VFTRG contributor Joe F. provides his random musings as another month comes to an end....
We’re in the early stages of a fierce public relations campaign the aim of which is to convince us that the Hambletonian is the greatest race on the planet. Unfortunately, the sophomore trotting brigade is, for the most part, an ordinary group. The Road To The Hambletonian is indeed a rocky one.
Wheeling N Dealin looked like a budding star when he crushed the opposition in the BC in the fall, but his only two starts against a mixed bag of locals at Mohawk have been underwhelming. Some still speculate—quietly, more quietly with each passing week—that this is all part of Dustin Jones’ Machiavellian plan to have a fresh horse primed to tackle heats on race day. Hugh? He drew the nine in a Meadowlands open for Habletonion eligibles on Saturday.
Royalty For Life may be the fastest of all but one doesn’t have to look too far back in his pedigree to find Noble Gesture, who was as crazy as he was fast, and he was very fast. Royalty For Life is this year’s MOMM…..Smilin Eli is a nice colt, but he’s at the center of a seedy backstretch soap opera, and besides he hasn’t raced since finishing out as the even money favorite from the nine in the Beal. That was on June 29. He’s in to go in that open at M1 Saturday night, with a new trainer and the same driver—TT…..Corky, another Muscles colt, won the Beal for Jimmy Takter. That’s the problem: Takter likes to drive him. Maybe he’ll drive Dontyouforgetit…..Spider Blue Chip, an Andover Hall colt, has really come on since the middle of June and Chuck Sylvester knows how to win this race…... Aperfectyankee is a possibility but he comes as a package deal with Oscarsson.
Check out the weak field vying for 450K in the Yonkers Trot. Yikes! By the way, Dewey’s offspring are seven months into their sophomore year. Do you see any hope at all for them? Sure they’ll make a little dough in the OSS, but he’s already moved on to New York. Are we being overly generous if we refer to Dewey as a regional stallion? His race record and introductory fee of 20K scream GC—afraid not. And what about Donato? Can you imagine any of his sons winning the Hambletonion, Colonial, Kentucky Futurity or BC? Take away Check Me Out and what do you have? He’s running as fast as he can in the PASS but occasional successes in that program won’t get it done. Maybe they can get a reduced rate if they send Dewey and Donato together on the same plane to Europe.
On the distaff side, many believe that Bee A Magician would beat the boys if she switched to the Hambletonion (the decision was made to race against the fillies). We were hearing similar talk about Check Me Out last year at this time, and the eliminations and final were separated by a week back then. Regardless, Bee stands above the rest in the Oaks; although the Broadway Hall filly, Frau Blucher, is no slouch. The latter is out of a Muscles Yankee mare. And Motown Muscle, who won the CDC final a couple of days ago, is Muscles’ granddaughter. Spider Blue Chip is out of a Muscles mare, and Corky and Smilin Eli are both by Muscles Yankee. Muscle Hill may have seven of the sixteen going in Saturday’s Peter Haughton eliminations, but he hasn’t forced the old man out to pasture yet.
You know this isn’t a memorable year for three-year-old filly trotters when To Dream On, Time To Kill, Fashion Athena and Royal Assets are a combined two for twenty-seven a week before the Oaks.
The same sort of reservations can be expressed with regard to the sophomore pacers where you have Captaintreacherous and I Luv The Nitelife on top of their respective divisions and the rest down below. That blah morning line for the Adios in conjunction with the lack of anticipation surrounding the race tells the tale. Toss the numbers in a jar, shake it up and choose one. Nitelife was not staked to the Adioo Volo; she goes in the Miss New Jersey Prep instead.
Heston Blue Chip is five and one at Yonkers Raceway; it looks like Linda Toscano is going to abandon the TVG and head back to the four-year-old pacer’s more comfortable roots. He drew the deuce in Saturday’s open at Yonkers and will probably have Brennan sitting behind him. Dan Patch winner, Heston, and his O’Brien counterpart, Michael’s Power, are off to very slow starts. The four-year-old pacers have certainly made their mark on the FFA division, but no thanks to HBC and Michael’s Power. The latter is a gelding but the old saw about diminishing the value of a stallion by coming back at four is surely in play with HBC. Losing to the anonymous open bunch at Yonkers would take him down a notch or two. We heard a lot about how great he is last season. Any older pacer that aspires to greatness should be in the USPC eliminations this week. After all, Our Lucky Chip is in there with the big boys—again.
After consecutive second place finishes, Maven is not entered in the second leg of the Ima Lula for four-year-old mares. CMO, Win Missy B, Real Babe, Personal Style and Maven should provide a real boost to the perennially pathetic older trotting mare division.
The introduction of SBSW, in concert with Dragon Again, Western Terror and the rest had already transformed the PASS into an open stakes environment that was in a class of its own, but now with Western Ideal coming online, Bettor’s Delight on the horizon and the addition of Well Said and Art Official it’s going to get ridiculous…….Is this is the last year the Bettor’s Delight offspring are eligible to the NYSS? What a loss that will be. BD and Art Major do the heavy lifting in that program…….Shadow Play, the new star of the Ontario program, had his stud fee cut from 5K to four from 2012 to 2013, before any of his colts and fillies hit the track. The only pacing stallion to have his stud fee increased last year was SBSW. The conflation of a successful Shadow Play and the perpetually unsettled situation in Ontario will be fascinating to follow. I believe Blue Chip calls the shots on him. Does he stay or does he go? I f he stays what happens with that fee? Royal Mattjesty stands for that same 4K fee. Sportswriter is at five and Badlands Hanover is $5,500. Something has to give. They hustled Bettor’s Delight back across the border. Will they do the same with this son of The Panderosa?
Last year the USPC went to post with a twelve horse field, none of whom were four-year-olds. It was a much weaker contingent than the one that lines up for two eliminations on Saturday. Eleven of the nineteen entered on Saturday are four-year-olds—a 58% increase.
Hattie is the latest broodmare to be granted automatic admission to the HOF based on outdated standards. A mare gets in if she’s produced a HOY plus one other 500K winner, or, produced a million dollar winner and two other 500K winners. Fred And Ginger is a few thousand from one million; Ginger And Fred is at 1.8 million; WWS is beyond 2.5 million; Silent Swing is close to two million; Casimir Camotion is at 1.7 million; the money standard is out of date.
Aside from Holborn Hanover, Hattie gave us Hyperion and Hillbilly Hanover. She also produced Haverford and Hatsoff. HOF?