A couple of days ago I looked at some of the horses that disappointed in 2014; here are a few that have been pleasant surprises of late, exceeding the expectations of most.
Lifetime Pursuit, a Cantab Hall filly out of a sister to The Chancellor and Beer Summit, was a solid PASS filly at two, winning six of eleven starts and earning $270,000. But stablemate Shake It Cerry was top filly in the Takter barn. Lifetime finished a close second to that one in last year’s Breeders Crown elimination but broke in the final. This year started off the same, with Lifetime Pursuit going the sire stakes route while Cerry handled the GC. And Cerry beat her stablemate in the Del Miller and the Oaks Prep, but Lifetime Pursuit upset Cerry at 10-1 in the Oaks. She then won a $100,000 PASS race by 11 lengths; and Friday night Lifetime Pursuit won a $101,000 split of the Casual Breeze, first up and dominant. She set a track and Canadian record of 1:52.1. Shake It Cerry is scrambling for traction at this point.
Trixton has elbowed stablemates Father Patrick, Nuncio, Lifetime Pursuit and Shake It Cerry out of the way and captured the hearts of fans all over the world. The hulking son of Muscle Hill and 1994 HOY in Canada Emile Cas El, is the only trotter to remain standing in a PR battle with FFA king Sebastian. Takter brought him along slowly at two. He did try the Bluegrass and ISS, and Trixton finished second, a neck back of EL Titan, in the latter. He also had it pretty easy for most of this year’s campaign, winning the Simpson, a leg and the final of the NJSS and his elimination and the final of the Goodtimes. He was third behind Patrick and Nuncio in the Dancer and won the Reynolds. This was followed up with his 1:50.3 win in the Hambletonion at odds of 4-1. Not a particularly challenging itinerary, but it’s the way he ripped through it that makes him a fan favorite. He’ll be racing in the Simcoe at Mohawk Saturday.
Classic Martine was a very productive filly the past two years in the PASS and the Weiss series but she has really come into her own in her aged form. Prior to the season most would be shocked if heading into September neither Bee nor Maven sat atop the aged trotting mare division, but lo and behold, it is Chris Oakes’ Classic Photo mare who rules the roost off wins in the Armbro Flight and Ima Lula. In the latter she equaled the world record for a trotting mare on a mile track—1:51.1. Not her only record setting performance, as she won a preferred at Pocono in May in a world record 1:51.2 (4YOTM on a 5/8). And last week she beat the boys, including Uncle Peter and Spider Blue Chip, in a track record 1:52 at Harrah’s. Classic Martine should be facing off against Maven Monday in the penultimate leg of the Miss Versatility at Tioga. Bee is doing the boys in the Crawford Friday night at Vernon.
Gural Hanover, a three-year-old Crazed gelding, is a NYSS creation, having won seven in a row in that program. He set all age track records at Buffalo and Saratoga and generally wins his races for Jim Morrill Jr and Ron Burke by four or five lengths. He’s banked $275,000 on eight wins and trails only Trixton, Father Patrick, Nuncio and OSS hotshot Harper Blue Chip money wise in his division. He’s not staked to much so we may not see him transition to the open ranks after the NYSS championship, but there’s no reason he can’t find his niche and be productive when the sire stakes gravy train runs dry.
Market Rally is the top point getter in her NYSS three-year-old filly division. She was a bargain $7,500 yearling purchase at the Morrisville sale and earned $282,000 for her connections in the NYSS last year. But this year under Ron Burke, who acquired her in December, about the same time he got her paternal sister Cowgirl Hall, she has terrorized her division. She won seven of her last eight in the program, earning almost $550,000. Market Rally broke in that one loss, falling back to last, then looping the field to finish second. She won a $111,500 split of the Goldstein at Yonkers by seven lengths in 1:55.4. Prior to that Market Rally broke the track record for three-year-old trotting fillies at Saratoga with a 1:55.4 mile over a good track in a $91,000 split of the NYSS. Like Gural Hanover, she isn’t staked to much, so we’ll have to wait and see where she slots at four.
Datsyuk, an Explosive Matter gelding, didn’t race at two, but he’s earned almost $240,000 on five wins and nine board finishes in ten starts in 2014. He has a couple of wins in the PASS but has spent most of the season chasing Father Patrick and Nuncio around the track. Until August 17, that is. On that Sunday his trainer-driver Charlie Norris sat back as Yanick Gingras cut a leisurely pace in a split of the Tompkins, only to pounce on that one when they hit the stretch and pull off an upset, at a generous $52.00 price in 1:53.1. And he just followed up that upset win with another win, at 2-5 albeit, in a $100,000 split of the Hickory Smoke at The Meadows, this afternoon. He’s staked to the Kentucky Futurity, Bluegrass, Yonkers Trot and Breeders Crown, so we should be seeing him around.
All Bets Off, a sophomore Bettor’s Delight colt purchased by Ron Burke last summer, has been very successful in both the restricted and open realms. Most horses are pointed to one or the other due to the effort it takes to accumulate enough points to qualify for the lucrative finals in most states/provinces. He won his Rooney elimination, as well as the $300,000 final; his Hempt elimination, and finished third in the final; and most recently he upset McWicked in the $400,000 inaugural edition of the Milstein. And while he wasn’t busy with the opens he set a three-year-old track record in a $40,000 SS race at Batavia; finished second to Capital Account in a $74,000 SS split at Yonkers and just today was an easy winner of a $39,000 split at Monticello. So, All Bets Off will have enough points to make the lucrative NYSS final on September 13 at Yonkers. Folks keep asking Burke if the colt will be supplemented to the Jug, which is five days later. Hell no! He’ll be chalk to win that big pot of gold at Yonkers. This colt isn’t staked to the Bluegrass, Tattersalls Pace or Breeders Crown—you get the picture.
Sportswriter isn’t dominating the OSS to the ridiculous extent he was during the first couple of weeks, but he’s still way ahead of the rest. He also leads the NA sire standings. I’d be remiss if I left him out of a list of horses that have exceeded expectations in 2014.