• Cotolo’s Harness Review

    POSTED Jan 15, 2012
    Our allegiance to Mystician, who we touted as a horse to follow going into his four-year-old season, paid off even more on Jan. 14 than the week before. At Woodbine in the Willowdale Series he had won two-straight legs. This week he paid $10.50, far more than we expected (last week he won and paid $7.50.  

    Our Zeron double in the Lifetime Dream series did not materialize, even with the crowd’s support, as Miss Dangles and Lively both went off at a moderate 4-1 but were no factors in either of the series’ second leg divisions. We are keeping them on our Watch List (H2W). 

    On the left is the award-winning photo by Geri Schwartz.

    Schwarz won in the race category for a photo taken in a torrential downpour at Monticello Raceway. The picture appeared in the Middletown Times Herald-Record on Oct. 8, 2011.
    “Extreme weather provides the backdrop for this photo depicting the spirit of driver and horse under harsh conditions of driving rain and water and mud being kicked up during the race,” judge Jerry Millevoi said. “The outside driver’s expression portrays the skill and resolve to control his horse in difficult conditions while driving hard to the finish line.
    “To his inside, the danger of the situation can be seen as a driver tries to regain control of his horse on a break as they splash through the water.”

    At the Meadowlands, favorites were strong but our Presidential favorite, the crowd’s second choice, Annieswesterncard, could only manage finishing second and to a blistering mile. Golden Retriever won in 1:48.  

    That time would not open eyes were the mile not negotiated wire to wire. Pure harness speed is determined by commanding fractions and this pacer conquered each panel. He raced in :25.3, :54, 1:21.3 and finished in 1:48. That last quarter was performed in :26.2, not far from the first quarter’s time. Phew

    The second Presidential debate went to River Shark, the obvious choice. Our 16-1 shot, Western Shore, finished sixth.  

    In the Complex Series’ legs, we picked up the win finishing second in an entry as the crowd-choice, Risk Management, was beaten by stablemate Itrustyou, paying $3. The other split saw our choice, Lizard King, get decent action around 5-2 but finish off the board.  

    At Cal Expo, we did not hit the no-takeout Pick 4, though we began with a strike, Funny Guy, paying $7.20. The winning combo paid only $175.20. Though a bit more than last week’s pale payout of $36.20, we are not daunted, since a winning ticket with our choices will always be expected to pay far more than the average Pick 4. Last season, one Pick-4 hit, worth nearly $800, covered all of the plays that season and left us with a profit. We continue to aim at a similar outcome, hoping to take down a lot more of the pool next time.

    Harness News

    Harness racing is booming in Crete, Illinois, as Balmoral Park reports its handle soaring this year. The reasons are being listed as 10-horse fields, guaranteed pools, low takeout, good weather and generally large payouts.

    Speaking of large payouts, a harness bettor in Sweden struck the country’s popular V75 wager and scored for $8 million at the Aby Racetrack. After the sixth leg of the exotic, there were 15 tickets alive but only one had the remaining winner, a 22-1 shot driven by Jimmy Takter’s brother Johnny. That winning ticket had 800 combinations in it, costing $60. It was only the penultimate payoff for the wager, which handed out $9.6 million in 2010.

    Nick Salvi, harness insider, reports that the “Zweig” Memorial for soph trotters has undergone changes for the 2012 edition. The conditions for the race have been revised from split divisions to a format that puts the top nine earners for 2012 into the main event with a consolation for the next nine that enter. The same formula will be used for the Zweig filly trot.

    “This allows the purse for the main open event to be estimated at $400,000 and the main filly race at $170,000,” Salvi says. The consolation purses are (est.) $80,000 for the open and (est.) $40,000 for the fillies.

    The 2012 Zweigs have been moved to Vernon Downs, to be featured on a special Sunday, Aug. 26 matinee card that will include the $50,000 annual Driver’s Challenge. The scheduling of the race will allow the top trotters in the division, coming off of the Hambletonian and Colonial, to come to Vernon a week before the Canadian Trotting Classic elims.  

    In the case of trainer Lou Pena getting his horses back on the Meadowlands menu since being banned by the new owners, a judge denied Pena’s request for a preliminary injunction against the track. 

    The judge termed the banning a “business decision” that Pena did not defy with any evidence to support his challenge. Pena, sources, say, may continue to fight the ban.

    (Cartoon by Thom Pye)

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