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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Some Pleasant Surprises And Unanticipated Disappointments In 2014

Dancin Yankee, a six-year-old son of Yankee Cruiser, has been a pleasant surprise this year. He has 14 wins in 21 starts; he established a world record of 1:47.2 on a 5/8 track; and at the half-way point, he has already earned 45% more money than he banked during all of last year. If he doesn’t cross the million dollar threshold this year, it will be next—and that’s with no open stakes wins, ever. He’s a poor man’s Foiled Again.

Sweet Lou and Yankee Bounty notwithstanding, Yankee Cruiser hasn’t turned the breed on its ear as a stallion; he generally needs a lot of help from mama. In the case of Sweet Lou, his dam Sweet Future also produced the rugged and productive FFA pacer Bettor Sweet. And Dancin Yankee’s dam, Dancinwiththebest, gave us Doc’s Yankee, Marty Party and The Lunch Pail.

Some horses race over their heads and fortify their bankroll with third and fourth place checks. The wins are few and far between but the money is good. The Dancin Man is not of that ilk. He didn’t start in the Haughton and you won’t see him in Saturday’s USPC. He isn’t even staked to the Breeders Crown. As a matter of fact, Dancin Yankee has only faced division kingpin Sweet Lou twice this year; they both flopped in a Levy elimination split, and our boy beat Sweet Lou in the Van Rose Invitational at Pocono.  

His trainer Josh Green is serving a lengthy suspension so Dancin Yankee has been under the care of Amber Buter for his last four starts. There was some speculation that this change would lead to a precipitous drop in performance. To the contrary, he has been better than ever, winning all his races under Buter in dominating fashion.

Bee A Magician was lauded far and wide for her perfect 17 for 17 performance last year as a sophomore. So much so that the most anticipated division race of 2014 was the showdown between Queen Bee and the 2013 Queen of the aged trotting mares, Maven, who was no slouch herself with 10 wins in 14 starts and more than a half million in earnings. And while the road to disappointment for the pair has been unique, we can sum up their campains by saying both have underachieved woefully. In a surprise occurrence, not uncommon in this game, the Classic Photo four-year-old Classic Martine, who was a player in the PA Sire Stakes last year but no competition for Bee in the open realm, has stolen the division from them.

Bee, who finished a weak second to the favored Classic Martine in Friday’s second leg of the Ima Lula, has only one win in six 2014 starts—that being in a leg of the Ms Versatility. Her most impressive performance was a second against the boys in the Hambletonion Maturity, almost a month ago.

Like Bee, Maven is racing like a shell of herself. The premier offspring of Glidemaster, and the only one to actually amount to anything, looks even worse than Bee does. She appears to be mimicking her old rival Check Me Out, who fell off the table last year. Maven’s only win came in the Miami Valley Distaff, prior to her trip to Sweden. That taxing journey may have hijacked her season. We’re not in a position to divine the reason for her downfall, but it is real.

Sandbetweenurtoes, a SBSW 3-year-old filly who didn’t race at two and was purchased by Bradley Grant from Tony Alagna’s connections after she beat NW2 at the Meadowlands in May, has moved to the top of her peer group and currently occupies the nine slot in the Top Ten Poll. Her Artsplace dam, Al’s Girl, won the Eternal Camnation as well as splits of the Bluegrass and ISS. Grant employed the same strategy with Apprentice Hanover, also by SBSW, buying him from Jack Darling early in his freshman season. Apprentice disappointed at three due to physical issues, but the now 4-year-old has managed to bank almost $600,000.

Sandbetweenurtoes, who is trained by Larry Remmen and driven by Brett Miller, recently won the Mistletoe Shalee at the Meadowlands and followed that up with a win in the $70,000 Romola Hanover at The Meadows. She’s 7 for 7 and circled the Meadowlands in 1:49. The division belongs to her at this point. While Somwherovrarainbow faltered on the Grand Circuit at three and retreated to the PASS, this filly appears ready to take on the challenge.

Cooler Schooner is more famous than she is successful. She’s the Norman Greenbaum or Weird Al Yankovic of harness racing—a one hit wonder. It was a Steady Star moment when she broke Snow White’s freshman world record with a 1:51.3 mile in a split of the PASS at Pocono last summer. And coincidentally, she and Steady Star share the same number of open stakes wins—zero. She’s winless in four 2014 starts. Cooler Schooner scratched out of Saturday’s Oaks Prep and broke the time before that, but she is slotted to leave from the nine for David Miller in Saturday’s Oaks.

Her older sister, Broadway Schooner, didn’t go nearly as fast and may not be as famous, but she won the Oaks, as well as the Breeders Crown, and she was Queen of her division at three. Those Broadway Hall mares have extreme speed; Broadway Socks, Frau Blucher and Action Broadway are a few more examples. But all of the above have learned to govern their speed enough to make money with it. Cooler Schooner has less than $17,000 in the bank this year. Still, a number of Hambo Day bettors will be drawn in by her quickness and potential, it’s like crack cocaine to bettors, whether it comes from a Manofmanymissions or a Cooler Schooner. You can bet on that.

Joe FitzGerald



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