One thing a horse owner does not want to hear before a big race is about lameness or sickness. Racing a lame or sick horse is right up there on the insanity scale with poking yourself in the eye with a hot stick, because not only will your horse race terrible, it can have season long ramifications.
Yesterday the Meadowlands Pace was drawn sans Warrawee Needy. He's sick, and after have a day or two of (I'm speculating) antibiotics and a lung flush at the U of Guelph, he's still not making the trip. This is a nice horse with some physical issues. They might as well get him right, because in this crop you have to be at your best. Just ask the 2-5 Sweet Lou in the North America Cup, or 3-5 Hurrikane King Cole in the Hempt.
Speaking of Hurrikane King Cole, he's in the Pace elims, despite rumors swirling he was sick too. I hate to see driver switches on a top colt, because it has some shades of panic, or at the very least, that they're looking for excuses, and 99 out of 100 times the driver has nothing to do with it. However, there is one from Tetrick To Brennan. Yawner as far as a driver change goes, if you're the type to put credence in them at the top levels.
As for the Pace itself, it's a real barnburner. I *guess* based on history and last week, Sweet Lou and Thinking Out Loud need to take money, as does A Rock n Roll Dance. But this field is so deep, it's scary.
I'm a longshot player and have been for years. A horse I think is tons better than he's showing right now is Hillbilly Hanover. I wish this was like last year, or the year before that, because if it was, I'd bet this guy at bomb odds. His brother won the Pace way back when and payed boxcars. I just don't feel he is fast enough quite yet. I will be using him on Saturday however.
Last up, it was announced that Horse of the Year San Pail will miss the Maple Leaf Trot because of a slight injury. Ever since his first start it's been my opinion he has not looked like the horse I am used to on the track. I think (pure speculation) this is something that may have been pinching him for awhile. Either way, I find it is a lesson that we need to learn in handicapping. Horses movements, their last quarters, their head tilts and gaits tell a huge story with regards to fitness and soundness. San Pail was 2 for 4 this year, and in one of the wins he was much less keen that he usually is. In the post parades he has not looked as bouncy as usual as well.
In his qualifier I read a few people mention that he always qualifies slow, so it's no big deal. Clearly that was not the case. When horses are not quite 100% they show it, and while some handicappers use rudimentary explanations like driver changes to explain bad and good efforts, in my experience, 9 times out of 10 look no further than the horse. He'll tell you how he's feeling by how he parades, how he travels and how he races.
I hope San Pail comes back good, because he is clearly a favorite horse of many, me included.
Have a great day everyone, and to my American friends, have a nice 4th.