It’s time for one of the biggest weekends of the season in the standardbred racing industry for insiders and players, for fans and spectators, as the Meadowlands hosts two days of huge stakes programs featuring some of the greatest pacers and trotters of our time.TwinSpires bettors have some great advantages. First, we will be reporting on all of the stakes action live from the Meadowlands on Friday, Aug. 2 and Saturday, Aug. 3. Tune up now miss following us on Twitter as well as ingesting our Aug. 1 blog. Be ready for up-to-the-minute news items, handicapping tips and anything else a bettor needs to address the two programs with the brunt of your bankroll. Don’t forget to refuel the funds—now is a good time—so you can be ready for the weekend.Second, the Hambletonian-day Players’ Pool is now open. Capped at $10,000, we are going after some of the best prices the Aug. 3 program will offer, including exotics. Get on the team with a buy-in and follow all the action, beginning at 11:50 a.m. on TwinSpires, as well as Twitter.The Hambletonian elims and the Hambletonian Oaks are covered on the Hambletonian Trail at the exclusive blog. The remainder of the programs, including Friday night action, are analyzed below. Our exclusive harness horses to watch (H2W) list from tracks around North America will reboot next week.Merrie AnnabelleThe $321,700 Merrie Annabelle Final (frosh-filly trotters) is set to complete the Daily Double on the Hambo card. Lifetime Dream will look to keep her win record perfect at four races as she faces her biggest challenge of her career. Meeting up with her this week is our choice from the eliminations, which looks the next most impressive in the event. Heaven’s Door comes into the final with one start under her belt and a post that will allow her to race near the front. She raises some questions with last week’s break to the quarter but she seemed to be working too hard to get the front—and she did recover well. With a filly to her inside that cannot leave, “Door” may get away well and sit a perfect trip to pull off an upset.Ima LulaLast year’s sophomore-filly-trot rivalry between Check Me Out and Maven is renewed on the very day they both suffered defeats. This year they meet in the $55,000 Ima Lula Final. Both preliminaries contained upset winners in Real Babe and One More Ginny, making the final a much wider affair than some may think.Constantly, Jonas Czernyson’s other filly D’orsay (Jonas conditions Maven) gets caught in hellish trips, mostly being parked without cover. That occurred in leg two of the “Lula,” being covered to the quarter but fighting on to try taking the top. Her game attempt to hold on to the lead she cleared in the stretch increased our confidence on a sublime performance possible here. She is peaking at a good point to get a good trip and shake the tote board.Lady LibertyAnndrovette returns to the states off a Canadian record of 1:48 in her Roses Are Red victory. She comes into this race for redemption, going off the second choice in last year’s edition and finishing in defeat after falling victim to exasperating fractions. Another mare from last year’s edition looks for solace in victory and has improved enough to get the job done. From the Ron Burke barn is Rocklamation, coming off two game efforts in the Roses Are Red elim and final.She closed perfectly in the Roses Are Red elim, losing by ½ length in her first start off a layoff to Anndrovette. In the final, she was used harder at three-quarters than she should have and didn’t have her usual strong kick into the stretch. She should get off the gate moderately fast enough to stalk the front and weave her way to the wire first.Peter HaughtonThe $280,500 Peter Haughton Final (frosh-colt trotters) appears to be a two-horse race on paper; a rematch between elimination dazzlers Nuncio and Father Patrick. The favorite of the two looks to be Father Patrick but Nuncio is as equal a threat as “Pat” may ever face. Looking to Nuncio’s debut, he defeated Father Patrick at the wire in 1:56. He dug in tremendously in the Peter Haughton elim but was a head short. Don’t think that it will be a Nuncio-Father Patrick exacta, though, as there are two other horses that are absolute musts in exotics.Southwind Spirit is the other elim winner, doing it in first-over fashion in 1:57.3. Though it appears unimpressive compared to Pat, he displayed endurance in that start. Most likely it won’t be as fast a mile as it was in Pat’s elimination, allowing for upsets to be possible. Ray Schnittker’s Derby is also a player in this field. He is making his third start and seems to improve with each mile. He can fill in the exotic area and perhaps pump up the price as well.VincennesThe $75,000 trot for elders, named after the famous racetrack in Paris, home of the Prix d’Amerique, we have what appears to be the most wide-open race on the card. The Vincennes Invitational Trot draws a field of 11, with many horses having good cases to be major threats to the others. However, Take My Picture is beginning to show positive steps in his American return and may be a notch above the rest. Before he left for the Elitlopp, he was dominating on the Ontario circuit. As expected, he still had some fine-tuning to do to return to winning form off of a disappointing effort in Sweden’s Elitlopp. He is making his third start off a layoff and could peak for a victory at home today.‘Cash’ Man TrottersThe top older male trotters will thump together in the $318,350 John Cashman, Jr. Memorial, formerly the Nat Ray Stakes. The expected favorite is last year’s Hambletonian champ, Market Share. He is the first Hambo winner to return at four and take part in this event since the great Mack Lobell, 25 years ago.Market Share just beat most of these last week and was a giant favorite coming off a qualifier that was as faster as any win time by these foes. He won the Maple Leaf Trot and did so from the 8 hole at Mohawk. Here he has the 9 hole but there is a lot of speed on the inside that can configure the closing speed he can generate. But these are some powerful players and among them may be an overlay in Mister Herbie or Wishing Stone. Cases for them can be made in upset scenarios, with the latter probably offering the best price and certainly they belong in exotics with Market Share, and in that order of preference.New Jersey ClassicsThe $250,000 Anthony Abbatiello New Jersey Classic hosts the day’s glamour-boy pacers, all state-breds. We suspected Real Rocker to show improvement with victory in the prep last week but an odd break at the start didn’t give us the race we wanted from him. He is up against a bigger challenge this week, with classy horses like Word Power and Rockin Amadeus playing major roles in the development in the race. But a good draw for Real Rocker should allow him, as long as he minds his manners, to show us what he’s got.There is little to say about the filly "Classic." I Luv The Nitelife has towered over her soph-filly pacing competition and the Hambo-day program should open with a fiery mile from her that could defy her own speed badge. If you are looking for exactas, back her up with Ms Caila J Fra and Ideal Ginny; both could pump up the price a tad.U.S. Pacing ChampionshipYet again, the free for all pacing division has mapped another handicapping puzzle, this one the U.S. Pacing Championship, worth $213,650. There looks to be four likely favorites, providing a wide-open betting board. Though, A Rocknroll Dance may have not convinced some that he is the real deal. As we predicted in the William Haughton elim, he has come off of a layoff incredibly sharp, topping it off with a first-over bid to finish third. A lot of buzz is around him but don’t expect high odds. As well, there is one horse that plays a major danger and bettors may not see it.Hurrikane Kingcole is a monster on certain occasions, especially when looking back to Hambletonian day last year. He was the favorite heading into the New Jersey Classic and used up all his energy for the first three-quarters, going to defeat by Panther Hanover, to whom he afforded the great opportunity of victory by burning up three panels. The “Kingcole” appears to be dangerous when the Sun’s rays bathe an afternoon; we saw it when he crushed A-1/free for all horses while the Sun was still up on Meadowlands Pace night.Most handicappers will instantly throw him out after a perfect trip last week where he didn’t gain ground. That provides us with greater value on a win price. Be mindful, though, that A Rocknroll Dance is peaking at the moment and poses the biggest threat, so including both on across the board and exotic wagers looks to be a must.Also-TrotsMany of the soph colts that did not drop into the box for the Hambletonian for one reason or another will headline Friday’s two Townsend Ackerman (TA) miles at $50,000 each. The first episode features a field of 10 with all but two eligibles.Bluto is here and remains a strong part of Team Takter but is a second-stringer since High Bridge became hot. Here, Bluto may rule and not as the choice, since Major Athens is looking like he will get the bulk of the win-pool dough. On the outside, Fico could make this mile complicated, since he has been improving and most of us thought he would drop into the Hambo box.Originally assigned the 10 hole in the second TA, Banco Solo scratched and dropped into the Hambo box. This leaves 10 colts, all eligibles but for a pair. It’s tough to say how well Per Henrikson’s Exemplar can race but this field should test his ability, which has been improving at Mohawk in conditioned affairs. Per’s Hambo hopeful couldn’t get in the swing of it in time to take on the top tier but he may be positioned well here and deserves attention while he may still pay a great price. Linda Toscano’s Raven Victory will get a lot of play and should be tough from the rail, while the third choice with a chance and a price has to be Deadliest Catch, who shows sleek improvement and is the freshest of them all.On the filly side, there are two Duenna splits worth $30,000 each. These fillies didn’t make it into the “Oaks.”Split one finds our support with Southwind Cocoa, who had a rough time in her Oaks elim, surrounded by traffic and breakers. The crowd should go for True Day Dream, who has been stakes placed in her last five outings. She may rightfully be the choice but “Cocoa” may go back to her Tioga-win form, a race where she was good enough to be backed in the Oaks.Split two is weaker than the first and has only one filly with a pair of victories. On the wood, Perfect Alliance comes off a dull effort where she was close to being the choice based on keeping some tough company. She will be overlooked for top choice again, with Silver Credit and Cupcake getting the most attention.Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.
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.