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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Did Captain T And Nitelife Both Face Soft Competition?

With the season under wraps for the sophomore pacers, with the exception of the Cleveland Classic, I thought I’d grade some of the well-known—for better or worse—members of this much maligned class on how much they progressed since last year’s campaign. Many downgraded Captaintreacherous on the basis of the unimpressive company he kept. Actually the same could be said for Nitelife, who had the brilliant Shebestingin and the solid and cleverly campaigned Charisma Hanover to contend with, but not much else. We’ll look at both groups.

Sunfire Blue Chip…..B

The full brother to Heston Blue Chip got started late with his freshman campaign due to an ankle fracture. They gave the Matron a try but things didn’t work out. This year he won eight races, including the Adios and the Tattersalls Pace. Capt T skipped the Adios; Sunfire held off Vegas Vacation in that one. He was also second in the Messenger and third in the Hempt. He earned more than 700,000. His accomplishments notwithstanding, Sunfire didn’t exactly send a buzz through the grandstand.

I Luv The Nitelife…..A

Nitelife won four of ten starts and finished second four times at two. She banked almost 680,000 which was second only to The Captain. The Great Lady and Eternal Camnation were her premium wins. On the down side she finished second to Dan Patch winner Somewherovrarainbow in the Breeders Crown and lost the Champlain to L Dees Lioness. Nitelife did win an O’Brien in 2012. This year she was almost flawless, winning 13 of 15 and once again finishing second to The Captain in money earned. She set a two-heat world record in the Jugette and also won the Breeders Crown, Fan Hanover, Shalee and Valley Forge. Like The Captain she tended to win her races in a workmanlike fashion. It’s telling that Shebestingin was favored over her in the BC and that the deliberate Charisma Hanover beat her after a difficult trip in the Am-Nat.

Rockin Amadeus…..D-

He regressed this year. Rockin Amadeus established a foundation he could build on when he upset Captaintreacherous in the Breeders Crown at odds of 17/1. Aside from that, he’d been second to Captive Audience in the Champlain and he finished third in the Metro. Overall three wins and three seconds in ten starts earned him a very respectable 455,000—second only to CT among the colts. This year five wins got him 208,000 with the NJSS Final, early in the season, standing as his only significant win.

Twilight Bonfire…..c

The son of The Panderosa won the Matron, Bluegrass and Standardbred at two; he earned 258,000 for three wins in fourteen starts. There’s nothing wrong with that. And while only four colts from his division banked more dough in 2013, he didn’t really get better. His recent win in the Progress Pace Preview at 20/1 for Tetrick was probably his best effort of the year. He was third in the Battle Of Brandywine and second to Beach Memories in the PASS Championship.


While she couldn’t quite make it past Nitelife, Stingin, with her nasty turn of speed, was one of the most exciting competitors in any division this year. Some would say that in any other year she’d dominate her peers but it’s tough to say that when we’re talking about the likes of Jewel and Peelers. Last year after winning her first three starts in Grade II stakes races she was injured and had to scratch out of the Sweetheart at the beginning of August. That was it for the year. 

In 2013 she won eleven of eighteen starts and made the board 83% of the time, earning 555,000—second to Nitelife. She was an impressive winner in the Nadia on Saturday and prior to that she won the Matron in :49.1. She won the Garnsey at the Red Mile in a world record :47, breaking Jewel’s record by more than a second. Nitelife didn’t race at the Red Mile this year. The fact that Stingin got away from Nitelife at the end of the season didn’t hurt. She also won the Empire Classic. Still, chasing Nitelife was a season long theme. She was second to that one in the Lynch and fourth to her in the Breeders Crown. She is probably a more talented second banana than Economy Terror was to Jewel or Krispy Apple was to Peelers.

Wake Up Peter…..F

Zip for 19 tells the tale. Peter won his BC elimination over Apprentice Hanover and Captive Audience last year and finished second in the Breeders Crown, ahead of The Captain. He won two of nine starts. This year he was second in his Cup elimination, third in the Cup and third in the Cane.

Apprentice Hanover…..F

He was purchased by Ben Wallace after he made two impressive starts as a freshman. He beat Sunshine Beach in the Nassagaweya and went on to win his Metro elimination in :49.4. The SBSW colt was looking like a solid buy. But then the wheels fell off the cart. Apprentice missed several weeks during the heart of the season. He may have had an ulcer? Regardless, his progress was curtailed. Late in the year he was second in his BC elimination at Woodbine but finished out in the final. This year they tried Mohawk, the PASS and the Red Mile, but nothing worked. He finished out at 80/1 in the BC. Apprentice finally beat NW4 at Woodbine on TVG night.

Vegas Vacation…..B+

During his freshman campaign Vegas was the one many believed had a shot at knocking off The Captain. He finished second to him in the Nassagaweya and did the same in their BC elimination. Coleman touted him relentlessly. But it didn’t happen last year or this. He did win half his starts this year and earned almost a million dollars. His Jug win in :50 was his signature achievement. The other wins—SBSW, EBC, Matron and Simcoe—aren't top tier stakes. He won a Cup elimination but was not staked to the Pace. Vegas certainly built on the promise he showed last year but he couldn’t close the deal.

Odds On Equuleus…..F

As a two-year old Odds On won five times and banked more than 400,000. He had wins in the Nassagaweya and ISS and was taken down after winning the Bluegrass. He won his Metro elimination and finished second to Captain T in the final. The Art Major colt was expected to challenge the latter for division supremacy in 2013. Instead he had a disastrous zip for 15 season highlighted by a second place finish in his Pace elimination and the same in the final. A trainer switch halfway through didn’t help.


Rainbow beat out Nitelife for the Dan Patch at two on the strength of late season wins in the BC, Keystone Classic and Matron. This year she regressed. Teague campaigned her primarily in the PASS, where she earned almost 360,000. When she did face her open peers things never seemed to go very well. The Adioo Volo was her only open stakes win. I can’t grade her higher because so much more was expected. After a peculiar drive by Montrell in the BC and a take back at the Mixed Sale she was turned over to Joe Holloway. This may mean good things for the handy daughter of Rainbow Blue in 2014.

Sunshine Beach…..B+

Sunshine came a long way from an undistinguished freshman campaign where he won once in six starts and earned less than 37,000. His win over Captaintreacherous in the Battle Of Brandywine in a world record :47.4 was impressive. He also won the Progress—which was minus VV and CT—SBSW and Bluegrass. He was always in the hunt: finished second to Captain T in the BC; was third behind that one in the Pace; finished second to Vegas in the Simcoe. Sunshine won eight times and earned more than 900,000.

Charisma Hanover…..B

Charisma raced in Canada at two, winning three of eight starts and earning about 47,000. Ron Burke picked her up in the offseason and, after winning the Courageous Lady, he dialed her into the PASS circuit which proved to be a perfect spot for her. She won 13 times this year, banking more than 550,000. Charisma won seven of her last nine starts, although she did finish out against Shebestingin in the Nadia on Saturday. She won the Lady Maud, the PASS Championship and the Am-Nat. She lacks Nitelife’s talent and Stingin’s star power but may carry on in the tradition of Rocklamation and Ginger And Fred for Burke.

Lucan Hanover…..B-

Coleman will have the market cornered on geldings in the open ranks. Michael’s Power made a less than successful transition this year and Vegas and Lucan will try their hand at it in 2014. Lucan did set a world record of :48 for a 3YO gelding on a 5/8 track but he didn’t turn his speed into big wins this year. The NJ Classic was his best. Lucan teased us with good seconds and thirds. He won his BC elimination and finished third in the final. He also won his Messenger elimination, and was second to The Captain in the Am-Nat and second in the Windy City.

When it comes to lording it over a less than stellar peer group the criticism sent Captain T’s way is justified; potential competitors like Apprentice Hanover, Wake Up Peter and Odds On Equuleus were transformed into zeroes during the offseason and legitimate rivals like Vegas and Sunshine Beach weren’t up to the task—even though the latter did beat him. but I think Nitelife has gotten a free pass. She also punched out a weak class. I suppose the difference is that Nitelife went to Delaware and set a two-heat world record in the Jugette. How Nitelife compares with Jewel and Peelers is a difficult question. Captaintreacherous, on the other hand, towers over Heston Blue Chip and Roll With Joe. How ironic that the two second bananas, Vegas Vacation and Shebestingin never got to their tormentors, but the third string pair, Sunshine Beach and Charisma did.






Pull the Pocket said...

The three year old filly class is probably the best class in years. While each year almost zero fillies are prepared to handle 150 speed over any period of time, other than the best ones, this season had at least four.

Very good group, which will likely be proven next year to be so.


Joe F said...

Getting these very fast fillies to come back and be productive mares has been the problem in recent years. Peelers made a few starts in the Levy at four before losing it and being retired. She had dealt with a heart ailment at three. Jewel broke a sesamoid bone at the Red Mile as a 2-year-old and had issues mid-season at three. She was retired after that season. Now Nitelife is dealing with the knee issue.
Drop The Ball is brilliant and mercurial, just like Shebestingin, but, aside from a race here and there, she hasn't fulfilled her promise. Economy Terror didn't crack the top tier this year; she only won three times. The year before that Krispy Apple wasn't nearly as good at four as she was the previous year. She too has never cracked the top tier. Let's hope some of this year's sophomore fillies hold up and contribute at the open level.
Joe Fitz