An Evening With The Grinders

Most harness racing write-ups focus on the better horses. This one doesn’t

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

Buffalo Raceway has opted to use classifications when writing races in 2021. Rather than write a race for “Non-winners of $3,000 in Last 5,” the raceway offers Class AA, A, B, C, D as well as open paces and trots.

When you read write-ups of racing action, most tracks write about the feature race. The feature is usually the race with the highest purse—at Freehold, that’s the $12,000 Preferred Handicap; at Yonkers, it’s the 30,000 open pace, or trot. You get the picture.

So, for this column let’s pay some attention to the lowest class. At Buffalo, horses can move up or down in class based on how they do. If a horse wins a couple at the Class D level, they can be moved to Class C. If they struggle in Class C, down to Class D they go.

The Sat. March 27 card at The Buff featured three Class D races, all run for $3,800 purses. In race 6, the eight horses were a combined 0 for 29 which explains why they were all participating in a Class D affair. Fancy Colt came into the race as the highest earner, with a 0-2-2 line in seven starts to go along with $3,482 in 2021 earnings.

Smooth Mara was sent off at 4/5 and he took the field through the quarter in 28.4 and the half in 58.1 and three-quarters in 1:28.4. The final quarter was Class D at its best; horse coming from everywhere. It looked like Fancy Colt was going to get there, but American General found room in the passing lane, and although he looked like he was trying to race sideways straightened up enough to trip the wire in 1:59.1 for his first win of the year. More importantly, he adds $1,900 to the bank account.

Race 10 was the second Class D event and like Race 6, the field of seven is struggling to find itself, a combined 1 for 30 on the year. In comparison, the open trot, with six horses, had eight wins in 33 combined starts. Bj’s Guy entered the race 0 for 9 with just $415 in yearly earnings, so he was my sentimental choice by a wide margin.

Silverhill Blaze, age 9, who came to Buffalo from The Meadows in January went to the lead from the outset and cruised to victory in 1:58.2. Our guy—Bj’s Guy—was first over and got up to second at three-quarters before fading to fifth. That fifth place finish did add $190 to the bankroll. He now has $605 in 2021 earnings, but don’t feel sorry for Bj’s Guy. If he stays healthy, he’ll get his money by year’s end. That’s what these grinders do.

Race 12 was the final $3,800 Class D event of the evening’s card and all eight horses were looking for their first wins of the season as they were a combined 0 for 28.

Lucky Millionaire had the best finish with a second place showing in five starts while four others had third place finishes on their 2021 resumes.

This turned out be a battle between an old warrior, 12-year old Gallant Major, and two babies, 3-year old American Expression and 4-year old Steuben Moose, and when the smoke cleared, age beat youth as Gallant Major strode home in 1:59.3. The 3/5 favorite rewarded supporters with $3.20 for a $2 bet.

The three Class D races had winning times of 1:59.1, 1:58.2 and 1:59.3 while the Open Pace went in 1:55; the two Class B paces went in 1:54.4 and 1:57; the four Class C paces went in 1:59.3, 1:57.4, 1:57 and 1:57. Even the Open Trot was won in 1:57.

But let’s forget about time. Saturday night in Buffalo was a time to celebrate the Class D pacers, who despite their collective year-to-date struggles, put on a good show for the wagering faithful and because of that, let’s tip the hat to 11-year old American General, 9-year old Silverhill Blaze and 12-year old Gallant Major. Each picked up their first wins of the year and each pocketed $1,900.  They’ll be back soon and we’ll be waiting—and cheering—for them.

Buffalo Raceway returns to action on Wed. March 31 with an 11-race card that features five trots and five Class D races. Post time is 6 pm ET.

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