Another Weekend of Harness Thrillers!


It’s March 2017 already, an unbelievable thought considering it was just February and, before that, January, and even before that, 2016. We’re weeks away from the first stakes events of the harness season with the George Morton Levy and Blue Chip Matchmaker series at Yonkers Raceway, which will begin on March 18. For now, we continue to grind cash out of the overnight features we’ve been tackling since the beginning of time, or at least my time at US Racing.

Let’s go!

Friday, March 3 begins with the second race from Saratoga Harness. A low-level conditioned trotting event, many of the already struggling participants are also entering off layoffs just to add that extra “fun” variable into an already unpredictable cesspool of unpredictable chaos.

And I don’t mean that in a bad way.

Running the numbers, however, I made no handicapping progress and, instead, wasted most of a day racing paper numbers around an ovular track. After handicapping the race, though, I dug up Laser Lucy, who, with an improved post and in her second start since a layoff resulting from illness, could be an overlay. In trotting events like this, we must demand prices from the tote board because of the raised chaos element and Laser Lucy should provide a price.

Saratoga’s third race also offers us an outside contender in Party Jammer, making his second start off a two-month layoff. Racing poorly from post seven in his debut, he now draws inward, a position which he appeared to favor at the end of his racing season, most notably when he finished second from post two. He also appears to prefer pouncing on pacesetters who set a tepid tempo and with the lack of speed in this race, he could receive that setup.

The world famous Northville Downs in Michigan initiates its 2017 season on Friday, and the opening card includes two divisions of a conditioned mini-series, specifically for low-earning trotters.

Round one of the miniseries is race six. The public should be taking the classier entrants here, mainly Denver Deal, who makes a massive drop into this event. Yet, these class horses often deceive the eye.

Considering this, we’ll try I Could Care Less, who was in sharp form last season, but makes his second start of the season here off an eight-month layoff. Dismissing his last race because of a bad post and interference, he could return to form with this mile and will definitely be a good enough price for the risk.

Division two of the miniseries is race nine, gathering ten over the half-mile oval. Since this race appears to lack both pace and stamina, it could provide prime conditions for Browner Shuttle to thrive. He loves to close ground on his rivals, but only if his rivals are drop-dead tired and crawling on their knees to the wire. Luckily, the main speed in this race, likely to be Mr Apollo from the rail, can’t do anything but crawl home on his knees, which means fun times and a nice payoff on the brown man.

Fast forward one twisting-and-turning night’s sleep and a nutritious breakfast and we arrive at our harness action for Saturday, March 4. Well, after we have our nutritious lunch, of course, we’ll head to The Meadows for its eighth race, a $10,000 claiming event that kicks off the $.50 pick-5.

At the rail, Grandpa Don should be value. Dropping from the conditioned ranks and slapping on the claiming tag, he faced much tougher in his last outing, where he went first over and faltered to seventh at 31-1. Prior to that, he kicked home to finish third against this group starting from post seven. Now, with a better draw, he should be more forwardly placed and suctioned into the mix because of the lack of sustainable pace from the main speedballers here, Ideal Race and Visible Gold.

Then, after we eat our nutritious dinner, we go to Pompano Park to complete our harness betting. Its sixth race, a non-winners of two affair, attracts first-time starter Rock The Town for trainer Ross Croghan. Having two decent qualifiers heading into this event, he appears suspiciously sharp, especially considering he could have entered a maiden event for his debut, but, instead, will face winners at first asking. He’s likely better than his qualifiers depict, as is the case with most horses, and will likely be a pivotal player in this race.

Bounce Backs

The “Bounce Back” list features contenders we touted in the past who did not win in their first outing, but are worth considering a second time.

  • Mr Protab – Friday, Mar. 3 | Freehold Raceway, Race 5.
  • *Ado Duharas – Saturday, Mar. 4 | Woodbine Racetrack, Race 3.
  • Honor Above All – Saturday, Mar. 4 | Yonkers Raceway, Race 2.
  • Make Way – Saturday, Mar. 4 | Northfield Park, Race 12.
  • Oh Yeah – Saturday, Mar. 4 | Cal-Expo, Race 9.
  • Power Everywhere – Saturday, Mar. 4 | Northfield Park, Race 5.
  • Theoddsarestacked* – Saturday, Mar. 4 | Pompano Park, Race 4.

*Both Ado Duharas and Theoddsarestacked were scratched from their races, so they will appear on the Bounce Back list twice.

Preview Review 

At Freehold on Friday, Feb. 24, Petrossian As (sixth at odds of 5-2) and Mr Protab (seventh, 30-1) failed to assert themselves into the mile and didn’t hit the board.

Oh Yeah (sixth, 18-1), competing at Cal-Expo on Friday, lacked the gate speed he demonstrated in his previous outing and, instead, opted to race from off the pace. He could not make up enough ground to hit the board.

Northfield Park was our focus on Saturday, Feb. 25. Make Way (third, $3.20), who we expected to be the public choice, was, instead, dismissed at 6-1 odds. She went first-over and held onto third in the stretch. Our other contender in that race, Hoosiers Fantasy (eighth, 20-1), was shuffled out of the competition.

Power Everywhere (second, $9.60) did kick home strongly in the filly & mare open, but finished behind the favorite, Safe From Terror, by seven lengths. She went off 54-1.

We had two contenders compete on Yonker’s French card Sunday afternoon, Feb. 26. Honor Above All (10th, 5-1) was sent off at a lower price than we expected, but broke early on and was eliminated regardless.

Stayin Strong (third, $9.10) was involved in our other feature, but could only manage to finish third to the favorite, doing so at 13-1.

Ray Cotolo
Ray Cotolo is a seasoned handicapper and harness writer. At 17-years-old, he has worked in the harness racing industry for approaching a decade. Known for his creativity, humor, and eccentric personality, he works to promote harness racing while also entertaining. He is also known as the son of harness-racing guru Frank Cotolo and focuses primarily on the pari-mutuel side of the sport, invested in seeking value.

Ray hosts the weekly radio show “North American Harness Update,” which combines his talents to both entertain and aid the public in discovering overlay contenders from the highest-stake harness races to the cheapest overnights at Truro Raceway. He strives to put on the greatest show possible for all audiences along with his co-host, Mike Pribozie. It airs from 9-11pmEDT on SRN One.

Outside of racing, Ray is a playwright, writer, and, debatably, a comedian. He has performed and written sketch comedy while attending high school, as well as plays and varying side projects. He continually updates his Twitter account, @RayCotolo, with thoughts either pertaining to or not pertaining to harness racing.

Posted on