Arguably, the most popular divisions each harness racing season are the three-year-old colt pacers and trotters. In 2020, as of this writing, some of the divisions’ coveted stakes have already been postponed, with no commitments for dates. When they may be presented is yet to be determined.

Over the last two decades, at least, the divisions’ earliest headliners have been graduates from sterling two-year-old seasons, while others find their best strides at three. In this TwinSpires harness blog installment, we predict some sophomore pacing colts that have the talent to challenge obvious headliners from last season’s freshman champs. We will look at soph-colt trotters in the next installment.

Our record for discovering division “sleepers” early has been very good over two decades, presenting eventual champs escaping the majority of pundits. Our preferences are in descending order.

CAPT MIDNIGHT

At two, Capt Midnight was burdened with heavy expectations, being the son of Captaintreacherous. Capt Midnight was one of a herd of freshman pacers from his sire, so each of them shared the possibility of being terrific. Capt Midnight shone among them. He won six of 10 starts for a $385,035 season. He blew out in 1:49.4 at Mohawk and was never clocked slower than 1:53.

As the 3-1 third choice in the Breeders Crown Final, Capt Midnight was empty. The judges’ call placed him fourth when Mayhem Hanover was placed fifth for interfering with him in the stretch. The two favorites, Papi Rob Hanover and Tall Dark Stranger, the 2020 “obvious two” were placed second and first, respectively.

At three, Capt Midnight will not arrive as favorable as his two main foes from the “Crown.” It will be judgment that favors the bettor, who is fickle and too judgmental. We like Capt Midnight to hit the track at three with spark and speed.

GROOVY JOE

This Roll With Joe product could be a surprise to bettors that have continually overlooked the potency of his sire. Groovy Joe was a great earner at two, though he did not spike any of the big guys. In fact, he packed all of his winnings ($230,845) on the New York-bred stakes circuit.

Groovy Joe should come back at three strong and with stealth, making him an edgy bet with paying power.

MAYHEM HANOVER

Yup, this is the guy who got in the way of Capt Midnight in the Crown final. The important thing about that race is how he wound up ahead of Capt Midnight and rolled freely toward the dueling pair.

The Sportswriter colt sent up a flare, asking for attention when he returns at three. Against any of the obvious, “Mayhem” has a chance to thrive at three for his connections and his backers.

CATCH THE FIRE

Another son of Captaintreacherous, Catch The Fire won four times in his dozen starts at two, which earned him $260,442. In league with his sire’s brethren, he recorded a pair of sub-1:50 miles, with a mark of 1:49.4.

At three, Catch The Fire has every reason to set the track aflame, so to speak, and if he shows only a spark more than the obvious two, he can win at very good prices.

ELVER HANOVER

The son of Yankee Cruiser will launch his soph season with nine wins in nine starts. Having earned $363,450. He set a world record of 1:48.3 at The Red Mile late in the season. He won on the half-mile at Northfield in 1:51., a tick off the division mark.

Elver Hanover will get a lot of betting attention for his speed, as well as his trainer, Ron Burke, so he could help any of our top four pay a bundle beating him.

We have a few honorable mentions, which rank above our top-five choices in the mainstream handicapping community. 

CATTLEWASH

We were among the first to support the odd-named Cattlewash at two. Once he got rolling and noticed, the son of Somebeachsomewhere cashed for $333,201. Cattlewash got better as the season ended for trainer Ron Burke.

CAPTAIN VICTORIOUS

Another “Captain” product, he topped “Midnight” in earnings and is the second-richest frosh colt from the sire.

U S CAPTAIN

This Captain colt was beginning to flex his muscles very late in the season and racked up over $234,000 in earning under the radar.