Meadowlands Pace Night: Different, But Good

Last night's Meadowlands Pace night is in the books. For the two big races, Sweet Lou took the Haughton and He's Watching - a $3,000 yearling purchase - joined Somebeachsomewhere as the fastest three year old in harness history with his Pace win.

Some notes, or things that caught my eye .......

This was not a Pace night of old, where most of the accompanying races were overnights, with ten horse fields of high conditioned horses or claimers battling heads. These races, a harness staple, have been long gone from Jersey as neighboring states have added slots. It's a shame, because those races had high handles and brought in the gamblers. Instead, we had a stakes card with several low priced winners. It wasn't bad, it was just different.

Trixton looked amazing to me..... losing. Father Patrick, after a brief scare from pocket sitting Nuncio, won fairly easily in this anticipated tilt. Early Hambletonian odds? How about Takter-Takter-Takter at 2-1, 5-2 and 7-1 for Trixton, Father Patrick and Nuncio.

In the fifth race we saw the worst harness racing has to offer: A boat race. A Takter horse on the lead, with a Takter horse blocking, with another Takter horse not wanting to go three high to get around the blocker. At PTP Downs, Jim is $5,000 lighter in the wallet for pulling a Refrigerator Perry. 

In the Mistletoe Shallee we saw Act Now act like Act Now. When you see a horse spit the bit after looking like he or she is cruising by like she does,  it usually means a terrible physical problem. But I wonder, could it be in her head? Strange, super fast, strange mare.

After his two year old Breeders Crown, Sweet Lou was the now horse. It didn't materialize, until perhaps now. I know the division got quite a bit easier with Pet Rock and A Rock n Roll Dance off to stud, but seriously, would it matter if they were still racing? Right now I don't think so. Congrats to Sweet Lou.

Speaking of Lou, I did quite well off his looks in the post parade, especially in the NA Cup a couple of years ago. He always paraded a little funky, but looked totally different that night than he had in his Pocono tilt to start the season. I thought I saw the same last night in the PP; just a Lou that looked a little bit more off than usual. Ummmm, apparently not.

Last year, here on the blog, or on twitter, several sharp bettors were wary of the hype of the Captain, and got in a lot of trouble for it from his fans. It was nothing personal, it was just exhibiting an opinion that when he did start to face decent raceway horses, he might not be winning those short margin races that he was winning last year. Horse racing sometimes is a game of smoke and mirrors. A lot of stud farms like the undefeated-type horse at two and three, and rarely want that exposed, which is what the four & five year old years can do. Even though the farms hate it, as a racing fan and a bit of a historian of the sport, I think it's good for racing to have that extra year. As for the Captain, he is a nice horse and he's always been a nice horse. He raced well last night (and has raced well his season, coming back sound and strong); just not as good as the hype from last year would have led you to believe.

Three year old crops can be hits (Somebeachsomewhere's year) or misses (Well Said or the Captain's year). This year, so far, it looks like a bit of a hit. He's Watching got the best trip of any contender, but he won like he did not need it.  A very very good performance. People like to use excuses when a horse loses, and if He's Watching lost on the big track they might say "he's a little horse who is at a disadvantage". They'd probably have a point. But this horse is so nice his size does not hurt him. Well done for a $3,000 purchase.

I don't know how many harness races I've watched - maybe 100k - and I have not seen a horse do what Always B Miki did last night. He was almost in the middle of the racetrack at the first turn, then got stuck three high the entire rest of the mile, until the head of the lane when he was four wide.  Normally that means an 8th place finish or worse (Sometimes Said had a similar trip and check his line). This night, with this horse, not a chance. He, despite running in during the stretch drive, came second and paced 147.1. I am so excited to see what this horse can do when he gets his head on straight and learns what he's out there for.  I so hope he stays sound.

A lot of people said the Meadowlands Pace was a drivers race, but the rodeo we saw was anything but. Harness stakes races are a race of circumstance, nowadays. Today, speed is paramount and if you are trapped along the rail you can't take advantage of a Meadowlands shuffle, you just find yourself in an impossible spot along the wood. Because of that, everyone stayed on the outside and drivers David Miller and Cory Callahan got royally screwed. He's Watching, who had the three, benefited from that, because Sears with the two ended up in the only spot he could've the way the race went. I saw a lot of people blaming CC and DM last night, but if you watch the race they had no other choice. In races like the M Pace, others dictate what trip you may or may not get, by forcing your hand.

While I think the Captain has come back good at four, I think last year's Horse of the Year, Bee a Magician, is still not near her best. She won last evening in 151.3, which was good, but when she was reeling off similar times off worse trips last year, it's still concerning. She is not as fluid or sound on the track, in my opinion. She should be sprinting away from 50-1 horses coming off her back, not under the stick to hold them off.

Handle last evening, per race, was higher than last year by a decent margin. I am not sure if the early start happened last year or not (which is generally worse for handles) but the results were good. The wagering on the Pace itself was lower than I expected, and only a deviation or two above the others, which is curious, but does show something about harness racing: In terms of betting handle, a deep field of good conditioned horses can hold their own against a stakes field.

Those are my thoughts. All my opinion, of course.

Have a really nice Sunday everyone.

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