11/11/2011 4:42PM

Chester leads big harness stakes weekend


This weekend basically marks the end of the 2011 stakes season in the harness world. Yes, there are a handful of events left at Maywood Park on 11/18, the Matron for 3-year-old pacers at Dover Downs on 11/27, and the Cleveland Classic for second-year pacers on 12/10. But for the most part, the divisional leaders have made or are making their final starts this weekend.

The major events on tap include:

Balmoral Park (Saturday) – 6 divisions of the American National ranging from $86,800 to $225,000 per race
Dover Downs (Saturday) – 4 splits of the Matron worth between $116,175 and $177,275
(Sunday) – 3 Matrons going for $116,000 to $174,940, and the $330,000 Progress Pace for sophomores
Yonkers Raceway (Saturday) - $401,000 Messenger Pace for 3-year-olds
Woodbine Racetrack (Saturday) – 8 divisions of the Ontario Sire Stakes worth $300,000 each
Harrah’s Chester (Sunday) – 4 stakes worth between $365,000 and $510,000

I took the time to handicap the Sunday card at Chester (full analysis via the link below) and have four general thoughts to share should you decide to wager at DRF Bets or through another venue.

1) Try to handicap the races without the morning line. The early line at Chester tends to come up short of the mark more often than not. There are a few 10-1 M/L horses on the card which will go off at 5-1 or lower. In race 8 the 7-2 second-choice seems likely to go off at even money or lower.

2) George Brennan is at Chester on Sunday and driving most of the current and former Lou Pena-trained horses. Do not be surprised to see one or two reverse their form.

3) The Pick Four offers a $7,500 guaranteed pool and a low 15% takeout. With a single in the second leg, I believe this bet is playable on the cheap. Here is my ticket: 1, 2 with 3 with ALL with 2, 3, 6 = $36 for a $1 wager.

4) Race 5 is a non-betting race. Three prospective entrants appealed a decision by track officials to decline their entries. The horses were declined entry due to showing consecutive races with breaks (most tracks do not allow horses to compete after losing stride in two straight races; they must re-qualify first). The track elected to remove wagering from the race just in case the legal fight carried on past the time when their program is typically finalized.

Here are a few of my top horses to watch on the card:

PURE DESIRE (Race 4) – This mare won against a similar field last time. She stands out today.

HOLLYS HALO (Race 4) – Gets a major driver change to Tim Tetrick today. Her form has been pretty good lately. Make sure you use her as a backup play over Pure Desire.

YEAR OF THE DRAGON (Race 5) – Was claimed by Rob Harmon and has been unlucky in both starts since. He drew an outside post two back and closed well with no chance. Last week he drew outside again, plus he found some traffic troubles on the final turn. This could be his week with the rail draw and Tetrick in the bike.

PIROUETTE HANOVER (Race 10 / $380,000 Three Diamonds) – Most bettors will focus in on Economy Terror and Handsoffmycookie. They did finish one-two in the Breeders Crown championships. That said, Pirouette Hanover did most of the hard work in the Crown, supplying cover for both of her foes while racing first-over. She finished a good third in that race and only needs a reasonable trip to pull off the upset.

SPEED AGAIN (Race 12 / $510,000 Governor’s Cup) – Raced well in the Breeders Crown but was not quite ready for prime time after missing six weeks of action prior to his elimination. He was superb in last week’s Governor’s Cup elimination victory. Do not be shocked if he upsets A Rocknroll Dance as second choice.

Chester Graded Analysis Sun 11-13-11.pdf550.07 KB