Grading the freshman stakes is more complicated than doing so for older horses; the races cover a broader swath of territory, literally and figuratively, and many of them are contested in divisions. Some people automatically discount any stakes race that is split, and it’s hard to argue with that. Here’s a look at the two-year-old pacers.Two-Year-old Colt Pacers
Grade 1Metro—Mohawk—September--$1 million
This race offers the highest purse available to freshman pacers. Whether the changes in Ontario will alter that remains to be seen at this point. The first edition was in 1988. Pacer of the Year Captaintreacherous won in 2012, followed by Odds On Equuleus, Apprentice Hanover and Rockin Amadeus.
First year sire Tyler B swept the two-year-old pacing divisions of the BC during the inaugural edition of the race. The outstanding filly, Amneris, won the lion’s share of the $555,000 filly purse at Maywood Park and Dragon’s Lair beat back Nihilator in dramatic fashion to take the $772,500 colt division at The Meadows. The fillies now race for $500,000 and the colts for $600,000 so the opportunities for both groups have receded over the course of the last twenty-eight years.
The Governor’s Cup—Meadowlands—fall
The Big M is bringing back the Governor’s Cup in 2013. This race ran at GSP from 1985 through 2000, and from that point on it bounced around between the Meadowlands, Mohawk, Woodbine, Harrah’s and DuQuoin. When ARNRD won it in 2011 at Harrah’s the purse was $510,000.The Wilson, which has been eliminated, carried a $310,000 purse last year. I’m not sure what purse the GC will carry in 2013.
Grade 2Champlain—Mohawk—Sept--$261,000 in 2012
Captive Audience won a single dash against ten competitors in 2012, paying $90. He beat Rockin Amadeus, Odds On Equuleus and Fool Me Once. Last year the Champlain was split into two divisions, with Machapelo and Speed Again each beating a watered down field for $150,000.
Nassagaweya—Mohawk—August—3 divisions @ $108,000 each in 2012.
Captaintreacherous, Apprentice Hanover and Odds On Equuleus won the three divisions this year. This is a popular race that draws the top colts. The fact that it is split keeps it from being a grade one stake.
Bluegrass—October—Lexington—4 divisions @ $96,500 each in 2012. The total purse amounts to $386,000. In 2011 there were five divisions @ $85,800 each.
As is the case with the Nassagaweya, the fact that the quality of competition and purse money are diluted by the multiple divisions relegates this race to the second tier.International Stallion Stakes—Lexington—October—4 divisions @ $87,550 each in 2012. The winners were Captain…, Fool Me Once, Odds On E and Apprentice. The top colts showed up, but the drawbacks are the same as they are with the Bluegrass.
Matron—Dover—November/December--$156,000 in 2012The purse was $176,000 in 2011. Twilight Bonfire won this year. The Matron series is held very late in the season and the quality of competition isn’t there. Single dash a week after eliminations—if necessary. A weak two.
Grade 3 and 4Abe Lincoln—Maywood—November--$110,000 in 2012
Our Dragon King beat a weak five horse field in 2012. Last year, when Fridaynightflight won, the purse was $128,000.
Sheppard—Yonkers—July--$119,000 in 2012The Sheppard is back after a nine year break. The first edition of the race was won by Bret Hanover in 1964. He was so dominant that he cost the track almost $4,000 in minus pool money. Romeo won it the next year and in subsequent years colts like Albatross, Nero and Hot Hitter won the Sheppard. Bill Haughton lost his life while driving Sonny Key in a Sheppard elimination. All that history notwithstanding, the renewal was something of a glorified SS race, where 35/1 Hail The Taxi upset Doctor Butch. Give it time.
Circle City—Indiana Downs—October--$83,000 in 2012It was raced in a single dash this year and in divisions in 2010 and 2011. They raced for $47,000 per division in 2011.
The Standardbred—Delaware, Ohio—September--$59,000 in 2012Reynolds—Meadowlands—July--$36,000 per in 2012
Two divisions in 2012, seven in 2011 and eight in 2010. Moves to Tioga in 2013.
Arden—Meadows--$22,000 per division in 2012
Four divisions in 2012 and six in 2011. The Arden goes back to 1957. Thorpe Hanover won the first one. Bret, Romulus, MHF, Armbro Ranger, BBJ and Sweet Lou all won the Arden.
The Goshen Cup—Vernon—September--$75,000
The GC was raced in heats.
Dream Maker—Mohawk—July--$50,000 final
Two preliminary legs—a twenty and a thirty. TOL won it in 2011.
Fox—Indianapolis—August--$53,000In 1970 the richest stakes race for two-year-olds was the Fox which took place at the state fair in Indianapolis. The race, which was raced in heats, goes back to 1927. In recent years the likes of Morgan Shark, Con Game and Fridaynightflight have won the Fox, while during the stretch where it was an automatic start for the best colts, Adios, Good Time, Bret, Romeo, Laverne and Albatross won the race. The latter won in straight heats in 1970 for Harry Harvey. Each heat went for more than $31,000—more money than a freshman could race for anywhere else.
The Fox, Little Pat and McMahon were all raced in heats and Good Time won all of them in 1948. Jate Lobell won both The Fox and The Little Pat in straight heats in 1986. And Adios won the Fox in three heats, over his arch rival King’s Counsel, in 1942. Adios made 26 starts at two. Captaintreacherous and BC winner, Rockin Amadeus, each made ten, while Odds On Equuleus made nine. Chapter Seven just retired with 28 lifetime starts.Someone injected a tranquilizer into Nero prior to the 1974 Fox and it almost killed him. There was no betting on the race.
The top three after the Fox were the $50,000 Roosevelt Futurity, which ran from 1960 to 1977; the $50,000 LB Sheppard (YR), which was just revived after a nine year hiatus; and the $50,000 Illinois Colt Stakes, which was contested at the Illinois State Fair. That one was discontinued in 1985.The Candler, McMahon and Little Pat followed those three on the purse money tree. There was no million dollar Metro. That race wasn’t born for another eighteen years, and it only went for $300,000 at that point. Races like the Arden Downs, Battle of Saratoga, Goshen Cup, Reynolds, Hoosier Futurity and Batavia Downs Stake were all in the $20,000 range and splits were the norm.
The Sheppard, Roosevelt Futurity and Hanover Filly Stakes were raced in October while the McMahon, Fox and The LaPaloma (fillies) went in September. Most of the season was spent on the GC racing in stakes carrying purses from $7,500 to $15,000.
Simpson—Meadowlands--$14,000 divisions in 2012
Generally two or three divisions. Previously the Hanover-Hempt. Goes back to 1960. Moves back to Vernon in 2013.
Hanover—Balmoral—July—3 divisions @ $28,000 each in 2012
Review—SpringfieldSingle dash for the last seven years.
Elevation—Indy--$90,000 each division in 2012Since 2009. Dance and Lou in 2011.
Two-Year-Old Filly PacersGrade 1
She’s A Great Lady—Mohawk—September--$630,000
Three Diamonds—Meadowlands—fallThe Sweetheart has been eliminated and the Three Diamonds is being brought back. The 2009 edition carried a $585,000 purse at Woodbine. In 2011 Economy Terror beat Cookie, Pirouette and Shelliscape in the Three Diamonds at Harrah’s. The purse was $380,000. The race was not contested in 2012. Idyllic won the race in 2010 at Harrah’s. The purse was $501,000.
Grade 2Champlain—Mohawk—September--$226,000 in 2012
The Champlain was raced in divisions through 2010. The last couple of years it has gone as a single dash with a large field. Big McDeal beat a so so field in 2011, while L Dees Lioness beat Nitelife in 2012. A strong two.
Eternal Camnation—Mohawk—August--$130,000 per division in 2012This is a strong two, despite the fact that the field is split. Jewel and Romantic Moment won the two divisions last year while Nitelife and Lioness won in 2012.
Bluegrass—Lexington—October—3 divisions @ $108,700 each in 2012.This is another strong two. Nitelife, Ritascape and Nikki Beach won the three divisions in 2012. Last year the race was split into two divisions which raced for $134,700 each. Destinys Chance won one at 30/1 and Jewel won the other at 1/9.
International Stallion Stakes—Lexington—October—3 divisions @ $85,000 each in 2012
Authorize, Parlee Beach and Hit The Curb (17/1) won the three divisions this year. Last year the three divisions went for $84,200 each and in one of them Big McDeal beat Jewel, equaling her WR of :50.2 in the process. The ISS is a strong two.
Matron—Dover—November--$126,000 in 2012Rainbow crushed a soft field this year. Destinys Chance won last year and KA in 2010. Single dash. A weak two.
Grade 3 and 4Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stake—Indiana Downs—September—2 divisions @ $118,000 each in 2012. Carol’s Desire and Nikki Beach won this year.
American-National—Balmoral—November--$113,000 in 2012Always About Katey, the Indiana SS star, prevailed over five softies in 2012. Princess Cruiser beat a soft field competing for an $86,000 purse last year and Pardon beat another field of softies for a $95,000 purse in 2010.
Reynolds—Tioga in 2013—fall—2 divisions @ $32,000 each in 2012The Reynolds was raced at the Meadowlands in 2012. Nikki Beach and Shebestingin won the two divisions, each containing five weak sisters in addition to the winners. The latter is a very talented but troubled Bettor’s Delight filly who only started a few times. The race returns to Tioga in 2013.
Tompkins-Geers—Tioga—September—2 divisions @ $36,000 per in 2012There were only two divisions in 2012, which were won by Shebestingin and Aria J. There were five divisions in 2011 and the same number in 2010.
The Standardbred—Delaware, Ohio—September--$55,000 in 2012This race has been around since 1975 and generally goes in two divisions.
In 2011 there were six divisions. The total purse of $100,000 doesn’t go far when the race is split so many ways.The Arden Downs for 2-year-old fillies has been an important race since 1957. Countess Adios, Decorum, Laura’s Image, Tarport Hap, Naughty But Nice and Caressable all won the AD.
This race started at Goshen in 1947. It moved to the Meadowlands in 1978 and remained there until 2010. Bonjour Hanover, Saucy Wave and All Alert are former winners. It was relocated to Vernon Downs in 2011. Last year Canary Island was best in a four horse field.