Breeders Crown Lives Up to Billing

Stellar night of racing in Northeast Pennsylvania

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

As I have written before, there are many reasons why we watch and follow sports.  We like competition, drama and exquisite performances.  Most of us don’t want controversy.  Nobody wants to see the Super Bowl decided by a controversial penalty, therefore, we prefer a clean game; contests where the athletes determine the outcome.

Harness Racing’s Breeders Crown (12 races) is now in the books and if you watched, you saw everything except for controversy, which we didn’t want anyway.  For the third time since 2010, Pocono Downs hosted the event and once again, proved that a 5/8 mile track can serve us excellent races.  And, this year—rather than split the card over two days—all 12 championship races were contested on Saturday, which most agree was the right thing to do.

Rather than breakdown all 12 races (boring), let me focus on three exquisite performances, which if you like sports and like to get goose bumps while you watch, were captivating.

We’ll start with Shartin N who prevailed in the Mare Pace.  The 5-year old went right to the lead, cutting some hot fractions while she did so.  She led into the stretch, but it was tenuous at best.  She looked beaten, first on the inside and then to her outside.  But just when she looked vulnerable, the athlete in her (and that’s what they are) took over and she summoned up enough to get to the line first.  Those that argue that racing horses is inhumane should watch this race with their eyes wide open.  It offers proof that these horses like what they do. Race horses are raised, trained and conditioned for moments like this.  Because she is an athlete in the truest sense of the word, she refused to wilt under the intense pressure.  In one word:  Stirring.

Next up was McWicked, who came into the race as the best aged pacer in training.  If there is a knock on the 7-year old gelding it’s that he does his best racing on mile or 7/8 mile tracks.  So, how would he do on Pocono’s 5/8 mile surface?

The answer?  Just fine.  In a simply sublime performance, McWicked pulled away effortlessly to win in 1:49.3, a time that easily could have been faster had he not cruised in over the final furlong.  Filibuster Hanover ran marvelously to finish second yet was almost one second back in 1:50.1.  The saying “horses for courses,” is usually true, but McWicked seemed to like the smaller track that is Pocono Downs.

Dorsoduro Hanover also gets props from me for his performance in the final for 3-year old pacers. Studio host Gabe Prewitt called it a powerful performance and he was dead on.  It was a push-button effort by the son of the late—and great—Somebeachsomewhere and somewhere, Dad would be proud of what son did on Saturday.  Like Filibuster Hanover, Lather Up ran sensationally to get second, but nobody was going to top Dorsoduro Hanover’s 1:49.4 effort.

There are some stakes races left, but for most divisions, Horse of the Year categories were wrapped up at the Breeders Crown.  I’ll let the experts who cover the sport full-time write on that, but these three will certainly be in the mix when the ballots are cast.

Next year, the Breeders Crown will head north of the border to Woodbine Mohawk Park, a 7/8 mile track that most love.  If things go well, we should see McWicked back to defend his title as an 8-year old.  And, at age 5, why retire Shartin N?  As she showed yesterday, she wants to and likes racing.  Dorsoduro Hanover is a 3-year old and the son of a breeding legend, so who knows what will happen with him going forward.  It may be too tempting to send him to stud, but time will tell; and, if he is half as good with sires as his father, then look out.

I wrote in my previous piece that sometimes, Harness Racing falls victim to redundancy because horses race often.  Yesterday’s Breeders Crown races proved me wrong.  If you didn’t enjoy what you saw, then the sport is not for you.


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