Shartin N, the series’ defending champ, always shows up and is backed to the hilt. The super mare, trained by Jim King Jr., starts her six-year-old season after a stupendous year. It is difficult to find a fair price on this freaky fast daughter of Tintin In America (AUS) unless you accept that she is cream of the crop, in which case “any price’ll do.”
We won’t deny her but we will make mention of the rail leaver, Believe In Waco. A crazy and somewhat disturbing name, “Waco” is of AUS origin, trained by Sean Smithpeters, himself new to the Yonkers colony. This gal could have a good trip following Shartin N to challenge late. She loves the half-mile, as we can see from her Saratoga displays. The question is: Does she belong in this series? If she can make an impression on Shartin N, as well as douse Shartin N’s main foes, this is where you will get any price on her on the off chance she wins or in league with exotics.
GEORGE M. LEVY LEAGUE I
Saturday, March 16, older male pacers are featured in six $50,000 divisions of the George Morton Levy Series in Races 4 through Race 9.
Opening the series we see names familiar to bettors of the Levy as well as Yonkers. Burke’s Windsong Leo will get lots of support from the inside but the speed element here is threatening. There’s Somewhere in LA, Mach It So on the inside; Dr J Hanover and Lyons Steel to their right. A cavalry could leave and shuffle early.
Look at the closers, who do not have to be that far behind the top speed and could offer some good cash. Western Fame loves races like this and he is in post 4, where he could stay afloat and fire late against the top three. Also possible, coming from our H2W list, is Hudson’s Don Domingo N, who has a tough road from post 7 but has the style to be involved late and would perk up some exotics.
Speaking of Hudson, he has been readying Christen Me N for the series and he draws a good spot to make this field respect him in next week’s division. The price should be good, as the crowd will endorse Burke’s Rockin Ron on his season starter. We also consider Anythingforlove A, certainly in exotics; he has been busy earning bucks at Yonkers in the top levels.
It may be no mystery here how Sams A Champ A (AUS) enjoys beating the others, as Tahnee Camilleri’s gelding goes for his fourth straight USA win. There was not a lot of support for him last time, giving backers 7-1 for his win. This time he should be lower, though still within value range, as the crowd punches win tickets for Beckhams Z Tam and Mac’s Jackpot on his second of the seasion. Bit Of A Legend may race better than fans expect from his far outside post, making his odds better than usual. He will be our exotic partner with “Sams.”
We were disappointed in the second half of last season while backing JJ Flynn because he did not race up to snuff; we knew he was uncomfortable and could do better. Josh Green proved us correct as he soared into 2019 at Dover with a dominating gait. He has won five of six coming into this series and will get noticed by the majority. He has to deal with Rodeo Rock, sharp and fresh this year so far.
Military Master A, Hudson’s horse, is an outside contender, one we will like at a strong price. He is a classy New York-bred that has found a good home with “Hudson by the Hudson,” as we call Lance’s stock at Yonkers.
You might read the horse names in this field and say, “Who are these guys?” They are new to the Levy and show up in the weakest of the divisions on night one of the series. We see an uncertain betting crowd here and hope for a good price as we go to our wallets for Bettors Fire N. He has been productive enough compared to his foes here to put in a very good mile. In fact, his loss in a recent Yonkers Open has more merit than his calls display. He has been tough in the top shelf on the Empire’s four turns this year already.
It is not hard for us to lean as much as we do on the talent presented by Hudson on the Hudson. The stock is rising and we are investing again in this event. The horse is Lockton Luck A (AUS), who may be the sleeping class of this group, better, even than another AUS newcomer, Mach Doro A. Bettors will most likely lean toward the latter but we are banking on Hudson homebodies without concern, aiming for some dollars that will not be available from them if they go as well as expected in the first two rounds of this series.
Review our choices and follow the wagering at the prescribed track. These are possible contenders we have judged from reviewing races. The horses’ names are listed beneath the name of the track after the date they will be racing. The race in which they are entered (R and race number) follows. If a + is in front of a horse’s name it means it is appearing on the list for the second (and last) time because it failed to win the first time it appeared. An “ae” signals the horse is entered on the also-eligible list. If a horse is listed twice, refer to the entries on the night of the race since a horse may enter in more than one race. Types of wagering on any of the H2W listed horses are based on your judgment. If you have any questions, email us at TwinSpires.
3/16/19, +Carlos Danger R1; Rebel Voyager R3; Burton Blue Chip R5; +Rock Fame R8; Fast Fool R8
3/15/19, Almost Cut My Hair R3; King Of The Crop R4; +Therealgoods R7
3/14/19, Proper One R4; +Piece Of The Rock R5; Romantic Interest R7; Hug The Wind N R8
3/18/19, A Chorus Line R3; Rifle R6; Sedona Seelster R9
3/14/19, Sly Baran R6; +Bettors Instinct R7; Dreams Of Mine R9; Golfgirl R9
3/15/19, +Tag Up And Go R8; +Montalbano Bi R13
3/16/19, +Castle Flight R8; +Jacamino R13
3/15/19, +Miss Meeko R1
3/16/19, +Dateline Hanover R5; Missile J R12; +Cardiac Fashion R14
3/17/19, Indian Spirit R7
3/14/19, Cerisier R4; Twin B Onaroll R5; Stitch In Time R6
3/18/19, +BNA Star R2; +Ralph R R5
3/16/19, +Rolling Going Gone R8
3/16/19, Moms Crossroads R5; Polak A R10; Shinobu Hanover R14
3/14/19, +Hot Tip R6; +Casey Hanover R7
3/14/19, Stonebridge Honey R6; Gina Grace N R10
3/15/19, +Avatar Seelster R1; +HA Houston R1+The Red Baron R9; +St Lads Billiejean R10
3/14/19, +Broadway Bruiser R2; Filly Forty Seven R6
3/15/19, We Think Alike R1
3/16/19, Givenupdreaming R3; +Mighty Mr Sharkey N R12