Last night, A Rocknroll Dance won the $600,000 Meadowlands Pace. Perhaps I should say, A Rocknroll Dance crossed the finish line first; it was a spyder which won the race; spyder as in sulky. Drive Yannick Gingras had recommended to trainer Jim Mulinix to switch to the spyder bike for the Meadowlands Pace and it was a successful recommendation as the son of Rocknroll Heaven and Witchita Hanover went wire to wire to win in 1:48.1.
Ah, the good old days when everyone had the same sulky or at least the program indicated modified sulky or conventional sulky. These days, it is the sulky of the month which matters and not necessarily how a horse trained up to a race. Here is one advantage the thoroughbreds have over standardbreds. When it comes to thoroughbred racing, the big question is blinkers on or blinkers off while in harness racing, there are a whole slew of equipment changes which could be made and on top of that, you have the luxury of choosing which type of sulky to be used. The net result is while not a 100% correlation, it is to some degrees what is behind the horse instead of what is on the horse.
The Meadowlands at least makes an attempt to let people know what sulky is being used on a horse by color coding them and announcing what sulky is being used. The problem is you don't necessarily know what the horse used the preceding week as there is nothing in the program to indicate which sulky was used the preceding week.
I know I am in the minority here, but I wish sulkies were standardized. Not that we should go back to the conventional sulky, but when it comes down to changing a sulky to look for a win, something needs to be done to protect the gambler to avoid the situation of manipulating sulkies in an attempt to get a horse fired up one week for a score and then put back in a different sulky where the chances of winning are less certain. Program lines should indicate which sulky-type was used in a particular race and when a horse drops in the entry box, the sulky type be declared so it may be printed in the program with no changes allowed after scratch time. The sulky needs to be considered a piece of essential equipment, so essential that if a horse wins in one type of sulky and they change back to a sulky type which a horse hasn't been that successful with in the past, the judges start asking questions.
Now for some comments on last night's stake action:
Stanley Dancer Memorial (1st Division)
Uncle Peter clearly showed his class with his victory in the first division of the Dancer Memorial going wire to wire. However, a horse to watch Hambletonian time as Banker Volo was locked in along the stretch and couldn't get enough room to make a challenge. I am pretty sure this trotter will not be driven so conservatively in his next start.
Stanley Dancer Meemorial (2nd Division)
I took last week's excuse for Googoo Gaagaa's break at Yonkers Raceway with a grain of salt which is one reason why I didn't play him in the Stanley Dancer Memorial, especially since the press hype ensured he was going to go off odds-on. My suspicions were confirmed when the trotter jumped off stride in the turns at the Meadowlands. Obviously, he is not himself so a well-deserved vacation is in order. As for the winner of the Dancer Memorial second division, Little Brown Fox, you have to be wondering why he paid $49.60 to win. No, he wasn't my pick as I thought he was tailing off but if you had tossed his two races at Pocono thinking the post positions were bad, you saw a morning line second choice who won his last two races at the Meadowlands going off at 23.80-1 calling your name. I don't think this division had the Hambletonian winner racing in it.
Misteltoe Shalee Final
I liked Major Look a bit but thought no one was going to beat American Jewel so I keyed American Jewel on top with Major Look and Shelliscape under her. Well, needless to say, while I admired American Jewel's gutsiness in the stretch, she ended up short. American Jewel will be back, perhaps the week off didn't help her.
Meadowlands Pace Final
Sulky types aside, I was right about Sweet Lou and the fact the Pace final winner was not going to be an elimination winner. It was a great betting race and this year's 3yo pacers are pretty much even. Why he didn't show much last night, I still like State Treasurer and think he's going to pop in one of this year's big races, the question is which race will it be? Probably a race I don't pick him in. Regardless, I think he will be a future FFAller.
Del Miller Memorial Trot
For those burnt on American Jewel, Check Me Out put the world back in order with her victory in the Del Miller Memorial and the question is now Hambletonian or Oaks? Right now Schnittker is reportedly leaning towards taking on the boys but it isn't that easy. No, the boys haven't exactly set the world on fire, but boys are boys and girls are girls. I am not convinced taking on the boys is going to be as easy as many people are thinking; Oaks bound is where I think she should be heading. That being said, if she does decide to take on the boys, Win Missy B is my pick to take home the Oaks trophy.
For those looking for a detailed report on last night's stakes action at the Meadowlands, I refer you to this article which also has video replays.
Finally, a Happy Birthday to Bob Farrington, trainer and driver of the famous Rambling Willie. For those of you who didn't get to see Rambling Willie race, you missed a great one. As far as I am concerned he ranks right up there with Niatross as the two greatest standardbreds that ever existed.