Shark Gesture, who is becoming a war horse, won the Haughton last night at the M, in a great effort (story and video here).
A few notes on the Haughton: i) Sometimes we need to be reminded, but speed wins races. Closing into the teeth of a 55 back half is tough to do with quality horseflesh on the front end. SG ran away from this field. You can never, ever, ever bet harness horses at 3-5 when they will get off seventh like Mr. Big did. You will lose your shirt and it is the worst bet a player can make, and arguably the worst bet in all of racing. ii) Bettor Sweet is a quality animal. Yes folks, 4YO's, even the ones who are left after all the best three year olds retire, can compete against older. iii) One can argue Mr. Big has lost a step, but I disagree. Bettor Sweet, Shark Gesture and others are all racing superbly. Larry Remmen has Shark better than he ever has been. Add in Art Official and a couple of others and Mr. Big will find it hard to dominate this year. iv) Speaking of Art Official, he has come back well, but I do not think he is ready to go the speed he went last year. If you remember, he sat behind Beach in the Cup after going a stout half and tipped off his helmet to run him down. I do not think even sitting behind a horse in extreme fractions for a half he is ready to win in 47 yet. It's early though and he looked good his last couple.
The Cup eliminations are in the books and it was the Well Said show. After two pretty horrible starts in his first two trips over the trap rock he has rebounded to dominate the division. He pulled first over from sixth and closed with a solid back half in a flat-out dominating mile. The result was never in doubt. For a handicapping lesson we can listen to Pierce. Almost all the time handicappers will ask for cover. We often hear announcers speak of a "monster first over journey". In slow fractions this could not be more wrong. In slow fractions, if you have the best horse and are behind, you want to be first over as quickly as possible. 20 times out of 20 a superior horse, like Well Said is, will grind out the non-superior animal to win easily. If cover is gotten with these trips, sometimes the cover can not go the speed needed to tow the horse into the race, they have to go three wide and the leader opens up daylight. We see this at least once a night in racing. Ron Pierce on wanting a first over journey instead of traffic: “I decided I’d better get a bit closer to the front; I didn’t want them to get away too cheap and have somebody pull and get in my way from catching them." This is why handicappers were left scratching their heads a few weeks ago when Lucky Jim won first over, grinding out Lansen in slow fractions, which prompted Bob Heyden to say it was one of the "top five trotting performances he had ever seen." It was not shocking to see Lucky Jim grind down a longshot off soft splits, it would have been a shock to see him not grind down a longshot in soft splits. Well Said's journey was impressive due to solely the blinding last half speed, and that he was well off the pace at the slow first panel, so it is apples to oranges - it was a true "monster first over journey". Full story and video here.
Art Colony seems to be better digging in this week. All last year he was a hanger and this year was too early on. Apparently they finally made an equipment change on the horse, cutting slits in the hood with cups. I guess that has made him better. Great idea by Campbell trying to park Well Said - if he limbs him out and wins he gets to pick his post and places a rival in the luck of the draw. No such luck, because AC is simply not in Well Said's zip code, but not for lack of effort.
Tough DQ for Drop Red huh? Too bad, the horse deserves to be in the final.
Elim Two was non-descript. Although I would never have bet him, I had a sneaky feeling Passmaster would be good as Burgess is a miracle worker with unsound horses. No dice, he was poor.
It seems like the final is Well Said's race to lose. 6-5 on the ML seems about accurate.
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