I admit it. While I enjoy the big races as much as anyone, I have a soft spot for the second tier stakes races. These are horses making their first start of the year against easier stock, not quite ready for prime time, horses that are talented but not able to go against the top tier, and sometimes horses that surprised their owners who for whatever reason didn't nominate their horses to the big dances. This year, with the uncertainty of the Meadowlands situation, there are some really nice horses that could be competitive elsewhere.
Well, this weekend in Central New York, the John Simpson Memorials for three year olds kick off the stakes season at Tioga and Vernon Downs. The three year old trotters take center stage at Vernon Downs on Saturday while the three year old pacers take the center stage at Tioga Downs on Sunday. For those who follow these races, I am providing my analysis.
While I like the 'minor' stakes, how can I avoid the Graduate and Cutler Memorial at the Meadowlands. Those are analyzed as well.
Vernon Downs, Saturday May 14 (Listed in post position order)
2nd Trot - $24,670; John Simpson Memorial - 3yo Fillies (1st Division)
1 - Madam Stacey (Smedshammer, 8-1) - Makes seasonal debut in tough field.
2 - Leah's Ex (Mac Donald, 10-1) - Seems to be outclassed here. Pass.
3 - It's A Diamond (Huckabone, 6-1) - Kicks off 2011 campaign. Tab for later.
4 - Sheer Glide (Okusko, 9-2) - Finished 3rd in Lady Suffolk in first start. Expect improvement.
5 - Birthday Bonus (Whittemore, 10-1) - Not the caliber of top contenders. Pass.
6 - Pacific Splash (Norris, 2-1) - Winner last week in Lady Suffolk. Horse to beat.
7 - Epona Blue Chip (Schnittker, 3-1) - Classy sort saddled with outside in seasonal debut.
3rd Trot - $22,974; John Simpson Memorial - 3yo Colts and Geldings (1st Division)
1 - Splendid Cash (Lems, 12-1) - Lightly raced colt must show more ability.
2 - All In Tad (Schnittker, 6-1) - Just missed from seven hole at the Spa. Definite threat.
3 - Quantum Confident (Marshall, 5-2) - Prepped with two sharp qualifiers. May be ready at first asking.
4 - Leonardo Da Lindy (Antonacci, 8-1) - This field may be too tough. Pass.
5 - Sexy Dirty Money (Smedshammer, 10-1) - Makes seasonal debut here. Tough spot.
6 - Muscles Malone (Harder, 9-2) - Broke maiden at Pocono. Takes next logical step.
7 - Spectator K (Norris, 7-2) - Ships in from Western PA off a win but draws poorly.
8 - Pay The Winner (Schillaci, 8-1) - Takes on open company for the first time and gets the worst of the draw.
5th Trot - $24,670; John Simpson Memorial - 3yo Fillies (2nd Division)
1 - Massive Drama (Harder, 9-2) - Filly full of ability; must mind manners.
2 - Some Girls (Brunet, 2-1) - NYSS champion takes on open company in seasonal debut. Definite threat.
3 - Brooklyn (Antonacci, 6-1) - Bluegrass winner may need a start.
4 - Broadways Fortune (Del Cid, 8-1) - Seems to be aiming too high here.
5 - Don't Cry Lindy (Bouchard, 3-1) - Second in Lady Suffolk in seasonal debut. Expect improvement.
6 - Net Revenue (Allen, 10-1) - Still looking to break maiden.
7 - Pretty As My Mom (Norris, 10-1) - Tough class and bad post. Pass.
6th Trot - $22,974; John Simpson Memorial - 3yo Colts and Geldings (2nd Division)
1 - New Zion (Bouchard, 12-1) - Seems to be a step below these.
2 - Aequitas (Antonacci, 6-1) - Little success against better, tries easier. Don't ignore.
3 - Whit (Whittemore, 8-1) - Undefeated this year and returns to site of best efforts last year. Consider.
4 - Charlie De Vie (Ryder, 5-2) - First tier horse looks much the best here. One to beat.
5 - Winuendo (Schnittker, 10-1) - Was competing in Dexter final when encountered broken equipment. threat here.
6 - Rhythmic Moves (Brunet, 9-2) - Has not shown much against stakes caliber.
7 - Surface Tension (Daley, 7-2) - Winner of 2yo Simpson returns from Florida. Factor despite post.
8 - Take Heart (Allen, 8-1) - Post just doesn't help him here. Pass.
9th Trot - $24,670; John Simpson Memorial - 3yo Fillies (3rd Division)
1 - Medusa Blue Chip (Lems, 9-2) - Finished year badly. Does she bounce back in seasonal debut?
2 - Naughty Me Hanover (Bouchard, 8-1) - Must show she belongs in this class. Pass.
3 - Firstclassprincess (Smedshammer, 6-1) - Competed against top fillies last year and makes seasonal debut. Don't ignore.
4 - Miss Lee (Lancaster, 10-1) - Lacks early speed to get involved early. Needs fast pace.
5 - No More Credit (Schillaci, 10-1) - Finally draws good post. Lands share.
6 - Catching Katie (Norris, 3-1) - Meadows shipper tested for class here.
7 - Jezzy (Schnittker, 2-1) - Tries open company but can't ignore 10 for 11 record last year. Likely overbet.
10th Trot - $23,474; John Simpson Memorial - 3yo Colts and Geldings (3rd Division)
1 - House On Fire (Schnittker, 7-2) - Seems to be in deep here.
2 - Turtle Express (Bouchard, 8-1) - Shows a like for this track. Consider.
3 - The Evictor (Allen, 9-2) - Showed some ability in Valley Victory but broke in last. Your move.
4 - Burnin Money (Whittemore, 10-1) - Steps up but this is weakest division.
5 - Daleydaydream (Daley, 6-1) - Just missed against older lasts. My pick here.
6 - Order By Texas (Lems, 8-1) - Threw in clunker last week. If he bounces back a threat.
7 - Castle Pines (Hensley, 12-1) - Don't see at all.
8 - Ice Machine (Norris, 5-2) - Dexter Cup winner has the class but gets a horrible post.
1A- Man O' War (Antonacci, 7-2) - Just broke maiden. Must see more.
Meadowlands, Saturday, May 14 (Listed in post position order)
6th Trot - $200,000; Arthur J Cutler Memorial - FFA
1 - Looking Hanover (Gingras, 9-2) - Prep winner but expect much more aggressive race.
2 - Slave Dream (Sears, 8-1) - Look who he racaed against at Woodbine in last. My pick here.
3 - Corleone Kosmos (Campbell, 8-1) - Ageless wonder keeps going. Should land share.
4 - Hot Shot Blue Chip (D Miller, 10-1) - Should improve off last start but not sure improves enough.
5 - Neighsay Hanover ( Gregory, 15-1) - My pick last week bombed. Don't see him this week either.
6 - Buck I St Pat (Tetrick, 5-1) - Flat in seasonal debut. Mare seems to wake up in finals. Don't ignore.
7 - Celebrity Hercules (Dube, 15-1) - Wishful thinking only reason to pick this one.
8 - Don't Know Chip (Lachance, 15-1) - Another one up against it.
9 - Enough Talk (Pierce, 3-1) - Quit at end last week, but should be tougher with the money on the line.
10 - Lucky Jim (A Miller, 7-2) - Dare we think, he is overmatched here?
8th Pace - $246,000; Graduate - FFA
1 - Foiled Again (Gingras, 9-2) - Has developed into a fine FFAller. Threat here but note has never won at Big M.
2 - Bettor Sweet (Campbell, 3-1) - Elimination winner must be respected. May have not hit his peak yet.
3 - Won The West (D Miller, 7-2) - Can never rule this one out. Improvement expected.
4 - Western Shore (Lachance, 12-1) - Well overmatched. Pass.
5 - We Will See (B Miller, 15-1) - Will need wicked pace and quiting on front end to be a factor. Will it happen? Don't think so.
6 - Giddy Up Lucky (Dube, 8-1) - Seems to be at peak. Don't dismiss this one.
7 - Dial Or Nodial (Tetrick, 10-1) - Nice horse but just don't see him at this level.
8 - Hypnotic Blue Chip (Sears, 10-1) - Seems to be in a poor spot.
9 -Atochia (Pierce, 6-1) - Must confess, I have never given this one the respect he deserves. Can land dhare.
10 - Lisagain (A Miller, 15-1) - Post eliminates. Tab for later.
Tioga Downs, Sunday, May 15 (Listed in post position order)
6th Pace - $48,850; John Simpson Memorial - 3yo Colts and Geldings
1 - Thomas J (Bartlett, 5-2) - Takes on open company for seasonal debut. Solid Q and adds Lasix.
2 - Mat's Delight (Schnittker, 10-1) - Nothing to show ready for a breakout.
3 - Mcmarvel (Berry, 4-1) - Seems to have improved over the winter, may land share.
4 - Feel Like A Fool (Parker, 7-5) - It would appear the question is by how many lengths. Expect 3-5 or less.
5 - Rocky Bellboa (Braden, 20-1) - Trounced in NW2 late closer. Pass.
1A - Daughtry Hanover (Gregory, 5-2) - Needs to show he can handle this caliber.
6 - Jackson Killean (Grismore, 5-1) - Legitimate shot for in the money.
7 - Bitterweet Champ (Kakaley, 20-1) - Seems to be up against it.
8th Pace - $52,324; John Simpson Memorial - 3yo Fillies
2 - Rosa Sharks (Grismore, 20-1) - Appears to be a good one. How good is the question.
1 - Winsmith Jess (Merton, 12-1) - Best efforts in DSBF. Pass.
3 - Winbak Corazon (Fluet, 8-1) - Decent effort upon return. Will need to step it up.
1A- Song in A Major (Taggart, 12-1) - Convincing win in overnight. This is tougher.
4 - Hi Maintenancechic (Berry, 3-1) - Ignore last. Good effort in Courageous Lady. Consider.
5 - Jk Owhatanite (Bartlett, 6-1) - Tough spot for seasonal debut.
6 - Say Anything (Gregory, 12-1) - Held own in Chester overnight. Figures to be in the money.
7 - Asteria Blue Chip (Hensley, 4-1) - Makes debut off of sharp qualifier. If ready, she trounces.
8 - Stash The Cash (Paquet, 5-1) - Another horse with solid effort in Courageous Lady. Post hurts.
9 - My Girl's A Star (Schnittker, 6-1) - Will need to make a move from the second tier.
10 - Character Flaw (Kakaley, 20-1) - Should be a long afternoon from here.
And if we are looking at the weekend, there is the Pick 4s at Cal Expo. For brevity sake, I will just list my tickets for the two Pick 4s.
Early Pick 4 (15% Takeout; Races 4-7) - 4,5/1,3/1/3,6 - $8 ticket
$15,000 Gtd Late Pick 4 (15% Takeout (0% at Cal-Expo and Twin Spires; Races 11-14) - 1,4/4,8,10/4/2,9 - $12 ticket