It’s finally that time of year.
Summer stakes season has arrived in harness racing just as summer will in the coming weeks. It’s both North America Cup time and, more importantly, shaming-our-colleagues-for-referring-to-it-as-the-North-American-Cup time.
Alongside the North America Cup, Mohawk is preparing for the finals of the Armbro Flight, Goodtimes, Fan Hanover and Roses Are Red. We will not focus on the Armbro Flight because, quite frankly, they are valueless races. And analysis for the Goodtimes as well as other Hambletonian preps, including the eliminations for the Empire Breeders Classic and two sets of Pennsylvania Sires Stakes can be found on Frank Cotolo’s Hambletonian Trail.
North America Cup & Other Races
There are three eliminations slated for the North America Cup on Mohawk Saturday, June 10 program. Each elimination contains one of the three dynamos of the three-year-old pacing division and it will be our goal to beat them or else these races are not fun and we make no money.
Downbytheseaside is the heavy hitter of elimination one. The world champion enters off a three-race winning streak including a sweep of the Art Rooney Pace at Yonkers Raceway.
Our shot against the favorite here is Western Hill, entering off an exponentially improved performance against conditioned stock compared to the start prior. Being sent for the lead instead of sitting in the rear, the sudden display of aggression could be the sign that this gelding is live heading into the eliminations. If all else fails, however, he may make the exacta pay $5 instead of $4.
We will try to beat Huntsville, winner of his division last year, in the second elimination. Our price in this elimination is Ozone Blue Chip, exiting a decent race against Fear The Dragon, who we’ll discuss momentarily. Seeing as Fear The Dragon is one of the few horses to ever beat Huntsville, Ozone Blue Chip may be coming off a race that is much more impressive than his line can illustrate. If such is the case, then we can expect a potential upset to a likely-odds on favorite… or a $5 exacta.
Elimination three presents to us Fear The Dragon, who we saw recently in a race against Ozone Blue Chip. Fear The Dragon is undefeated in four starts this season, and will likely take a majority of play alongside Ocean Colony. With the right trip, however, Filibuster Hanover may be able to defeat them both. Usually drafting behind horses near the front, he should be positioned to potentially sweep by rivals given a fast pace or a tiring front. He could also potentially be positioned to complete a $6 exacta, probably our best yet.
Next on the stakes agenda are races that are not affiliated with the North America Cup, including the Fan Hanover, a stakes event for three-year-old filly pacers. Two eliminations are scheduled for Saturday at Mohawk.
Last year’s freshman-filly champ Idyllic Beach makes her second start of the season in the first elimination, matched up again with Roaring To Go, who bested her last fall at The Red Mile and in an elimination for the Breeders Crown. As a counter contender, Roaring To Go could be a valuable choice if sent off at her 4-1 morning line.
But, there is also the possibility that both of their prices will, in layman’s terms, suck. Under this circumstance, and maybe even in the other circumstance if you really do not like Roaring To Go, Soiree Seelster is a viable contender who seems to have come into form in three starts this season, with her most recent being a victory in a division of the Ontario Sires Stakes. She should be a contender regardless of odds, or be the tail-end of an $8 exacta (they keep getting better).
Elimination two for the Fan Hanover could be the one that ignites the value fire. Tequila Monday will probably be the favorite off wins in the Lismore Pace and a division of the New York Sires Stakes. Agent Q, starting from the rail, should also take a decent amount of play.
Outside contenders are sometimes hard to find, and others are Obvious Blue Chip (man, I’m clever). Returning to Mohawk off a win in a division of the New York Sires Stakes, she could get the necessary trip to upset.
However, Bettors Up, if ignored by the public, could also be a value contender. Putting in a gigantic mile against high-level conditioned fillies, she launched to the front rather than drafting behind horses in the hopes of being carried into the mix (sound familiar?). Off that mile, she appears live and ready to fly.
The first elimination for the other stakes on Saturday, the Roses Are Red, features a matchup between the three top three-year-old filly pacers from last year: Blue Moon Stride, Darlinonthebeach, and Pure Country. Aside from the top trio, Witch Dali could be ready for stakes company as she makes her second start of the year. Faltering to finish second against conditioned fillies while leading a fast mile, she should be stronger this time out and could get the right set up to upset.
Nike Franco N headlines the second Roses Are Red elimination, competing with mare-to-watch Call Me Queen Be. If above her 4-1 morning line, Call Me Queen Be should be the value.
However, drawing the inside, Penpal could be ignored as she exits a failed closing effort at Pocono Downs, a speed-favoring track. She will be a victim of the race’s developments because she opts to race from off the pace. However, Mohawk is a more closer-friendly track, and there is plenty of faulty speed in this race to suction her towards the front in a stretch rally.
Division-leader Lady Shadow draws into the third elimination, and will be the venerable favorite. If ready in her second start of the season, Seventimesavirgin may be able to challenge her, whatever that would mean. She should be a price against the top pacing mare on the continent, but it’s questionable whether or not she has the capability to beat her. That question I pass onto you and your betting dollars.
More Stakes That are Not the North America Cup
The $200,000 Charlie Hill Memorial highlights the Saturday card at Scioto Downs, attracting some of the top aged trotters in the country, including Crazy Wow and Jl Cruze. This race also serves as Obrigado’s seasonal debut. Obrigado, a top trotter from this division last season, could even be sent off the favorite given his record in these second-tier stakes events. In which case, now would be the time to beat him as he revs up into top stakes form.
Off a rough first over trip in the slop against Preferred stock at Mohawk, Musical Rhythm takes his second shot at stakes company after rallying strongly to finish fifth in the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial. His most recent mile likely being the result of not taking to the poor going, he has the potential to bounce here with the right trip at the right price.
Another leg of the Graduate series is slated for Sunday at Tioga Downs. Because of the short fields and the likelihood that the races will not prove to profitable, here are some quick thoughts on the splits.
Division one: Trolley should be the favorite after finishing second in the last round. Don’t discount Warrawee Roo from the rail, though, off that parked trip in the Graduate last week.
Division two: Trotting Triple Crown winner Marion Marauder makes his seasonal debut and should take play along with Dayson. For a price, try Waitlifter K.
Pacing division: No doubt Dr J Hanover will be overplayed off his record mile last week. We will try to capitalize on the poor concentration of public dollars hoping, firstly, that Sintra will go off higher than his 5-1 morning line and, secondly, maybe taking a shot with Lyons Snyder, since he should not be as pressed on the front as he was last week.
Last week was a week of close calls, closer calls, and not-close calls (that should cover all the varieties of calls possible).
Southwind General (ninth, 10-1), being locked in for most of the mile, was flat once given room in the opening division of the Somebeachsomewhere on Saturday.
Stealth Bomber (second, $6.20; $4.50) was passed in the final strides by Macs Jackpot, who upset at 42-1 by a neck. Henry The Dragon (seventh, 11-1) was aggressive as we hoped, but it worked against him as he faltered after a first-over bid.
We were incredibly wrong in the Graduate Pace. Not only did Manhattan Beach (fourth, 13-1) have little to offer, Dr J Hanover finally capitalized off a pocket trip and paced the fastest mile in Canadian history, winning in 1:46.4 at 15-1. Serendipity must’ve had her bets on him.
We mentioned Trolley in the Graduate trot, but only as a player to put Cufflink Hanover (seventh, 8-1) into the race. Instead, Trolley attempted to upset at 31-1, but was a nose shy of winner and favorite Dayson.
For some reason, Luck Be Withyou tried to wire the field in the $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie by sprinting his brains, among other vital organs, out. This set up for All Bets Off, sent off the even-money choice, to sweep up and win. Our contenders, Soto (sixth, 9-1) and Night Pro (seventh, 7-1) had no impact.