Weekend harness racing preview

November 26th, 2014

With the Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend on tap, standardbred enthusiasts will be looking to find ample races to feast upon on Saturday and Sunday at various venues. While most of the divisional honors and potentially horse of the year were decided last weekend when the Meadowlands hosted all 12 Breeders Crown finals, the New Jersey one-mile oval will again take center stage this weekend with a pair of lucrative stakes, one each for pacers and trotters.

One week after the Meadowlands hosted the Breeders Crown finals for ages pacers and older trotters, respectively, the revamped New Jersey oval will host both the $500,000 TVG Free-For-All final for aged pacers and the $500,000 Free-For-All final for older trotters. In lieu of last weekend's Breeders Crown finals it remains to be seen how much these two races will impact divisional honors, although both could weigh heavily with the voters when ballots are received in early December.

In the seventh race on the card, the $5000 TVG FFA for pacers, much of the attention will again be focused on the Ron Burke-trained quartet of Sweet Lou (Ron Pierce), Foiled Again (Yannick Gingras), Clear Vision (Tim Tetrick) and Bettor's Edge (Matt Kakaley), although it was Thinking Out Loud (John Campbell) who upset them last weekend in the Breeders Crown for trainer Bob McIntosh.

Although Sweet Lou is in the midst of a six-race skid, including a second-place finish in the Breeders Crown last weekend, this Burke trainee has likely already secured honors as champion older pacer. He sports 10 wins and earnings of $1.1 million from 18 starts this year, including stunning performances at various ovals throughout the summer. But Sweet Lou perhaps peaked too soon in regards to consideration for pacer of the year and horse of the year - now both likely to go to unbeaten freshman filly sensation JK She'salady - although he should be much sharper this week. He was second in the Crown last week despite being idle since October 31.

Foiled Again will look to rebound from a subpar effort last week. The durable and venerable 10-year-old has earned over $6.75 million in a career in which he boasts 82 wins from 223 starts, including a 6-7-5 slate and $740,000 banked this season. Clear Vision also owns a 6-7-5 slate and earnings of nearly $500,000 from 28 starts this year, while Bettor's Edge owns a comparable 8-7-4 slate and $674,000 bankroll from 29 tries this year.

If either of the Burke trainees fails to deliver, then recent Breeders Crown hero Thinking Out Loud could emerge victorious and possibly usurp Sweet Lou as champion older pacer. Thinking Out Loud owns a modest 5-1-4 slate and $485,000 bankroll from 21 starts this year for McIntosh, but another triumph in a lucrative major stakes could sway voters to pencil in his name on the ballot for champion older pacer.

Three races later on the card in the $500,000 TVG FFA for older trotters, much of the attention will be on three horses, each of which is seeking divisional honors and possibly trotter of the year.

Summertime sensation Sebastian K (Ake Svanstedt) will be looking to regain some of his lost luster while leaving from post five. The talented trotter has won eight of 12 starts and banked over $660,000 this year while uncorking an unreal 1:49 victory at Pocono Downs this summer, but Sebastian K has been upset in several major stakes this fall. He will likely garner the selection as champion older male trotter regardless of the outcome on Saturday night, but he will need an impressive victory to have any serious chances of being named trotter of the year following Breeders Crown scores last weekend from three-year-old filly star Shake It Cerry and colt champion Father Patrick.

Looking to join the argument for trotter of the year are two talented mares, Bee A Magician (David Miller) and Maven (Gingras), both of which in the chase for their divisional honor. Bee A Magician, who won all 17 starts last season en route to being selected horse of the year, owns a modest 4-6-2 slate and $420,000 bankroll from 16 starts this year, but she held safe Classic Martine to win last weekend's Breeders Crown Open Mare trot. Maven, a recent $750,000 Harrisburg sales purchase, finished second last weekend to the supremely talented Commander Crowe in the Breeders Crown Open Trot final against the boys, one week after winning the elim. She has won 4 of 11 starts and nearly $300,000 this year and will seek to wrestle divisional honors from Bee A Magician and potentially usurp Sebastian K as trotter of the year with a victory on Saturday night.

That same night at Yonkers Raceway, PH Supercam (Jason Bartlett) will look to overcome post eight and capture the $35,000 Open Handicap for trainer PJ Fraley. This durable aged pacer who began the season by capturing the $400,000 George Morton Levy Memorial  Series final at Yonkers, boasts a solid 11-5-11 slate and $584,000 bankroll from 35 starts this year. He owns a class edge over his seven rivals, but he will have to overcome post eight to topple Beach Memories (George Brennan), Machs Beach Boy (Pat Lachance), Mcerlean (Eric Carlson) and Mickey Hanover (Daniel Dube).

Then on Sunday afternoon at Harrah's Philadelphia, Fraley will look to sweep the overnight features at both venues will he sends out Mach It So (Tetrick) in the $25,000 Winners Over class. Like stablemate PH Supercam, Mach It So has enjoyed a banner season that began with several good efforts in the Levy series at Yonkers. He owns an 8-4-1 slate and $220,000 bankroll from 22 starts this year, including an impressive 1:48 score at Pocono Downs. Both Texican N (Pierce) and Dial Or Nodial (Miller) will prove worthy opponents in the Sunday feature.

That same evening at Dover Downs, eight sophomore pacers will go postward in the $35,000 Progress Pace Preview, with all eight returning for the $250,000 final the following Sunday. Railbound McWicked (Miller) owns a 10-5-4 slate and $1.3 million bankroll from 21 starts this year and he may have clinched divisional honors with his determined score in the Breeders Crown final for this age, gait and gender last weekend. But JK Endofnera (Gingras), who faded to third in the Crown final last week despite a pocket trip, will seek immediate atonement this weekend and next in his last bid to garner the coveted title of champion three-year-old colt pacer.