Friday, July 12, 2013

Hambo Horses, Meadowlands Pace & Taylor Swift

An old harness racing saying is 'time only counts in jail'. I always found that a pretty ridonkulous statement, because time does many things. Other than the obvious - whomever has the fastest time wins the race - time tells you how a horse stacks up; if he has the chops to compete at a high level.

Never is this more needed than with a two year old trotter.

When Muscle Hill uncorked a 53 and change in the Breeders Crown at two, you knew that it was highly probable that an assault on 1:50 as a three year old was going to happen. He was a good two year old, yes, but he was a good two year old who was really fast.

Wheeling n Dealing is a whole other case. He was nine for nine last year at two and won a lot of awards, but he never really stepped it up in the time department. He got a lot of cheap halfs, and seemed to lay over his competition, because he was so professional and seasoned.

At three, a trotter has to answer the bell, because others simply catch up, and there are more of them. After Wheeling n Dealin's first start (and his last qualifier where he only came home in 29.1), there are a lot of questions marks with this colt. Is he even capable of going fast?

It's a long year and horse's can season (Deweycheatumnhowe rarely showed any step at two, despite his record, and went pretty fast at three). As well, maybe Wheeling n Dealin just had a bad couple of weeks and will be much better in his next start. But right now, to this observer, he is looking more and more like a Hambo longshot.

There is copious stake action at the Meadowlands, this weekend, with the $600k+ Meadowlands Pace as the highlight. If you are going to play a stakes card in harness racing, this is one of them you'll want to play.

The Meadowlands Pace is an interesting race, I think more from a tactical "chess" perspective than the race itself. The Captain will be - deservedly - a short priced favorite, especially since two talented horses (Vegas Vacation and Sunfire Blue Chip) are not in the race. However, the wild card - Odds On Equuleus - is one that can throw a wrench in the plans. From the rail JC has little choice but to leave the gate (you cannot get trapped getting away fifth, because in races like this you may never get out), and with Brennan and the Captain wanting to be near the lead something might happen.

Odds on Equuleus is an interesting bet this weekend. In harness racing, horses off a big tune up mile after sickness and lameness can do one of two things - progress, or bounce.  If Equuleus does the former, and gets a decent trip behind him, or on the lead with him first over, I suspect he can give him a run.

I've always believed with this crop one or two other horses than the Captain will take charge for a spell. We'll see if horses like Sunshine Beach or Odds on Equuleus are two of them who will over the next little bit.

Hong Kong outhandled North America last year. One of the most powerful people in Hong Kong racing is a "Vice President of Wagering", not a horsemen rep or a political appointee.

This weekend in Harness Racing Update: Why are horses going so fast? To sign up for the free three time a week newspaper delivered to your inbox, it's here.

Saturday's Pace night coincides with a Taylor Swift concert on the grounds. This represents a tremendous opportunity for harness racing to attack a 14-17 year old girl demographic, in my humble opinion. Here are some out of the box ideas to at least dupe them into getting in the door:
  • Nick Salvi in a superman suit, standing at the grandstand gate saying "Taylor's back stage is here" and leading unsuspecting visitors into the front paddock for a Sam McKee handicapping seminar. 
  • "Meet Taylor Swift's Dad" with Jeff Gural waiting on the apron to talk harness racing, Governor Christie and New Jersey slots.
  • "A Conversation with Taylor's Wardrobe Designer" in Pegasus with Heather Vitale.
  • My Life, My Love of Taylor, A Book Signing" - Jason Settlemoir in a backwards hat, speaking of the time he dated Taylor, and relaying that half the songs she writes she was pissed at him for not being home, but being at the track.
  • Inside Scoop of the Taylor JLO cat fight, with marketing man @itsthejho
Enjoy your Friday everyone, and Happy Meadowlands Pace weekend!

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