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Monday, May 26, 2014

TVG Trotting Series Has Obstacles To Overcome

Attrition took a toll on the TVG Trotting Series at the Meadowlands last year. Only six trotters started in the last leg, the week prior to the final, and only seven went in the final. Five of those are retired, racing in Europe or simply out of sight. Only the winner, Market Share, and that venerable warhorse Arch Madness are back for more. Thirty trotters were nominated to the series this year, including the brilliant mares, Maven and Bee A Magician. Twelve of the thirty are not viable participants for one reason or another. Some like Ice Machine and Mister Herbie have entered the witness protection program, while others, like Pine Credit and Sixteen Mikes, don’t appear to be up to the challenge. Some like Upfront Billy and Quick Deal tried their luck at the Cutler, but aren’t staked to the TVG series.

Between his half-share of points for winning a Cutler elimination and the 35 points earned for winning the final, Sebastian is on top with 53 points. He’s followed by Modern Family, Arch Madness, Sevruga, Market Share, Undercover Strike, Archangel, Intimidate, Possessed Fashion and DW’s NY Yank. Possessed Fashion, who was fifth in his Cutler elimination and seventh in the final, is the only four-year-old in the top ten at this point—despite the fact forty-three percent of the nominees are four-year-olds. Most of the better ones haven’t kicked off their aged campaigns. Creatine just qualified; Royalty For Life appears to be aiming for the Hambletonion Maturity—exclusively for four-year-olds—on July 5; Flanagan Memory makes his first start tonight; the status of Spider Blue Chip, Smilin Eli and Your So Vain is unknown; Corky is racing in Europe.

There are two TVG legs scheduled between now and the Hambletonion Maturity. Not having the premium four-year-olds entered would be unfortunate. Also, a horse must race in at least half the legs to qualify for the final. This would put those trotters that don’t join the fray until after the July 5 Maturity in a position where they must compete in all five of the remaining legs. If the Maple Leaf requires an elimination round it will only be four, as the July 12 race would be cancelled. (There has been no elimination round for the Maple Leaf during the last three years.)

The mares will have a conflict with the Armbro Flight, which is the day after leg three of the TVG series. And the following leg conflicts with a leg of the Miss Versatility. And the next one with the Ima Lula. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Bee and Maven to come aboard.

The Maturity fell a month earlier on the schedule last year so it wasn’t an issue. The pacing Maturity, in which Captaintreacherous is expected to make his debut, is two weeks from Friday, on June 13. That will have a negligible effect on the series. Timing is everything.

The TVG trotting final lacked the drama created by the face-off between sophomore champ Captaintreacherous and his elders on the pacing side. Tetrick blew to the top with 6/5 favorite Market Share and, despite a noble effort by race caller Sam McKee, drama was lacking. There was no three-year-old trotter entered as Chuck Sylvester declined the invitation to have Breeders Crown winner Spider Blue Chip start. Let’s hope that Royalty For Life, Creatine and the rest get in the ring with Sebastian, Market Share, Father Patrick, Bee and Maven in a TVG final that trumps the one the pacers gave us last year.

Joe FitzGerald

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