07/20/2012 9:44PM

Check Me Out shuns Hambletonian; Meadowlands $53k PK6 carryover


Everyone has mixed feelings from time to time. Those are the emotions I’m feeling after hearing the news that the spectacular filly Check Me Out will skip the Hambletonian and a date with the boys to instead tackle her peers in the Hambo Oaks.

At first I agreed with co-owner/trainer Ray Schnittker’s decision. Honestly, if I owned the filly and could be 3-5 to win half of $750,000 in the Oaks or 4-1 to vie for $1,500,000 in the Hambletonian, the decision would be quite easy. I’m certainly not in a position to give away money.

That said, if I had millions in the bank, I wouldn’t think twice about rolling the dice and going for the biggest prize in harness racing.

Schnittker’s reasoning of not wanting to extend the filly and force her into a tough situation is acceptable and I have no problem with it. BUT, and we are talking a big but, is there a point where the best interests of the sport override the logical reasoning of a horseman?

While harness racing is unlikely to garner a large national audience for the Hambletonian, Check Me Out would certainly provide the sport with the best opportunity to capture the interest of “Joe Public” and gain us some coverage in the mainstream media.

It is interesting that Schnittker, who is known for his matter-of-fact demeanor and bold displays of speed on the track, would in five days go from “likely going to the Hambletonian” to settling for the Hambo Oaks. This is the same man who threw in an off-the-cuff remark criticizing writers for their past decisions to bypass his horse for certain year-end honors. Well, Ray, I have some news for you, a win in the Hambo would have locked you into the top spot for Horse of the Year. Now you will have to win most of your races with Check Me Out and hope things shake your way.

As a former owner, I understand the decision. As a writer and fan, I’m disappointed. Schnittker has a few days to change his mind. Now that would really make it interesting!

Amateurs shows us how it’s fun

With all due respect to the Meadowlands Pace, the best race I viewed at the Meadowlands in the past week involved amateur drivers.  It wasn’t the skill in which the drivers piloted their horses which stood out. It was the reckless abandon in which each driver steered their charges that made the race so interesting.

Horses were constantly on the move and the field fanned out some seven wide at the head of the lane. Simply put, it made for a visually pleasing spectacle.  It was fun to watch!

I’m not saying the professionals should “go crazy” on the track and I understand that swinging 6-wide into the stretch will cost you a lot of ground, but wouldn’t it be nice to see more action in each race? If the Meadowlands Pace proved nothing else, drivers are doing too much thinking and not relying on their instincts.

Single-file racing is boring. Let’s spice it up and give the public something to watch.

Pick Six Mania

There will be a $53,049 pick six carryover on Saturday night at the Meadowlands. That carryover should produce a final pool of at least $100,000. To make it even more interesting, most of the top drivers are out of town competing in stakes races. So, Andy Miller, Corey Callahan, and Mike Lachance are your top pilots for Saturday.

Let’s look at the races and see what makes sense.

Race 4

There are no easy answers in this race. The best horse on current performance is (6) MARKET SHARE. To me, you either key him and roll the dice or you go five deep and include (1) FROM ABOVE, (2) GYM TAN LAUNDRY, (5) RICCOLO, and (7) WEINGARTNER.

Race 5

I only see three worth including in this race. (2) INTHEBLINKOFANEYE probably would have won last week with a smoother journey in the stretch. He couldn’t be any sharper. The other two to use are class droppers (3) FITZS Z TAM and (6) MCCLELLAND.

Race 6

Here is another race where I think you can get bold and roll the dice or you can use a bunch of horses and bring a full wallet. Although I was firmly against (5) VERDAD in his last Big M appearance, he really showed me something that night. After a failed attempt versus older foes he drops back in against his peers tonight and should be tough again.

Who else can we use in here? (1) BULLET BOB has speed from the rail and should sit close to the action. (2) SHAKERATTLENROCK drops out of the Meadowlands Pace. (6) SOCIAL NETWORK is on my list but will not be included on many tickets. I saw some life from him last week and he does have talent. (7) COLD HEARTED SHARK has won three straight. Is he this good?

Race 7

Another tough race in this pick six. (7) WON THE WEST drops way, way down in class but hasn’t been able to get out of his own way against the best in the country. Even if he brings his “A” game, I don’t believe he will blow this field away. (3) BIG BAM RAY won here at a similar level two starts back. You may not recognize the driver Denis St Pierre, but he is more than capable. (9) PANESTHETIC has a ton of speed and figures to be cutting the mile. He’s a tough call in this field and might be one I would pass on if your bankroll can’t handle him. (1) OSCAR OSCAR was the sharpest horse on the grounds for a while but seems to have tailed off a bit. I’ll be beating against.

Race 8

(2) ARTS IDEAL HANOVER is probably the most talented horse in this race but he has made a break in all his recent pari-mutuel races. Most will see it as a negative, but I like trainer Takter in the bike tonight because he knows him best. And let’s face it, this isn’t the “A” driving colony tonight. (8) MAJOR BOMBAY is the one to beat on paper, but keying a horse which was clearly racing greenly last week is always risky. (7) ROCKWEILLER has early speed and is consistent. I would strongly consider using him on most tickets.

Race 9

I see four that I would consider in here, though my tickets will probably only include two horses. (5) HIGH NOON gets another shot for me at this reduced level. If there is a field he can wake up against, it is this one. (2) BLUE CLAW rounds out my top duo. He is far from one of my favorite horses, but did race much better last week.

The others I would contemplate using are (4) HURRIKANE ANTHONY and (6) WINDFALL BLUE CHIP. Both have good early speed and are capable of stealing the race if left alone.

Below are my suggested $1 tickets. There are four plays. The first will be a bankroll-buster all-in type play. The next two will be moderately priced tickets keying my favorite singles. The final ticket will be a budget play.

Go for it:

1,2,5,6 – 2,3,6 – 1,2,5,6,7 – 3,7,9 – 2,7,8 – 2,5 = $1,080

Middle of the road:

6 – 2,3,6 – 1,2,5,6 – 3,7,9 – 2,7,8 – 2,5 = $216

1,2,5,6,7 – 2,3,6 – 5 – 3,7 – 2,7,8 – 2,5 = $180

And my budget play:

1,2,5,6 – 2,3 – 5 – 3,7 – 2,8 – 2,5 = $64

Good luck if you take a shot.


Watch the Saturday Meadowlands card

Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
want to see more action , eliminate the passing lanes......Yes I know the Big M doesn't have one , but on the tracks that do eliminate.......now 2nd and 3rd on the rail aren't that bad a spot , so less horses come out early
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
Derick, One of the amateur races had the pilot of the #9 whipping like crazy to get into position...This is not a good visual for new fans to the sport. Amateurs need to follow all the rules . I agree the race was exciting...but I also felt uneasy watching the pilots make some crazy moves... If the race was balanced it would of been freat to watch.
Derick More than 1 year ago
Not saying the amateurs drive perfectly. Just saying that maybe there is something to be learned from it. More action is exciting.
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
Totally agree that fans are " more into" the sport with exciting races. We must remember the whipping rules were changed because fans and PETA were complaining that drivers were using the whips too much. Does using the whip create more "exciting" races? Years ago they tried a harness race without using whips. The race was just as exciting and I believe the winning horse ran the fastest mile in it's life. I would like to see more horses being "alive" as they turn for home. We hoped the banked turns would create more exciting races at the Meadowlands. I do not think the amateurs really have a handle on the new rules. ( lets train these guys from day 1 about whipping rules) . *** I am at the Meadowlands every Sat Night...When the races are close..the fans go NUTS !! No fun in watching a 1-5 favorite jog home. Keep up the good work Derick..... It's great to have a place to discuss the sport we love.
Mike Bilinskas More than 1 year ago
Schnittker has never been one to race horses for the good of the game, he made some comments about not liking the Little Brown Jug because of "heat" racing. Oh well i would of loved to see her take them on, now i'll be rooting against her in the Oaks..
Liz Collard More than 1 year ago
Sorry you feel that way, she's a great filly , one to be celebrated.
Wayne Haehner More than 1 year ago
Check Me Out would be favored vs the boys and facing Maven and Twin B Missy in the Oaks is a tougher task then facing the boys....JMO
Keith Gisser More than 1 year ago
Derick, Would it be good for racing if she blew up against the boys and was not around come Breeders Crown time? Not sure the answer, just asking. And, I agree with your post on amateur drivers 100%.
Derick More than 1 year ago
If she hadn't shown that she was fast enough to handle it, I would not even suggest it. I for one have been saying all along that she would not go against the boys. From a management standpoint it makes no sense to face the boys.
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
Derick, I agree 100% with your analysis of the Check me out decision. I respect that you mentioned the pros and cons of the horse racing in the Hambo. I myself liked the die hard harness racing fans point of view of watchinf her take on the boys. I guess ray did a cost analysis and figured he can make alot of money AND make harness racing look "kinder and gentler". Would racing against the boys hurt the horse? Is it Taboo? If something happened to the horse would harness racing lose face? If the horse wins easy in the oaks all the die hards would feel "let down" . Will there be a match race against the winner of the oaks and hambletonian? only the shadow knows..... Good story