by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
The 39th edition of the Yonkers International Trot is in the books and for those who witnessed it live, it was breathtaking; a sublime performance by the Italian, Twister Bi, who cruised home in 2:22.1, a world record for trotters on a half-mile track. Marion Marauder was a game second and wily veteran Oasis Bi was third.
As we know, in harness racing we have pacers and trotters. Personally, I prefer the pacers–they run faster and break less often–but at the highest level, trotting may be best. The Hambletonian and Yonkers International are examples of this. The trotting gait is more pronounced, and let’s be honest, prettier and classier than the pacing gait and when horses like Twister Bi are trotting like he was on Saturday, it is something to see. In short, trotting at the highest level may be more compelling than pacing at the highest level. So, even though I think I prefer pacers, I loved what I saw Saturday in the International Trot. I guess it’s like asking a father of two daughters which one he loves more.
It was big day for New York sired horses as Yonkers played host to the “New York Day of Champions,” as eight races were contested at the Hilltop Oval, with each race carrying a $225,000 purse. Today, Monticello hosts the “Consolation Finals.” There will be eight races, but the purses are a little more modest as each carry $50,000. This is the culmination of the New York Sire Stakes seasons which began in May.
The Breeders Crown is lurking on the harness racing calendar. The event moves to Hoosier Park in Anderson, IN for 2017 and the park has done its best to promote and hype two super days of racing. Hoosier Park is the model for tracks that have casinos. Unlike many, there is emphasis on both the casino games and harness racing. In short, the casino owners both like and care about harness racing. As a result, the Indiana breeding program continues to get better and better. I still marvel when I see commercials for “racinos” and the racing is never mentioned. I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night. I know that for every person watching harness racing there are three or four in the casino parlor, but it’s okay to sell the hamburgers AND the french fries isn’t it?
The Crown is scheduled for Friday, October 27 and Saturday, October 28, beginning at 6 pm ET. While I certainly understand the evening post-time, I often wonder if the Breeders Crown would think about an afternoon program? Would running in the afternoon help or hurt. We all know that harness racing has always been the nighttime sport to complement daytime thoroughbred racing, but I wonder what the effect would be with a Friday evening/Saturday afternoon card?
The 12 races should be exciting like they always are. The one division that is really wide open is Aged Pacing Male. It seems like every race sees a different winner. We saw that again at Yonkers on Saturday when All Bets Off won the Rooney Memorial Pace. But let’s be careful before we make him the favorite for the Crown as history suggests another pacer will rise up when the gate moves away on the 28th. Last year, we didn’t see this because the older pacing division was dominated by Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit. As great as those two were, I’m now wondering if their greatness was due in part because of the inconsistency of the other pacers.
The other big question is which race does Hannelore Hanover run in at the Breeders Crown. She could run against the girls in the $250,000 filly trot, or should go against the boys in the $500,000 open trot. The owner of HH, Jerry Silva, says the decision will be made by trainer Ron Burke. Most think it’s an easy $125,000 if she runs Friday night against the gals, but here’s hoping she takes on the boys. Anytime the gal takes on the boys, the intrigue meter spikes up considerably.
Finally, the Sunday feature at Saratoga Harness was the $18,000 Open Trot. Consolidator got out and cut the fractions only to get caught near the wire by Up the Alley, who prevailed in a nice 1:55.2 The gelding is the 5-year old son on Muscle Mass.