Over the past decade, the late-season stakes produced fields with reasonable competition, so much that the public’s adoration for the penultimate-stakes winners in the Breeders Crown helped hike some odds for value plays in the Matrons and the Final Fall Four, as well as the Progress Pace.
It was an enormously disappointing weekend for anyone counting on late-season upsets, even in the mildest form. The betting public was content with races that included prohibitive favorites, some which were so obvious that the track banned various wagering for fear of losing money. The onslaught of public choices began on Nov. 12.
At Dover on Saturday night the cream of the crop buried all Matron comers. The favorites, all sterling members of their divisions, romped. The most impressive was Check Me Out (a pass race for us). The frosh-filly trotter broke during the first half, spotted the field at least 20 lengths and still won!
Destiny’s Chance, at 1-9, was the frosh-filly pacing winner, defeating our upset choice, Southwind Joanne. We almost beat the choice in the frosh-colt pacer Matron when our 23-1 Steelhead Hanover challenged the favorite, Heston Blue Chip in late stretch but couldn’t get the job done. From insult to injury: All Star Legend, at 80-1, passed “Steelhead” to take second. Finally, Delano turned out to be a bet at 2-1 but the frosh-colt trotter was short, finishing third.
At Balmoral that night, Podges Lady was our choice in the American-National for frosh-filly pacers but she went off at 3-5, forcing a positive pass, as she finished third. Dick Mctracy lost in a strange speed dueling frosh-colt pace mile.
Swinging Beauty was a winner but we passed her $3.60 win price in the soph-filly pace. The glamour-boy pacing Am-Nat found our choice, Hugadragon, at 31-1, second to the favorite with an exacta that paid a mere $7.
There was no way to play the Messenger since Roll With Joe faced zero competition from only five foes, was the prohibitive choice and won with a jog in a startling 1:52.4 on Yonkers’ half-mile track.
Saturday night we managed only one winner in the Cal-Expo no-take-out late Pick 4 when Misty Waters won the final leg, paying $10.60.
Sunday, the public pounced again and was prolific.
Chester Downs paraded public preferences in each of the Fall Final Four. Our choices finished fourth (Pittypat Hanover), third (Pirouette Hanover) and fourth (Mybrothergeorge).
At Dover, Matrons and the Progress Pace Final featured further favorite fire, if you will. The soph-filly pace was such a laugh that the track didn’t offer betting. Drop The Ball, bound to be a monstrous favorite, costing the track a few bob if she won, caused win-betting only in the filly-pace Matron final. It was a smart move because she won.
In the filly-trot Matron we won by default, since Crys Dream was coupled with our two choices, Jezzy and Hey Mister. Those two finished sixth and seventh, respectively, paying $5. It was a pass, anyway.
Of the two we focused upon in the “Progress,” the near-5-2, Westwardho Hanover, won, paying $6.80. Samander was a bet but finished fifth.
There was little redemption in having Big Rigs upset the soph-colt trot, even though he paid $36.80. That was enough to settle for a weekend wash. Plus, considering how many races we passed, the damage was minimal, as was the excitement. That is all right because we did no damage to our bankroll. As one wise old handicapper once told me about choosing races to play, “Every race you pass, you win.”
We spent two days at the Harrisburg yearling sale, meeting with cohorts and monitoring the top-selling youngsters. History was made during the first session when Detour Hanover, a full brother to Donato Hanover, sold for $825,000. That was the highest selling yearling ever. The same buyers bagged pacing colt Some Of The Beach, a full brother to 2008 Horse of the Year Somebeachsomewhere, for $430,000.
Those people that feel harness racing is an innocuous stroll in the park for drivers as opposed to the danger jockeys pursue on thoroughbreds should watch Joe, Phil and Pat Hudon escape death in a spill on Nov. 10 at Woodbine. When Joe’s steed veered to the inside and fell hard in late stretch, the blood-related trio was unseated and hurled to the ground from a chain reaction.
Luckily, the Hudons walked off the track. The horses were not injured either, but standardbreds can take a beating more easily than drivers. History sadly recalls the deaths of greats Shelly Goudreau and William Haughton among drivers killed during a harness race. Hundreds of drivers have been sidelined with serious injuries in spills over the years, as well. A harness race looks like a harmless exercise but is, in fact, an extremely dangerous event.
Welcome to the TwinSpires Blog. Our contributors will be continually updating posts to offer commentary, insight, advice and expert opinions on horse racing and wagering. The goal is to help you win more and become a better all around horse player.
TwinSpires' horse racing author, handicapper, and podcast host, Derek Simon of Denver, Colo. offers his insightful, humorous and sometimes controversial take on the horse racing industry. He even publishes the ROI on the picks he gives out.
TwinSpires' harness racing expert, Frank Cotolo follows all of the big North American circuits throughout the year, providing the best value picks and latest news from the sulky.
The Director of Marketing for Bloodstock Research Information Services (BRIS) and a lifelong Thoroughbred racing enthusiast and astute handicapper, Ed joined Churchill Downs Inc. following nine years as a writer and editor with Thoroughbred Times.
A writer and editor who has been following horse racing for fifteen years. Peter has written books for the Daily Racing Form Press; Crown; and Simon and Schuster; among other publishers, and regular features in The Horseplayer Magazine.
A television racing analyst for Churchill Downs, Jill has earned acclaim and a loyal audience throughout Thoroughbred racing.