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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Joe F Takes on the O'Brien Awards

The following is a guest blog by VFTRG's own resident contributor Joe F. who after doing a great job regarding breeding now takes on the role of Prognosticator by handicapping the O'Brien awards, even before the nominations are released.  Here is Joe's take on Canada's highest honors in harness racing.

An O’Brien Awards Preview
The O’Brien awards nominations will be appearing soon. Trying to handicap these awards—equine or human—is much harder than predicting the results of the Dan Patch Award voting which tends to be relatively straightforward. The O’Brien is a Canadian award, but it isn’t limited to Canadian bred, owned or trained horses. The horse simply has to have raced in Canada three times during the season and made an exemplary contribution to the sport in that country. That’s what makes it so hard to handicap. A given voters concept of which horse made the greatest contribution to harness racing in Canada may be at odds with the typical metrics involved with choosing the most talented and accomplished horse.

“Who votes for the O'Brien Awards? Every media person across Canada who covers harness racing on a regular basis receives a ballot, this includes writers for the various trade publications as well as those in print, radio and television. All Canadian race secretaries and track publicists also participate in the voting.”

For instance, American Jewel and Economy Terror were the two nominees in the 2-year-old filly category last year, with Jewel being voted the winner. She won three times up North, including the She’s A Great Lady and Eternal Camnation, while Economy Terror won the BC at Woodbine. Neither is considered a Canadian horse. This was a clear cut case of the more accomplished filly winning the award.
On the other hand, if there’s any wiggle room at all the voters can be very provincial: in 2010 Heaven beat Sportswriter 24 votes to 13 in the sophomore colt pacer division. Heaven was beaten by Sportswriter in the NA Cup, but that was the Artsplace colt’s only win of 2010. Heaven won the Jug, BC, Tattersalls, Bluegrass, Battle of Brandywine, Matron and Messenger.

For 2012:
2-year-old colt trotter—Wheeling N Dealin—Undefeated. Won the BC, Wellwood and Champlain. Should be unanimous. He’s a Cantab Hall colt. He will also win the Dan Patch.

2-year-old filly trotter—Bee A Magician—Kadabra—Excelled inside the ONSS and in the open stakes world. Won more than 390K in restricted money and 365K in opens. Beat To Dream On, who will win the Dan Patch, in the Peaceful Way. She won the Champlain and the ONSS Super Final.

2-year-old colt pacer—Captaintreacherous—won the Metro and Nassagaweya at Mohawk. He also won the Wilson, Bluegrass and ISS. His 49.3 win in the Wilson represented a track and stakes record. It was the first sub-50 mile ever at The Meadowlands by a two-year-old.

Mach Pride and Windsong Jack were good in the ONSS and will get votes. Again, Captain will win but there’s no telling how many votes Mach Pride will get.

2-year-old filly pacer—This is a tough one. I Luv The Nitelife, Somwherovrarainbow and L Dees Lioness all have factors in their favor. Rainbow won the BC in impressive fashion. Earlier in the year she was third in the Eternal Camnation, which was won by L Dees Lioness. She finished out in her She’s A Great Lady elimination, which was also won by L Dees Lioness.

Nitelife beat Lioness in the Great Lady and finished second in the BC and the Champlain, which was won by Lioness.
Nitelife earned the most money—690K with four wins. Rainbow was next with 527K with seven wins. And L Dees Lioness earned 474K with five wins.

Love Canal, It’s No Secret and Kim’s Royal Day were all good in the ONSS and they will definitely get support, but it’s hard to see any of them beating the above mentioned trio.
Somwherovrarainbow beat a field of pretend fillies in the Matron after Nitelife and Lioness had called it a season. Regardless, the momentum from that win, on the heels of the BC win, gives her some momentum.

L Dees Lioness is trained by Casie Coleman and driven by Scott Zeron. I think Rainbow may win the Dan Patch, but Lioness will take the O’Brien. I like Nitelife the best.

3-year-old colt pacer—Michaels Power won’t win the Dan Patch but he should take the O’Brien. He earned almost $1.5 million, with more than 400K of that coming from the ONSS account. He won all over the North country: the Confederation Cup at Flamboro; the 300K Super Final at Woodbine; a GF at Rideau Carleton; another GF at Georgian Downs; a division of the SBSW at Mohawk; the Canadian Breeders at Mohawk; and the Jug, of course. A prohibitive choice.
The competition comes in the form of Bob McIntosh’s Thinking Out Loud, who won the NA Cup and the Bluegrass. He earned $1.1 million off of seven wins and sports a mark of :47.4. TOL won his Matron elimination and drew the rail for the final. A win in the Matron followed up by a win in the Cleveland Classic, which he’s also staked to, would generate some support. That Cup win goes a long way.

If Needy, who completed his second season without a single open stakes win, gets a single vote…..

3-year-old filly pacer—American Jewel won the BC at Woodbine and set a WR of :48.2 in winning the Fan Hanover at Mohawk. She also won the Simcoe at that track. Her Canadian credentials are impressive. She also took the Bluegrass, ISS and Am-Nat. Jewel set a :49.2 record for a three-year-old filly on a 5/8 track when she won the Lynch at Pocono. She had nine wins and earned more than $1.1 million.
Mach A Wish had a very good year. She won the 300K Super Final as well as a 130K GF. She earned 334K on eight wins. Still, more than 80% of her money was accumulated in restricted races.

Apogee Hanover earned 90% of her dough in restricted races. They’ll both get votes, but as I pointed out earlier, this election generates some weird results.

3-year-old colt trotter—Market Share is the kingpin of the division and a sure bet to win the Dan Patch, and he did win the $1 million Canadian Trotting Classic, which is a big deal in this process. However, Intimidate crushed all comers in the BC, and that also counts for a lot.
After arriving from Quebec, Intimidate had an excellent second to LBF in the Simcoe, and then won a series of condition races, before taking his elimination and the final of the BC.

Market Share won the CTC handily at 3/5, but he was second to Intimidate in his BC elimination and third in the final.
Market Share earned $2 million on ten wins. He won the Hambletonion, CTC, Zweig, Am-Nat and Galt. His :50.3 mark is two seconds faster than that of Intimidate. The latter banked 421K on thirteen wins. The BC was his only stakes win.

This is a tough one. Last year Monkey beat Peelers 48 to 12 in the O’Brien voting off of her BC win. She was no match for the GC fillies when she did try them during the year and enjoyed some success in the ONSS, but it was the BC win that got the O’Brien for her. I look for the same thing to happen here with Intimidate.
Prestidigitator cleaned up in the ONSS, to the tune of 375K. His overall earnings stand at 550K. He was no match for the best colts in the CTC and the BC, but he will definitely get support.

Knows Nothing won a heat of the Hambletonion, the Canadian Breeders Championship and the Tie Silk. And less than 30% of his bankroll came from the ONSS. He will also get some votes.

3-year-old filly trotter—Miss Paris and Sugar Wheeler both had good years within the SS program, but either CMO or Maven should win.
CMO won the final and her elimination of the Elegant Image at Mohawk. She was third behind Maven and Win Missy B in the BC. CMO won eleven times and earned more than 950K. She set a WR of :51.2. Aside from the Elegant Image, she won the Del Miller, Bluegrass, Hudson Filly and Zweig.

Maven earned almost 800K on eight wins. She finished second to CMO in the Elegantimage and beat that one in the BC. She also won the Moni Maker and the Am-Nat.
The NA Cup always plays in a horse’s favor, but that’s not necessarily the case with the BC. Bettor Sweet won that race last year at Woodbine and got no votes for the O’Brien, while Lisagain and Elmo each got one and Alexi Mattosie got three. Miss Paris was 27/1 and finished out in the BC. She then finished out at 3/5 from the rail in the ONSS Super Final. No, it has to be CMO or Maven, and I’ll take the former.

Herbie beat Chapter Seven in the Maple Leaf, but was no match for that one in the BC. No matter, Chapter Seven only started twice in Canada so I don’t think he’s eligible for an O’Brien. Herbie by default.

Frenchfrys in a walk on the distaff side of the ledger.

Cheddar was beaten by Foiled in the CPD and by WWS in the Mohawk Gold Cup. And he didn’t start in the BC. However, Coleman’s charge will win the O’Brien. He won a few opens as well as the Des Smith in Canada and was a monster in the Franklin at Pocono.

Is it POAS, Rocklamation or Anndrovette? Show spent the most time in Canada and was a dominatrix in the open class. She’s the fastest aged pacing mare ever.  The latter won the BC—again—as well as the Roses Are Red in a WR :48.1 performance. POAS had no stakes wins in Canada this year.
Rocklamation has earned more than the other two. She has two good stakes wins in Canada, the Milton at Mohawk and the Forest City at Western Fair. She broke the TR in the latter.

This is a difficult choice. And Rebeka, a local favorite, will also get votes. She won the Golden Girls, but that was in New Jersey.
I think POAS wins the O’Brien. She’s slated to start in a 50K mares open at Harrah’s this week and may race right into 2013, possibly taking on the boys in the Presidential. She’ll be retired to broodmare duty after that. An O’Brien would be a nice going away present.

As for the HOY, last year San Pail was as big a slam dunk as you can get, yet the final tally looked like this:
San Pail – 56
Daylon Magician - 1
Monkey On My Wheel - 1
See You At Peelers - 1
Up The Credit - 1
No Vote – 1

There is no San Pail out there this time around, so all the contrarians will have fun with this one. I’ll go with Michaels Power, who performed at a very high level, races for a popular trainer-driver duo and has built up plenty of good will by racing at a number of satellite tracks.

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