In the second installment of my attempt to grade our stakes races I’ll look at the aged trotters.
Aged Horse & Gelding TrottersGrade 1
Maple Leaf Trot—Mohawk—July--$750,000 in 2012
Nat Ray—Meadowlands—August--$250,000 in 2012
Titan Cup—Meadowlands—June--$200,000 in 2012
Credit Winner—Vernon Downs—September--$200,000 in 2012
Allerage—Lexington—October--$130,000 in 2012
Cutler—Meadowlands—May--$210,000 in 2012
Grade 2Maxie Lee—Harrah’s—August--$150,000 in 2012
Pride In Progress—Indiana Downs—September--$205,000 in 2012
Earl Rowe Memorial—Georgian Downs—May--$100,000
Frank Ryan Memorial—Rideau Carleton—August--$150,000
American-National—Balmoral—November--$180,000 in 2012
Glorys Comet—Woodbine—April--$125,000 final
Grade 1Armbro Flight---Mohawk---June--$350,000
Miss Versatility—Final at Delaware, Ohio—September--$153,000
Grade 2Ima Lula—Final at The Meadowlands—August--$73,000 (4-Y-O)
After San Pail went down, Chapter Seven and Herbie were the only two clear cut FFA trotters on the NA circuit. Hot Shot did win the Credit Winner and the Pride in Progress, the first two open stakes wins of his career, but he’s always been something of a pretender. Arch was good in the spring, but upon his return from a second place finish to Commander Crowe in the Elitlopp, he wasn’t a factor in the top tier stakes. He wasn’t himself in the Titan and Maple Leaf, and subsequently missed six weeks prior to the Credit Winner. He appeared to be eight going on eighty. Let’s hope Arch and San Pail both tap into the Fountain of Youth at age nine.Daylon Magician’s year was built around chasing Chapter Seven and Herbie from a safe distance, and occasionally beating up on the slow and less fortunate. Winning Mister was outstanding early in the year, but ran out of gas after the Earl Rowe. Anders Bluestone is very good against the Pennsylvania contingent and Windsong Geant and Tall Cotton are good against the second and third tier trotters in Canada. Lucky Jim and Enough Talk are gone: Help, we need reinforcements. MOMM and Broad Bahn were retired to stud, Pastor Stephen never returned from what appeared to be a relatively benign injury, and Dejarmbro and Big Riggs were big disappointments. If Chapter Seven and Herbie hadn’t stepped up things would have been much worse. The Grade 1 stakes listed above were filled with JFA and Preferred trotters.
It’s the same story with the mares. BC champion Tamla Celeber, who only started four times in NA, ten times overall, winning three races, earned more money than every trotting mare except Frenchfrys. That tells you all you need to know about the mares. The six-year-old journeyman trotter, Pembroke Heat Wave, was third on the earnings list. Cedar Dove and Beatgoeson, despite a few successes, disappointed us.You need some grade one trotters to have grade one stakes. Ideally Market Share, Goo, CMO, Intimidate, LBF, Guccio, Maven, Missy B and the rest will step up and breathe new life into the aged trotting divisions. Chapter Seven, who has been retired, only started ten times this year, and Mister Herbie made twelve starts. When things are so thin at the top, you need more races than that out of your aces.
I included the Miss Versatility series with the ones because there is so little available to the aged trotting mares. They had four preliminary legs instead of three this year and the purse money for those legs jumped from $25,000 to $40,000. The final went for $153,000. Three of the preliminary legs are held on mile tracks, and one on a 5/8 track. The final is held over the Delaware, Ohio half. The variety is appealing.Jeff Gural’s Grand Design contains a new FFA series for trotters and pacers. It will culminate in a $500,000 final. Points will be accumulated in the Allerage and BC, and the top aged events at The Meadowlands—Nat Ray, Titan Cup, Cutler, Miss Versatility and Ima Lula, I assume—as well as several $50,000 opens at that track. (The Credit Winner too, perhaps, since it is raced at Vernon.) Again, this will be great if you have the horses. Having Anders Bluestone, Sevruga, Rose Run Hooligan and Pembroke Heat Wave compete for a half million dollars won’t get us anywhere.
The inter-track series concept has been successful in the past. The HTA series, which started in 1973, offered $160,000 in purses for three races over different size tracks—the half at Roosevelt, the 5/8 at Sportsman’s and the mile track at Hollywood Park. Later on The Meadowlands took the place of HP. Points were awarded on a 60-20-10 basis. The Miss Versatility follows this template. Also, Yonkers hosted a six-part series for four-year-old pacing mares in the late sixties, the sort of series that might appeal to Jeff Gural.The one sticking point could be that the BC will now serve as the last chance to accumulate enough points to gain entry to the $500,000 final at The Big M. To this point in time, the post-BC races like the Matron, Progress and American-National have not stolen the year-end spotlight from it. Now, in the case of the aged pacers and trotters at least, that could change. Turning the Breeders Crown into a stepping stone might ruffle some feathers.
*****************I haven’t seen it reported anywhere, but according to Walnut Hall’s ads they dropped Dewey’s stud fee 37%, from $20,000 to $12,500 for the 2013 season. His first crop failed to shoot out the lights on the track and he was a disappointment at Lexington and Harrisburg. Throw in the uncertainty in Ontario and the reduction is no surprise. Can Donato Hanover, the other $20,000 trotting stallion, continue to command that amount? He’s not exactly killing it either.
Walnut Hall’s NY trotting stallion, Conway Hall, the sire of Win Missy B, Wishing Stone, Corragioso and For A Dancer, had his fee reduced 25% to $7,500.