Two races, $1,066,300 in purses
by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
It’s a big night in Harness Racing with Yonkers taking center stage with two dandy races—the Bluechip Matchmaker final for fillies and mares along with the George Morton Levy final for the colts and geldings.
Any time one looks at entries and sees numbers like $402,000 (Matchmaker) and $664,000 (Levy), you have to take note. In addition, there’s a Matchmaker consolation ($75,000 purse) and a Levy one that runs for $100,000.
Both series had five legs. The top eight finishers over the legs advanced to the finals. Horses got 25 points for making a start and then 50, 25, 12, 8 and 5 points for finishing first through fifth. This is harness racing at its best. Because these fine animals are durable, they can run five races over five weeks and then put on a good show in the final.
The best horse in the Matchmaker is Shartin N. That certainly doesn’t mean she will win, but in all honesty, she should. She gets the 6 post, which is neither ideal nor a detriment. Tim Tetrick will drive for Jim King and with three wins in her four starts, I have a good feeling that the $201,300 winner’s share will be hers. The wonder from Down Under has excelled just about everywhere—here, the Meadowlands, Pocono–and should have no problems doing her thing at Yonkers this evening.
The Levy final on paper is more wide open, but I think Western Fame has done the best work and the 5 post won’t hurt. Driver Daniel Dube and trainer Rene Allard won this race last year with Keystone Velocity and I like Fame to prevail here. In six starts, he has four wins, a second and third with $114,300 in earnings. Ideal Jimmy is the most tested; tonight will be his 14th start of the season. He has six wins, four seconds and one third but drew the dreaded 8 post. Driver Brent Holland and trainer Erv Holland will have an interesting decision to make. Do they send him out to the lead and try to win or do they sit back and try to get top five money? Jimmy comes in with $145,694 in 2019 earnings, and a third place finish would net $79,680 and even a fifth would garner $33,200.
One would think that with such a great card that handle would increase significantly at Old Hilltop and while there is a slight spike, it is never what I thought it could and should be. The old biases often rear—the half mile track, the slow and often dawdling second quarters and so on and so forth. That is disappointing because both races are designed for horses that have been around and done well for years. In an era where horses retire too early, both the Levy and Bluechip Matchmaker feature horses that have been around and done nice things on the race track.
The good thing is that when these races are over, the horses will move on to another race in a week or two. It would surprise no one if tonight’s Levy winner was entered in next week’s $44,000 open pace, because that’s what harness racing does and does best. They send their horses out for all of us to see and the Bluechip Matchmaker and Levy are rewards for horses that have done what most of us love to see——race.