02/19/2014 4:11PM

Harness Racing: Foiled Again, Captaintreacherous up for top pacer award

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On Sunday I will trek to Dover Downs for the first time in my life. While I’m always eager to add a track to the 50-plus racing establishments on my “visited” list, the focus is entirely on the United States Harness Writers Association’s year-end Dan Patch award winners.

Unlike in past years, some of the award winners still remain a mystery. Will it be He’s Watching or Luck Be With You as the best 2-year-old pacing colt? Royalty For Life or Spider Blue Chip in the 3-year-old trotting colt ranks? And while most will concede that Bee A Magician will win Horse of the Year, the most anticipated announcement of the night will undoubtedly be Pacer of the Year between Foiled Again and Captaintreacherous.

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In 2011, a then young 7-year-old Foiled Again captured Pacer of the Year while Captaintreacherous was just a budding yearling with potential. One year later, “Captain” sailed to the head of the class and earned the title with 48 of 146 votes, 28 more than Foiled Again, who finished fourth in the voting. Last year saw both horses assume position at the head of their respective divisions, though a showdown in November at the Meadowlands resulted in a victory for Foiled Again.

By the numbers alone, Captaintreacherous had the superior year. He won more races (in fewer starts), earned more money and clocked a faster record. But some will argue that (and rightfully so) Foiled Again faced a saltier group of foes; the best older pacers in the sport. And then there is the age factor. Does Foiled Again get credit simply for having a spectacular season as a 9-year-old? Should age play a role in the voting?

My heart says Foiled Again while my head says Captaintreacherous. That is probably a feeling that flows through the bodies of many voters this year. With the moment of truth just a few days away, I thought it would be interesting to ask a few racing insiders about the neck-and-neck race for the title.

Watch the Dan Patch awards live on www.ustrotting.com

DRF writer and handicapper Jay Bergman threw his weight behind Foiled Again, but pointed out that Captaintreacherous is statistically the clear winner.

“There's no way to understate his combination of durability and guts in a sport where speed kills,” said Bergman on Foiled Again. “The problem with today's voting (at least for Captaintreacherous), is that the most recent races tend to overpower the accomplishments of earlier in the year. Foiled Again went out on top and Captaintreacherous had arguably his worst performance at the end of the year.

“If we're talking strictly voting by the numbers, Captaintreacherous wins in a landslide. Unfortunately his best numbers came early and not late. Foiled Again should win it and I believe Foiled Again deserves it.”

Gordon Waterstone of www.harnessracing.com and The Horsemen and Fair World, was hesitant to guess on the winner due to the likely close nature of the vote.

“I am positive the voting will be very close and probably decided by only a handful of votes,” said Waterstone. “Without divulging who I voted for, in trying to make an educated guess on how I think the voting will go, I think Captaintreacherous will win by the slimmest of margins.”

DRF handicapper and WEG communications’ Greg Gangle felt age should play a role in the vote.

“To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if it was a dead-heat. It's that close in my opinion,” said Gangle. “I settled with Foiled Again based on what he did this past year at age 9. We will likely never see another animal conquer the racetrack like he did at that age.”

Myron Bell, Racing Manager for Captaintreacherous, didn’t get a vote, but was happy to make his case for Captain.

“I think we deserve to win because we took on all comers and dominated our division whereas Foiled Again didn’t dominate his division,” said Bell.

When you are dealing with two such deserving candidates as Foiled Again and Captaintreacherous, part of me thinks that the best outcome would be a tie. But, alas, USHWA secretary Jerry Connors confirmed there has never been a tie for Pacer, Trotter or Horse of the Year since the inception of the awards in 1947 (Pacer and Trotter of the Year began in 1970). The only year-end tie occurred in 1965 when Cardigan Bay and Race Time shared divisional honors for Older Pacing Horse. So, don’t get your hopes up for a tie!

The one certainty is that on Sunday night the Pacer of the Year will be announced. I’m sure glad I don’t have to handicap the winner of this race!

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