Four good races took place in two countries
by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
As I stated in my previous column, only the diehards knew that the second legs of the both the pacing and trotting Triple Crowns took place Saturday evening at Yonkers Raceway.
And, that’s a shame, because if you missed the Messenger Stakes (pacers), you missed what might have been the best race of the summer.
Jimmy Freight was the 3/5 favorite despite the fact that he had to start from the dreaded eight post. I will never understand bettors. Most complain about half-mile tracks and all complain about horses assigned to the eight post, yet, there they were plunking money down on a horse assigned to post 8.
Let’s not be silly here; Jimmy Freight, on paper, was the best horse in the race. But, in horse racing, there are the wise guys—the guys who never bet the favorite, always have an angle and can convince you that the 35-1 shot can win and win easily. I guess the wise guys were absent Saturday night at Yonkers.
Stay Hungry came into the race off his win in the Cane Pace, the first leg of the pacing Triple Crown. That win came at the Meadowlands, the one mile track, in the afternoon on Hambo Day. The Messenger was at night on a half-mile.
Jimmy Freight did his best from the 8 hole, but Stay Hungry would not let him get to the lead, digging in at every panel. That did the job. Jimmy Freight was forced to run the entire race in the two path and that allowed Stay Hungry to capture the $500,000 event. He can win the Triple Crown if he can capture the Little Brown Jug at the Delaware Fairgrounds on Thursday, September 20. Like the Messenger, that race is contested on a half-mile oval, so Stay Hungry should be ready and raring to go.
In the Yonkers Trot, Six Pack put on show that many thought he would have done in the Hambo. On that day, thanks to some curious driving by Ake Svanstedt, Six Pack didn’t even make the final. On Saturday, he breezed to a seven-length victory in 1:54. He showed his brilliance by running the final quarter in 27.2 seconds.
Some may argue this, but the one thing I have enjoyed about the summer harness racing season is that it has been unpredictable. We think a horse is going to dominate and then we see some surprising results. To me, that’s why you race; to see who’s the best and to see some surprises.
We saw a big surprise in Canada when Crazy Wow, at 31-1 captured the Maple Leaf Trot. The 6-year old beat some of the game’s best in Marion Marauder, Hannelore Hanover, Ariana G and Will Take Charge, covering the mile in 1:51.1 on the 7/8 mile track at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
In the Canadian Pacing Derby, all eyes were on the “Wonder from Down Under,” the New Zealand bred Lazarus. The hype for this horse has been substantial; some might even say over the top. In the way was McWicked, perhaps the best older pacer (at least in North America) in training right now.
McWicked sat cool and didn’t make his move until the halfway point, but once he got going, he would not be denied, stopping the clock in 1:49. Lazarus learned that in North America, older pacers beat up on one another and that will continue through the Breeders Crown in late October.
I watched a lot of college football yesterday and I also watched these four races because I knew where to find them. It’s too bad that harness racing can’t get these packages out to a mainstream network. I also watched the Woodward Stakes on NBCSN, which is part of their Saturdays at Saratoga series. I have to believe that if people could have seen the Messenger or the Canadian Pacing Derby, they would have liked what they saw.