Harness Preview for 9/5/2014

September 5th, 2014

Over the next two weekends several standardbred ovals will place the emphasis on their state's respective sire stakes finals. This Saturday and Sunday the focus will be on two prominent Pennsylvania ovals as Pocono Downs hosts a quartet of PASS finals for freshmen of both gaits and genders on Saturday night, then Harrah's Philadelphia offers a quartet of PASS finals for sophomores on Sunday.

Saturday evening's card at Pocono Downs will feature four PASS finals for freshmen, as well as a pair of Open events, one each for trotters and pacers.

In the first of the four PASS finals, scheduled as the ninth race on the card, a trio of freshman pacing fillies trained by Ron Burke will look to complete a clean sweep of the top three spots. But one youthful lady trained by Jimmy Takter seems likely to foil Burke's bid for the triple and could emerge victorious.

Burke trainees Southwind Roulette (Yannick Gingras), Well Hello There (Ron Pierce) and Kays Dragon Lady (Matt Kakaley) all have shown plenty of ability. In fact, Southwind Roulette is the likely favorite, having won four of five starts and over $150,000 while sporting the fastest seasonal mark (1:51.4) by more than a second in this group. Well Hello There has won twice in six tries, but Kays Dragon Lady is still winless from six outings.

Takter trainee Aria Hanover (Dave Palone) drew inside of all three Burke trainees and will certainly be a factor throughout. The Well Said filly has won three of six starts and banked over $125,000 and sports a 1:53.1 mark. She poses a serious threat to Burke's chances of sweeping the top three spots and her appearance in the winner's circle would hardly be a surprise.

One race later in the PASS final for freshman filly trotters, Takter trainees will be looking to complete the exacta. Wild Honey (Gingras) has won four of five starts and over $125,000, while Speak To Me (Palone) has won four of seven starts and nearly $110,000. Gatka Hanover, a Burke trainee, has won four of seven starts and nearly $150,000 and could split the Takter exacta.

Then in the 11th, the PASS final for freshmen colt trotters, all eyes will be on the undefeated Billy Flynn (Brett Miller), a Cantab Hall colt who has won all six of his starts thus far for trainer Steffan Lind. Billy Flynn also owns the highest earnings and fastest mark in the field, but the Takter-trained Walter White (Gingras) poses and upset threat.

Then in the 12th, the PASS final for freshmen pacing colts, much of the attention will be on the unbeaten Yankee Bounty (Gingras), a Maryland-bred son of Yankee Cruiser trained by Burke. Yankee Bounty has won all six of his career starts and earned over $160,000 and sports a stellar seasonal mark of 1:50.2. Both Dragon Eddy and Tomy Terror give trainer John Butenschoen a solid one-two punch with upset potential.

On Sunday afternoon most sports enthusiasts will be paying close attention to the full slate of National Football League games as the NFL kicks off its 2014 season, but the serious harness racing fans will be eager to witness a quartet of $260,000 PASS finals at Harrah's Philadelphia that afternoon.

In the day's ninth, the first of those four races, the PASS final for three-year-old filly trotters, much of the focus will be on Lifetime Pursuit (Yannick Gingras) the Jim Takter trainee who has won six of 11 starts this year, capped by a victory in the Hambletonian Oaks. Lifetime Pursuit has since returned to the win the divided Simcoe Stakes at Mohawk in 1:53.4 and she is almost assuredly going to be the odds-on favorite in this event. But she may be prime for an upset.

Designed To Be (David Miller) was actually the beaten favorite in the Hambo Oaks and has since bounced back to win a Simcoe split at Mohawk in 1:52.3. Her faster clocking may go unnoticed or might be deemed irrelevant by many handicappers, but keep in mind she was also the beaten favorite in the Hambo Oaks and will be worth backing in this spot as the 3-1 second choice.

Then one race later in the PASS final for three-year-old colt pacers, much of the attention will be on railbound McWicked (David Miller) who has won eight of 12 starts and banked $780,000 this year. Not only did McWicked win the prestigious Adios final at The Meadows, he scored the Harrah's oval in 1:48.4 on August 7 when he won by four lengths as the 1-2 favorite against PASS company. He will likely be a short price again on Sunday afternoon.

But those looking for an upset could find Sometimes Said (Tim Tetrick) worth backing. In each of his last three starts, Sometimes Said has overcome first over journeys to score and although he could be facing a similar task on Sunday afternoon against the talented McWicked, he will likely get a fast pace scenario and his late kick would be enhanced in the lane.

Then in the 11th, the PASS final for three-year-old colt trotters, the race reads like a who's who of the sport's elite sophomore colt trotters. Father Patrick (Gingras), last year's champion freshman colt trotter, is seeking to regain his lost luster after breaking stride at the start as the 2-5 favorite in the Hambletonian. The Takter trainee has since rebounded to win the Zweig Memorial - following a stunning upset at 1-20 in a PASS - but he has yielded the role as top trotter in the land to fellow Takter trainee, Trixton.

Not to be overlooked in here is another Takter trainee, Nuncio (John Campbell) who has never been worse than second in 20 career starts. Nuncio, however, has been second to Father Patrick on several occasions and was second to Trixton in the Hambo, so he is the third best colt trotter in the barn right now. But he still merits an upset chance in here, as does Datsyuk, who handed Father Patrick a 25-1 upset two starts back in a PASS elim.

Completing the quartet of PASS finals on Sunday is the one for three-year-old filly pacers. Mistletoe Shalee winner Sandbetweenurtoes (Brett Miller) is undefeated in eight starts and will occupy the favorite's role, but this deep group also includes Beach Gal, Allstar Rating and Weeper. a talented Maryland-bred who has won four of nine outings this year.