The first leg of the TVG FFA Pacing Series at M1 will be raced on Saturday. There will be two $50,000 divisions, each with seven starters. Having only seven starters in races featuring pacers that cover several classes does not make for a very appealing wagering vehicle. About 60% of the nominees are not entered for one reason or another. And considering the fact that a pacer must start in at least five of the nine preliminary legs and earn enough points to qualify for the $500,000 final, that’s surprising.The system for allocating points is markedly different from that employed by Yonkers for the Levy series. In that one each starter receives 25 show up points—half of what the winner of a given leg would get. There are no appearance points for the TVG series unless a race is cancelled. Also, while only the top five places get points in the Levy, all finishers get points in the Meadowlands series. In the Levy the place horse gets half as many points as the winner and the third place finisher gets a quarter of what the winner receives. In the TVG, on the other hand, the place horse will get a whopping 71% of the winner’s point allocation while the third horse gets 43% of what the winner gets. This system will serve to keep the connections engaged; missing or finishing back in a couple of legs won’t put you out of reach of a spot in the final.
There are two seven horse $40,000 eliminations for the Cutler on Saturday and those trotters will only earn half as many points as will be available to them next week in the final. It appears that this week’s two pacing divisions are both considered full-fledged opens that award maximum points.Attracting high profile four-year-olds to the Meadowlands is a point of focus for Jeff Gural, and half of the thirty-four nominee to the FFA pacing series are in that class. The problem is that only four of them showed up for this introductory leg. Nine of the four-year-old nominees have not made a start in 2013, and two of those—Sweet Lou and Dynamic Youth—are entered this week. Sweet Lou’s sophomore campaign was a disappointment, with the Tattersalls Pace being his only major open win, but he did bank more than a million dollars. Dynamic Youth’s only open stakes win is the Cane. Hurrikane Kingcole, who was very impressive at this track last week, had no open stakes wins in 2012 and only one—the Nassagaweya—in 2011. Warrawee Needy, the fourth four-year-old, has never won an open stakes race.
Which four-year-olds aren’t in? Nominated but missing are: Heston Blue Chip, Michaels Power, ARNRD, Bolt The Duer, Pet Rock, Mel Mara, Panther Hanover, Bettor’s Edge, Hillbilly Hanover, Allstar Legend, Our Lucky Chip, Lucky Jet and I Like Dreamin.Betterthancheddar, who may be the best of the older horses, is staked to the series but he isn’t entered. He hasn’t made a start this year. (Casie Coleman’s suspension ended May 3. If the powers that be at the Meadowlands opted to continue to deny her privileges it would obviously have an impact on nominees like Cheddar and Michaels Power.) BC winner Bettor Sweet is also eligible, but he isn’t in either. WWS, who is a shell of what he was two years ago, is staked to the race but not entered. Rockincam, Special T Rocks and Classic Rock Nroll are three other nominees who are not entered.
More than half of those entered are geldings. Two of those, the elder statesmen, Foiled Again and Golden Receiver, drew the three post in their respective divisions. The latter takes on Razzle Dazzle, who won his first open stakes race in the Levy recently, Warrawee Needy, who has been burning up the track at Woodbine, winning his last three against cheaper, and Sweet Lou, who is a mystery at this point. Foiled has an easier go of it in the eleventh, although Kingcole crushed a field of four-year-olds in :50 at M1 the other night and Dial, who has been at the top of his game, easily beat a wo25 field in :49 at Harrah’s on Saturday.Four of the fourteen entered in the two splits are from the Burke barn. People complain about that, but at least he shows up. Where are all the others?