Yesterday evening at Pocono we saw the best harness racing had to offer with three stakes that would be graded grade I's if harness racing graded stakes. It was quite the evening.
Highlighting the night was the super-interesting Hempt where if you weren't a fan of open stakes draws before the race, you sure were afterwards. The three best horses had the three worst posts, and it made for one of the most entertaining races we've seen in years.
Captaintreacherous, the top colt so far in 2013 had the furthest outside post. Just inside of him was Sunfire Blue Chip and just to his inside was Vegas Vacation. Another good horse, Code Word, drew the advantageous two post. In what shocked quite a few people, out of those three outside horses, the Captain being forced to let things settle from the far outside ended up working to his advantage. After the dust cleared, he found himself second over with a ~56 back half to work into, with a completely spent front end.
A few things made this race a race which can be talked about an analyzed for some time. Yannick Gingras and Cory Callahan probably had more influence than anyone. By choosing to brush from just in front of the Captain on the outside, Yannick made the lead, but was used hard. Cory then pulled and tried to "brush and crush", but Yannick (somewhat surprisingly to me as the half was 53 and Code Word is an excellent horse to sit behind) elected to park him. This gave the Captain his snake in the weeds trip. Tetrick, who drove brilliantly, in my opinion, did not bite and try to rush to catch cover, he simply bided his time. I expect he did not think Sunfire Blue Chip would hang in for so long off that tough trip.
I am a gambler and look for the race inside a race - some of the TV handicapper types like to call me nuts sometimes when I am betting against a horse like San Pail - and while everyone was going nuts over the Captain, I was most impressed with Sunfire Blue Chip. He was three high to near the quarter, parked to the clubhouse turn, went 53.3 and then parked out the excellent Code Word - with that he still almost won. As for Vegas Vacation, it would not have mattered much, but Brian Sears barely made the gate and went right back to last. That was a nice move from off it, having to go wide. But I didn't understand why he seemed kind of disinterested in such a big race.
"Am I sold on the Captain" World Famous @itstheJHO asked me last night. I am obviously sold he is a good horse - he was pacer of the year last season - but no, I still think he is not dominant like an I Luv the Night Life is. In two stakes finals this year he has had a snake in the weeds trip which worked to his advantage. I don't think Vegas Vacation, Fool Me Once and Sunfire Blue Chip are that far off. If any of those horses gain a tactical advantage on the Captain during a race, I believe they can beat him. We'll find out, because it's a long year in harness racing.
I Luv The Nightlife is hands down the best filly in harness racing. While the Captain has had to work hard for his wins, she just lopes along. The Open draw played a part in her race however, because I am pretty sure if she made an easy lead David Miller would not have quarter poled. That was a good drive by Miller. It was a good drive by Tim as well. He could've elected to park her like Yannick did Code Word, but did not. It worked out for him.
Last week I wrote that Smiling Eli looked "pully" which is never a good sign, and he won. This week he looked sleepy - the exact opposite. As a handicapper I will draw a line through his race. He seemed to hate that track, the rain, or something.
Foiled Again won the Franklin and he is one of the most amazing horses in harness racing history. That was another excellent race. We've been wondering since the start of the year why Betterthancheddar has been so well bet this season and we're still wondering. Is there something up with that horse? Perhaps.
Have a great Sunday everyone!
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