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Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Few That Have Disappointed Us In 2014

There’s no shortage of disappointing horses this year. Some, like Royalty For Life, Vegas Vacation, She’s Da Bomb and Arthur Blue Chip left us dissatisfied because, for one reason or another, they weren’t able to return and contribute to their class, while others have raced regularly in a fashion that doesn't come close to meeting our expectations. I’m going to take a look at a few of the latter.

Foiled Again won his division last year at the advanced age of nine on the basis of marquee wins in the Breeders Crown and the TVG. He was also the object of consideration, on the part of some, for Pacer of the Year honors. This year he started off like a champ, winning four preliminary legs of the Levy Series at Yonkers, but he was third in the final, and it’s been downhill from there. He’s the fifth richest aged male pacer for the year, with more than $340,000 in the bank, but he’s already started more than half as many times as he did last year, when he earned an eye-popping $1.4 million. Small track, undersubscribed races like the Molson and Battle of Lake Erie have always served as his bread and butter, but he doesn’t win those anymore. Summer has never been Foiled’s favorite season, but cool weather has prevailed this year. Ron Burke seems convinced that his veteran charge will turn it around in the fall. We’ll see. Foiled finished a solid second to Sweet Lou in his CPD elimination at Mohawk on Saturday, but that makes 12 consecutive losses.

Maven booted her old rival Check me Out aside and took control of the division last year, logging ten wins and earning more than a half million dollars. She set a world record of 1:51.4 when she won the Miss Versatility final at Delaware in front stepping fashion and set another world record for a four-year-old trotting mare at Pocono. And this year’s campaign started out fine with a handy win in the $60,000 Miami Valley Distaff. But a trip to Sweden and an unsuccessful attempt to win the Elitlopp led to a two month gap between races back at home. She finished out in her first three starts since returning to the states, two legs of the Miss Versatility and a hybrid open at The Meadowlands. However, Maven, the best horse in Glidemaster’s portfolio, beat a preferred field at Pocono Saturday. Classic Martine, who beat the boys at Harrah’s Thursday, stands atop the division Maven and Bee were supposed to be fighting over, with eight wins in ten starts and victories in the Armbro Flight and Ima Lula. The last preliminary leg of the Miss Versatility will be raced on Labor Day at Tioga. Maven needs to do well to have a shot at making the final, which is in Delaware a month from now. All three principals beat the boys last week. We’ll see if she really does have her mojo back.

Shebestingin won the Garnsey, Nadia, Matron and EBC, among others, last year, so it certainly isn’t fair to slot her with an all for not speedball like Hurrikane Kingcole. Still, as is the case with many burners, she doesn’t seem to get the most out of her big engine; something always gets in the way. The Bettor’s Delight mare has wowed us with eye opening performances throughout her career. They had to stop early with her at two due to injury, but last year she paced a faster race mile than any filly or mare ever has in a split of the Garnsey—1:47—and  she simply paced away from the field in the Tompkins-Geers. But this year, after starting out with a win in a mid-level F & M pace at the Meadowlands and another in the Chip Noble at Miami Valley, she’s one and six. Her last start was the Lady Liberty on Hambo Day, where she slowed to a crawl and finished last. We haven’t seen her in the three weeks since. Speed sells and ‘Stingin is missed in the same way Kingcole, Warrawee Needy and Googoo Gaagaa are.

Sunshine Beach made his reputation beating Captaintreacherous in a world record 1:47.4 in the Battle of Brandywine. He also won the Progress, as well as splits of the Bluegrass and SBSW. If I wanted, I could do this entire piece on disappointing four-year-old pacers—Captain T, Lucan Hanover, Sunfire Blue Chip—but I’ll stick to Sunshine. What complicates his situation is that Blue Chip bought a piece of him in the spring and Tom Grossman said in part that “there are several legitimate reasons to believe in genuine improvement from three to four.” The rhetoric about how difficult it is for a pacer to transition from three to four really doesn’t excuse the difficult campaigns The Captain, Sunfire Blue Chip, Lucan Hanover and Sunshine have experienced. Sunshine has been hopelessly mismatched in the FFA class and his only win in seven starts was over a preferred group at Mohawk. He finished last in his CPD elimination Saturday and will not make the final unless there’s a scratch. Sunfire Blue Chip has taken another route to respectability, winning a NW25 at Yonkers, an open at Saratoga and another open at Tioga. Sunshine may have to embrace that template, or cut his losses and report for stallion duty.

Muscle Network, who is a Muscle Hill brother to Mr Web Page, set a world record of 1:53.2 in a split of the International Stallion Stakes at the Red Mile last year. He also beat Nuncio in the Valley Victory at the end of November at the Meadowlands. All told he won twice in eight starts and earned more than any of his classmates with the exception of Father Patrick and Nuncio. His home life has been anything but stable as Tony O’Sullivan had him for most of 2013 with Jody Jamieson serving as his primary driver; Jonas Czernyson had him for the Valley Victory and up until June of this year, with David Miller onboard; and Ake Svanstedt has had him for the last three months, during which time he made one start, in the Stanley Dancer. In that race he was making a deliberate first over move on the leader entering the stretch when he jumped. Muscle Network was rated 5th in this year’s Hoof Beats Comprehensive Predictive Rankings, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to live up to their expectations.

Riveting Rosie helped put the young stallion Muscle Mass on the map, so much so that his connections relocated him to New York. She won the Peaceful Way as well as a split of the Champlain last year. Rosie also took a couple of Gold legs and the Super Gold final. All of which led to a Grand Circuit profile and expectations that she would be both a regional and open force this year. Hoof Beats ranked her number seven, five spots ahead of Lifetime Pursuit, who crushed her in the Casual Breeze Friday night. Rosie has one win in nine starts and five of those losses have come in races confined to Ontario breds. Her lone win was in a Gold leg at Grand River last week, but she failed to build on that in the Peaceful Way.

Market Share has always had a nose for a buck. He won the Hambletonion and CTC at three, garnering him $2 million dollars, and he picked up another million last year when he won the TVG, Maple Leaf and Breeders Crown. This year he’s earned $319,000 off of elimination wins in the Cutler and Maple Leaf and a world record performance in the Maxie Lee. He has seven losses. Sebastian, who looms over him like the Ebola Virus, won the Cutler and Cashman, while Intimidate took the Maple Leaf. There’s plenty of time left to turn things around; the Crawford Farm Trot is Friday, and chief nemesis Sebastian will be entered; then there is Lexington, the Breeders Crown and the TVG final.

Precocious Beauty, an Art Major sister to the hot young Artsplace sire Sportswriter, appeared to be in line to follow Put On A Show, Peelers, Jewel and Nitelife as another in a consecutive line of outstanding pacing fillies. And while last year she did earn $50,000 more than any of her male counterparts off of wins in the Eternal Camnation and She’s A Great Lady and splits of the Champlain, Bluegrass and ISS—setting a world record of 1:50.1 in the latter—the wheels started to wobble toward season’s end. Allstar Rating picked her up at the end of her BC elimination and that same filly carried her past the quarter in :25.3 in the final, as she left out of the eight post; she faded to eighth. Precious Beauty won her first start of 2014 in the NYSS at Vernon Downs, but lost the next four, including a weak performance in the Fan Hanover. She did win her elimination for the EBC for Brian Sears and the final for Greg Mcnair, but her latest was a third place finish to Katie Said and Rockingcam Park in the Geers. Undefeated Sandbetweenurtoes, who wasn’t around last year, is the queen of the division. Precocious Beauty will have to step back into the open ring and give a better account of herself when the NYSS season ends in a few weeks.
Joe FitzGerald

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