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Monday, October 19, 2015

The Breeders Crown Eliminations

There were 13 Breeders Crown eliminations on Friday and Saturday at Woodbine. That’s the same number that were needed last year at The Meadowlands. The last time Woodbine hosted the Crown in 2012 there were only 11 elimination races; the following year at Pocono Downs 18 were required. Yannick Gingras won four this year, followed by Brett and David Miller with two each. Palone, Waples, Trace Tetrick, McNair and Scott Zeron each took one. Four starters from the Takter Barn won; he went on to win three finals last year. Three winners for Burke, two for Alagna and one each for Rheinheimer, McNair and Holloway. Jimmy Takter will have 13 entered in the finals, while Ron Burke will have 10.

Indiana stole the show as Always B Miki and Freaky Feet Pete, sons of that state’s premier stallions, Always A Virgin and Rockin Image, wowed the crowd with a pair of 49.4 miles. Miki had only one 2015 start in him, an Indiana Sire Stakes crush job, but that didn’t stop the bettors from sending him out as the 2/5 favorite. And he didn’t disappoint. Pete, on the other hand, has been pounding the ISS set throughout the season. He did lose to the only two GC quality horses he faced, Wiggle It Jiggleit and Wakizashi Hanover. Pete, the 4/5 choice, came first up and rolled OSS champ Reverend Hanover, who was the 6/5 second option for his hometown fans.

Miki supplemented to this race last year and won his elimination, but he scratched out of the final. His paternal sister, division winner Color’s A Virgin, was also poised to give her young sire his first BC win, but she was too far back and never factored in the final. The latter has had a disappointing year, but she did beat a short field in the Allerage Mare last time out and she has drawn the rail for the BC open mare. Limelight Beach, the other 2014 elimination winner, also scratched out of last year’s final. McWicked won the race and subsequently the division. This year’s edition should prove to be a better race.

Atrspeak showed the sort of closing kick that should give the connections of every rival pause, when he swooped home in 26 to nip Waki at the wire in the second elimination. Wiggle, Waki and Artspeak are all staked to the Matron on November 12 and the Progress Pace on November 29, both at Dover Downs. Freaky Feet Pete can supplement to those races for $25,000 each. That would certainly make Marv Bachrad a happy man. Casie Coleman sewed up McWicked’s 2014 division win when she supplemented him to the Progress, which he won for David Miller.

The freshman colt pacers are a quiet group. There is no Captain T or Artspeak in that division. The latter had been shut down prior to last year’s BC, which was held a month later, leaving the race to outsider Traceur Hanover and his controversial trainer Corey Johnson. This edition is without the tension that existed between Jeff Gural and Johnson, who was allowed to race despite having received an indefinite suspension for a positive in Ontario. PJ Fraley, the trainer of Shelliscape, was also an issue.

Freshman pacer Control The Moment (Well Said) is undefeated but has been kept under wraps in Canada and rarely been tested. He was lucky to escape his elimination with a win. Star attraction Travel Playlist followed up a poor showing in Lexington with another in his elimination and has been scratched from the final. On the filly side, LA Delight wasn’t nominated to the BC, so there will be no face-off with Takter’s undefeated SBSW filly, Pure Country. The latter was a handy winner of her elimination Friday night. Burke’s Yankee Moonshine, a full sister to Yankee Bounty, won the other elimination.

Southwind Frank dispatched the opposition with the same measure of surgical precision he’s employed all season in his Friday elimination. The world champion son of Muscle Hill dominates his division to a much greater degree than any other horse in North America. He’s staked to the Valley Victory and the Matron, but as great as he’s been, there’s little chance of him being the second consecutive two-year-old Horse of the Year.

Jimmy Takter won both eliminations for freshman trotting fillies. Particularly impressive was the Muscle Hill homebred All The Time, who drew off from Canadian champ Caprice Hill (Kadabra), who had been bet down to 1/5. Haughty, a Donato sister to Aldebaran Eagle coming off an ISS win, took the other split.

The sophomore pacing fillies have been a soft and confusing group all year, but Divine Caroline, who came on late to easily win her elimination at 3/5 for David Miller and Joe Holloway, seems to have taken over. Last year Holloway had world Champion Shebestingin and 2012 BC winner Somwherovrarainbow, but Stingin only made three starts during the three months prior to the BC and Rainbow finished tenth. This on top of having Miki scratch out of his final. Perhaps the Rock N Roll Heaven filly will make everything right on Saturday when she starts from the rail.

There was no elimination needed to sort out the three-year-old trotting Fillies. Wild Honey, who carried 1/9 Mission Brief to the quarter before picking her up at the end of the Filly Futurity, will start from the three Saturday, while the Muscle Hill world champion has drawn the seven. With wins in the Oaks, KY Filly Futurity, Bluegrass and PA Championship, Wild Honey actually has a better record than her more celebrated rival. A win in the BC would serve as icing on the cake. Does she have a shot at the Dan Patch? Probably about as much as Artspeak, Waki and Pete have of unseating Wiggle. The myth of superiority on the part of Mission Brief has been set in stone.

D’One, who beat BAM in the Fresh Yankee and Muscle Hill, won’t get another chance this week as the Kadabra mare has opted for the open. There was no elimination for these divisions. Last year it was Maven who raced in the open while BAM won the mares open. Maven was second to Commander Crowe in the final, but she beat nine boys in her elimination from the ten in a world record 1:52.2. She was exiled to Europe early in the year, where she has had a disappointing campaign.

The Ten Day calls for a dry day in Toronto on Saturday with temps in the 50s—balmy for this time of year—and not much wind.

Joe FitzGerald

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