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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Is There A Viable Alternative To He's Watching as Division Champ?

The only one of the four two-year-old divisions that could consistently be labeled a “glamour division” belongs to the freshmen pacing colts. Jimmy Takter says his trotter Father Patrick is the best colt he ever had at this point in his development, and that his Donato filly, Shake It Cerry, could maybe beat him right now. Still, although both will win their respective divisions, not a lot of love comes with the votes. On the other hand, when there is a dominant two-year-old pacing colt folks do take notice. Last year it was Captaintreacherous who virtually shut out the opposition in his division race with 144 votes. In 2011 Sweet Lou set a world record of :49 in the BC and went on to garner 80% of the divisional votes. And in 2010 it was Big Jim who played the role of the next great thing, grabbing 96% of the votes off of wins in the BC, Governor’s Cup, Nassagaweya and Champlain. Sportswriter filled that role the previous year, drawing 81% of the vote.

This year falls way outside the norm: the American Ideal colt He’s Watching seems to be the only freshman drawing anyone’s attention, but he has no open stakes wins to his credit. The 3,000 bargain purchase crushed the opposition in several  NYSS races  and he set a world record for his age group at Tioga, but he was lightly staked and contrary to the posturing coming from his camp, he didn’t supplement to anything. He wouldn’t be able to buy in to the BC or this week’s Governor’s Cup, but he could have been supplemented to the Metro or American National, to name two. Instead he was shut down after winning the Night Of Champions at the end of September. And there he still sits at number twelve on the Top Ten Poll, the only freshman pacer deemed worthy of a vote. It’s strange. Horses win O’Brien’s off of their performance in restricted stakes but it would be very unusual to win a  Dan Patch without some success in open competition.

Well, who else is there to vote for? The fact that the Governor’s Cup is being held the last day of November complicates matters in that most two-year-olds have already been turned out for the year, however, it does offer an opportunity for one of the better colts to separate from the pack. All Bets Off, the Bettor’s Delight colt who outclassed the field in the Matron several days ago, wasn’t very good in the NYSS and came on toward the end of the season to win the lower level Fall Harvest at YR. Unfortunately he is not staked to the Governor’s Cup. Still, the fact that he was so dominant in the Matron yet looked so helpless against He’s Watching gives us pause.

The other significant post-BC freshman pace, the American-National, was won by the Art Official colt, Lets Drink On It. He came from out of the clouds to win that one for Brian Sears. Prior to that he won a division of the PA All-Stars and his Metro elimination as the 6/5 favorite for Jim Morrill, but he’s no champion. Besides, he’s not staked to the Governor’s Cup.

OK, how about the Western ideal colt who cut through the rain and got past the mud in his kisser to win the Breeders Crown—Luck Be Withyou. He also won the Champlain. But he finished out in the Metro and fourth in the Nassagaweya. And besides, he isn’t eligible to the Governor’s Cup either. Luck Be Withyou sits second on the divisional earnings list.

SBSW just had his stud fee jacked up to 30,000 for a reason. There must be some worthy freshman pacers from his second class. Limelight Beach, a gelding, may have been the best of them, at least the most accomplished. He won splits of the Bluegrass and the ISS at Lexington for David Miller and took the 53,000 Albatross at The Meadows in July, as well as another PASS race worth 69,000 at Pocono around that same time. But he tailed off as the season went on, finishing fourth in the PA Championship. Limelight Beach is not staked to the Governor’s Cup.

Ron Burke’s SBSW colt Somestarsomewhere started slowly but showed promise with a third place finish in the Bluegrass at 45/1. The following week he was the 6/5 favorite in his ISS split for Gingras and won. He then took his BC elimination at 2/1. He went on to 3/2 favoritism in the BC final from the rail but the big guy couldn’t handle the off track and finished third. He is slated to start in Saturday’s Governor’s Cup. Maybe he’ll generate a breakthrough performance.

Ray Schnittker’s brother to Well Said, So Surreal, is another interesting Beach colt. He finished second to Limelight Beach in that one's Bluegrass win and went on to capture an ISS split at 1/5 for Tetrick the following week. He finished third as the favorite in his BC elimination. Too much promise, not enough production. So Surreal is staked to the Governor’s Cup.

So we don’t have a colt who blasted into the spotlight in the late fall in the fashion of Big Jim or Sweet Lou. The Western Ideal colt, Western Vintage, who won the NJSS final earlier in the season and recently took a split of the Bluegrass at 3/5, may have moved to the top if he had been able to hang on in the Metro. As it was, Sylvain Filion blasted out of a hole with Boomboom Ballykeel and was inexplicably found to be innocent of committing an infraction by the judges at Mohawk. Boomboom sits atop the earnings list by virtue of the hefty Metro purse, a second in the Nassagaweya and OSS money, but he didn’t go to Lexington, wasn’t entered in the BC and is not staked to the Governor’s Cup.

When Western Vintage won the Bluegrass at 3/5, the Rocknroll colt, Doo Wop Hanover, finished out at 43/1. In the following start for both, a BC elimination, Do Wop won at 31/1 while Western Vintage had the trip from Hell and finished out at 2/5. That's this year's class in a nutshell.
Arthur Blue Chip, a 135,000 Harrisburg purchase who is a brother to Kenneth J, has been the poster boy for Shadow Play’s impressive first crop. He drew our attention with a front running win in a split of the Nassagaweya and was an upset winner of the Mid-Summer Classic for Randy Waples. However, he finished third in the battle Of Waterloo, scratched out of the Metro final and finished fourth in the BC. He’s scheduled to race in the Governor’s Cup on Saturday, but it’s too late for him to make a leap to the top of the division.

The Well Said colt Sometimes Said doesn’t have an impressive win record in opens but he’s always close and knows how to ring that cash register. In his last eight starts he won the Goshen Cup; was second in the BC and second in his elimination; finished second in the Bluegrass; was second in the 260,000 PASS Championship; was second in the 66,000 Tyler B and second in two other 69,000 PASS races. Yeah, he needs to learn to finish, and he’s in no position to win the division this year, but he’s definitely one to watch. Sometimes Said is staked to the Governor’s Cup.

There are others who have shown promise; the Four Starzzz Shark gelding, Allstar Partner, won the PASS Championship as well as another SS race is one, but he has no open record; Burke’s Art Major colt, JK Endofanera, won the Elevation in track record time and will apparently race in the Governor’s Cup; Forty Five Red won the Sheppard and raced pretty well in the NYSS.

As disconcerting as it would be to see a colt that raced exclusively in restricted races win the division, at this point I don’t see an attractive alternative. And with a forecast of temps in the mid-30s at the Meadowlands on Saturday it’s difficult to anticipate a game changing performance on the part of the colts entered in the Governor’s Cup. If He’s Watching gets the nod, let’s hope he steps out of his comfort zone and proves to be a worthy recipient on the track next year.







Anonymous said...

Your comment that All Bets Off "looked so helpless" against He's Watching is not only harsh, but inaccurate.

In his last mile for Mike Sinclair before changing hands to be trained by Ron Burke, All Bets Off put a scare in He's Watching in a NYSS event at Batavia. In his following race, a NYSS event at Yonkers which was All Bets Off's first Burke stable start, he gave He's Watching all he could handle in getting beat a nose.

By the way, I am not suggesting that All Bets Off be seriously considered for 2 y.o. colt pacer of the year--he clearly has not done enough to warrant that accolade. I am just taking you to task for your inaccurate portrayal of how All Bets Off fared when he raced vs. He's Watching.

Keep the articles coming!

Anonymous said...

Fair enough. I engaged in a little hyperbole there. All Bets Off was the only one in the game with He's Watching and I should have given him credit for that.