06/18/2014 5:19PM

Giwner: Still no leader among 3YO pacers


The North America Cup was supposed to separate the men from the boys and bring clarity to the 3-year-old pacing ranks. While JK Endofanera won the race convincingly enough on paper, I’m still left feeling barren in my quest to uncover the upper tier of the 2014 crop.

How many owners, trainers or drivers actually came out of the NA Cup thinking their colt could not compete with JK Endofanera? While some will point to him being parked every step of the way, few would consider riding cover behind strong fractions as a bad trip. And while the 27-second final quarter he recorded seems impressive, he was hardly storming home in deep stretch. Visually it appeared more like the leaders were tired than he was loaded with pace.

[DRF HARNESS: LIKE us on Facebook and get timely updates on the latest harness news]

While I’m not sure I agree with the exact charted positions of the top five finishers in the Cup Final (doesn’t matter for this exercise since most of the positions are equally different), let’s check out some individual fractional times and do a bit of analysis.

1.       JK Endofanera paced the following quarters: 27 1/5, 27 2/5, 27 1/5, 27

2.       Tellitlikeitis: 26, 27 4/5, 27 1/5, 28

3.       He’s Watching: 26 3/5, 26 4/5, 27 1/5, 28 3/5

4.       McWicked: 27, 27 1/5, 27 1/5, 28 1/5

5.       Lyonssomewhere: 25 1/5, 28 4/5, 27 3/5, 28 1/5

The first thing you will notice is that JK Endofanera never paced a quarter under 27 seconds during the mile. He basically maintained a consistent level of speed the entire race, something any top 3-year-old should be able to accomplish.

Lyonssomewhere produced the fastest single quarter and one of the quickest in history with his 25 1/5 opening fraction. He also paced the fastest combination of any two quarters in the race at 52 4/5. Tellitlikeitis finished second in the race and in the fastest pair of quarters at 53 1/5, followed by He’s Watching (53 2/5), McWicked and JK Endofanera (54 1/5).  Stretching the experiment out to the fastest three individual quarters combined, He’s Watching checks in as the leader at 1:20 3/5, followed by Tellitlikeitis and Lyonssomewhere at 1:21, and then McWicked and JK Endofanera at 1:21 2/5.

I’ll look at trips in a second, but it is clear that He’s Watching, Tellitlikeitis and Lyonssomewhere worked harder during the mile than the winner.

We could argue all night about which horse had the worst trip. Lyonssomewhere produced an opening quarter that would have knocked out most horses and lived to tell about it. He’s Watching did much of the heavy lifting by posting the fastest first three quarters. McWicked had to go uncovered and actually gained ground in a 27 1/5 third quarter (he gained at least a length regardless of what the chart says). Tellitlikeitis made two early moves (leaving the gate and brushing) and JK Endofanera did leave off the gate and was backed up at one point on the rim while waiting for cover.

Derick GiwnerLyonssomewhere not only paced the fastest quarter (25 1/5) in the NA Cup but also the fastest two combined quarters.

None of the above is written to discredit the accomplishment by JK Endofanera but more to point out that the puzzle that existed in the sophomore pacing colt group is far from sorted out. We are no closer to uncovering a leader in this division than we were a week ago. In fact, if anything, the picture is cloudier now than ever before.

Not only are the top five from the NA Cup clearly in the picture, but I’d hardly cross off Always B Miki or Western Vintage, just two of the 22 competing in the $500,000 Max Hempt eliminations on Saturday at Pocono Downs.  And when that big-money race is over, we still won’t be any closer to an answer, as we will wonder if JK Endofanera, He’s Watching, Tellitlikeitis or Lyonssomewhere (McWicked is racing in the Hempt) are better than the Hempt winner.

It has been years since the Meadowlands Pace has been a true showdown race for the sport’s top 3-year-old pacers; a race where you laid your claim as the best of the best. With at least six of the top 10 sophomores likely to be in attendance for the Meadowlands Pace, around 10 PM on July 12 the dust may finally dissipate and reveal the leader of the pack.

[DRF HARNESS: Sign Up for the FREE newly designed DRF Harness Newsletter!]