This Is Why We Love It

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

As soon as the race was over, the trainer knew it.  Jimmy Freight was back in Canada for Ontario Sire Stakes action, racing at Rideau-Carlton Raceway.  The colt, who one week earlier was fourth in the $701,000 Meadowlands Pace, cruised to an impressive victory, pacing the mile in 1:50.3 over the 5/8 mile track.  But, the trainer knew what was coming.

“I guess he has to get used to travel now,” said Richard Moreau.  “We’ll run him at Woodbine Mohawk on August 4 and then head to Northfield (Ohio) for the Carl Milstein Memorial.”

And, why not travel.  This is the time of the year when the big pacers and trotters scour North America looking for big-money races to run in.  The connections will send them anywhere where big bucks can be made.

Jimmy Freight took on the best 3-year old pacers on July 14 at the Meadowlands.  His fourth place finish earned him $56,080.  Of course, because he was supplemented into the race for $61,000, the connections lost a few bucks.  On Sunday, it was a $96,400 race that earned the son of Sportswriter $48,200.  Two weeks and a $104,280 is not a bad fortnight.

The Milstein carries with it a nice $400,000 purse and it looks like Jimmy Freight could be the morning line favorite at Northfield’s biggest race of the year.

This time of the year is why you have to love harness racing.  Each week, there is big race after big race with the top pacers and trotter scattering across North America to compete in them.

The Adios final for three-year old pacers is set for this Saturday at The Meadows with a field of nine set to do battle in the $400,000 final.  The eliminations were won by Hitman Hill and American History and those two will be joined by Dorsoduro Hanover, Wes Delight, Summer Travel, Thinkbig Dreambig, Babes Dig Me and GD Western Joe.  Last year, in an epic race, Fear the Dragon edged Huntsville to capture the Orchids.

The best older pacer right now is McWicked.  The 7-year old is once again finding his stride in mid-year and should be on the Hambletonian undercard in less than two weeks in the Sam McKee Memorial. He won the Preferred at Woodbine Mohawk Park and now has banked $556,831 this year, second to Shartin N.

While McWicked prefers 7/8  and one mile tracks, Evenin of Pleasure showed just how much he loves half-mile ovals when he blazed to a six length victory in the $260,000 Gerrity Memorial at Saratoga Casino.  The race was close for a half-mile, but driver Joe Bongiorno knew he was sitting on a powder keg.

“I tipped him at the half and then moved him over at 5/8,” said Bongiorno, “and then, he exploded.

At three-quarters, the race was well in hand, but Bongiorno made sure the horse kept his focus.

“I kept after him, he said, “sometimes he waits for other horses.”

He wouldn’t wait on this night, stopping the clock in 1:49.2, an outstanding time on Saratoga’s half-mile oval.

Bongiorno’s thoughts?  “Unbelievable.”

Though there is action to be had for Evenin of Pleasure on the Hambletonian undercard, the saying horses for courses will come into play.

“He loves half-mile tracks,” Bongiorno said.  “We’ll give him a week off and then race him in the open pace at Yonkers.”

The Saratoga undercard featured Foiled Again, the sport’s richest horse of all-time with over $7.5 million in earnings.  Win or lose, he was going to be honored by the track for his lifetime achievements.  He raced gamely, but finished second to a very good horse in Artful Way who wired the field.  He was honored with a Saratoga blanket before an appreciative crowd, many of whom spent the afternoon at Saratoga Race Course for Day 2 of their 40-day summer spectacle.

Foiled Again sits on 100 wins in 316 career starts and the plan is to keep racing him for the rest of the year before retirement beckons.

In the Gerrity, Bit of a Legend, the defending champion was second, but those two will head back to Yonkers and will likely hook up in more open paces sooner than later.  That’s the sport of harness racing to a tee.  For the year, Evenin of Pleasure now has $311,875 in 2018 earnings while Bit of a Legend counters with $403,255.

Hot days, hot racing, hot money; it’s all coming together this summer in harness racing.






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