The race for division honors is over for most, but there are still a couple that can be settled today and tomorrow at Balmoral and Dover Downs or on the 30th at the Meadowlands. Father Patrick, who is not in action over the weekend, and Shake It Cerry, who races in tomorrow’s Matron, have the freshman trotting divisions locked up, regardless of the outcome of the Valley Victory or the Goldsmith Maid in three weeks. The same goes for Captain T, Bee, Maven and Nitelife.
Royalty For Life last won in the CTC two months ago, during which time Spider Blue Chip took the BC and the Bluegrass. That one also won the Colonial. Spider takes on Creatine from the 10 post at Balmoral tonight. His late season success notwithstanding, I can’t see him overcoming the lead RFL built up with wins in the Hambletonion, Canadian Trotting Classic, Stanley Dancer and Zweig. As the BC winner Spider is eligible to compete in the TVG final, and a win there could make things more interesting, but Chuck Sylvester already stated he has no interest in that race.
Foiled and Pet Rock square off in tonight’s Am-Nat, with Foiled holding a significant post position advantage. As the division winner in the US and Canada last year and the year before, Foiled has a twenty yard head start ; he leads Pet Rock by 66 points in the Weekly Top Ten Poll. Generally those half-mile track stakes wins in the Levy, Molson etc are his bread and butter, but that hasn’t been the case this year. He won the BC and the Franklin, and as is his habit, earned a lot of money. He has started ten more times than Pet Rock.
The latter won the RWJ, Haughton, Winbak Pace and Hoosier Pacing Derby. He set world records on half mile and 5/8 tracks. When on his game he’s been the best FFA pacer in training. He’ll need a win tonight and a decisive win in the TVG final to wrestle division honors from the flinty old gelding and his loyal following.
The aged pacing mares have been a disappointing bunch. Unfortunately they have no stakes races left on the schedule. In years past the Forest City Pace offered an opportunity to settle things in November, but it has been eliminated. That being the case, Anndrovette, who like Foiled was division champ in the US and Canada the last two years, will no doubt be the default winner. She earned the most money, but her year had more downs than ups. Anndrovette won the Roses Are Red. Rocklamation is less than 20K behind her rival and did win the Milton and the Golden Girls, but good luck to her overcoming the same sort of advantage Foiled holds with the boys. Shelliscape won the BC and the Allerage Mare, but she has only half as much 2013 money on her card as the other two and she just doesn’t have the name recognition.
Precocious Beauty, who is absent this weekend, didn’t win the BC, but wins in the Eternal Camnation, Great Lady, Champlain, Bluegrass and ISS, combined with the fact that she banked more money than all two-year-old pacers, male and female, should win her the division. Breeders Crown winner, Ufizzi Hanover, who also won a Bluegrass split, is not entered at Balmoral or Dover.
The two-year-old pacing colts are a muddled lot. It’s hard to envision any of them breaking from the pack in the Am-Nat or Matron. Perhaps a win over the weekend combined with a dominating performance in the Governor’s Cup will do the trick. Short of that it appears that He’s Watching, who is absent this weekend and ineligible to the Governor’s Cup, has the inside track. It’s hard to believe that a colt who has no open stakes wins can capture this division off his performance in the NYSS, but the lack of other credible candidates and the colt’s WR mile over a 5/8 track may do the trick for him.
Market Share hasn’t exactly set the world on fire this year, but he did win the BC and the Maple Leaf. The division belongs to him, regardless of the outcome of tonight’s Am-Nat. It is interesting that his hold on the division was so tenuous that after Intimidate won the Credit Winner he was the leader in the Top Ten Poll, followed by Arch. Many believed that despite Intimidate’s abbreviated schedule he would win the division off of a big performance in the BC. As things turned out, he faded in that race and hasn’t been heard from since on the track or in the Poll.
The problem with the format employed by the TVG is that you often wind up with horses in the final that don’t belong. Dancin Yankee, Kingcole, Modern Legend, and Fred And Ginger are all in the top ten for the pace. Yes, the format does keep some of the better horses tied to M1, but a lot changes over the course of a long season.