07/16/2013 10:33AM

Harness Racing: Random thoughts during stakes season

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With the stakes season in full swing and plenty of interesting stories in the harness world, this seemed like a good moment to take a glimpse around and provide some brief commentary.

Captaintreacherous

After his Meadowlands Pace win, there is no doubt that Captaintreacherous stands tallest in the 3-year-old pacing ranks and is the leading candidate for Horse of the Year. I wouldn’t call his Pace effort brilliant, but he easily dismissed his competition and proved that beating him is no easy task.

Trainer Tony Alagna and driver Tim Tetrick have each done an excellent job with Captaintreacherous. On Saturday, Tetrick changed tactics with the “Captain” and elected to show early speed. The track was very speed favoring on Pace night and those looking to bet horses back should consider that when wagering. But take nothing away from Captaintreacherous. He is perfect in six starts this year and as of this moment it appears only bad luck could stand in his way of a history-making type of season.

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Pet Rock

Perhaps not a surprise to the Bellino family (owners), but Pet Rock may be the best older pacer in the country right now. Along with driver David Miller, who grabbed the bull by the horns and took advantage of the track bias, Pet Rock deserves serious credit for his 1:47 score in the William Haughton Memorial on Saturday (July 13) at the Meadowlands.

Thought to be no better than the fifth best 3-year-old in his division last year, Pet Rock has excelled and matured as an older pacer. He has shown the ability to overcome adversity and has certainly stepped up in the “big money” spots. 

4-year-old dominance

Pet Rock is part of an influx of 4-year-olds returning to racing in 2013 due to new rules that restrict foals of 4-year-olds from being entered in certain high-priced races. That group has dominated the “speed” leaderboard. Four of the top five fastest miles this year have been posted by that bunch (Warrawee Needy 1:46 4/5; Pet Rock 1:47; Hurrikane Kingcole 1:47 3/5; Bolt The Duer 1:47 4/5). In fact, only one 4-year-old (Betterthancheddar) broke the top 20 in fastest time for 2012. Seven are currently occupying the top 20 leaderboard as of July 15.

And then there is Foiled Again

Although the “fresh blood” is having a clear impact on the older pacing game, amazingly Foiled Again, at the ripe age of 9, continues to find himself atop the money-winning list for his division. At $550,460, he sits second in North America for earnings behind Captaintreacherous and just ahead of Pet Rock (5th overall) at $473,900.

He may not be the fastest or the biggest, but my hat is off to Foiled Again on what continues to be a history-making career.

Bee A Magician

Bee A Magician deserves plenty of praise for her unblemished record in 2013. Her stellar 1:51 world record clocking in the Del Miller (July 13) was made all the more impressive by the ease in which she won. The daughter of Kadabra-Beehive glided over the Meadowlands surface as driver Brian Sears simply kept her to task. Some will say it is a shame she will not compete against the boys in the Hambletonian, but I don’t need to see her beat males to prove anything. I’d rather see a matchup between her and the similarly unbeaten-in-2013 Maven.

William Parker Jr.

As I write this on Tuesday morning, William Parker Jr. is just two wins from reaching 11,000 in his career. Perhaps too quietly, “Zeke” as he is commonly referred, has dominated at Monticello Raceway for decades (18 driving titles). There has been some talk as to whether Parker, who also has nearly 1,300 training wins and was a leading driver at Yonkers Raceway in the 1990s, deserves a spot in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame.

Parker’s win totals scream Hall of Fame, but his lack of Grand Circuit stakes wins is certainly a negative. My initial thought was if someone brought him up I’d be a yes but I didn’t feel strongly enough to champion his cause. Looking closely at his stats, the one number that really jumps off the page for me is 20%. He has won more than 20% of his 54,000-plus drives. To me, that number compares favorably to being a career .300 hitter in baseball.

Busy Stakes Weekend

There is no shortage of stakes action this Saturday. Mohawk is hosting the Maple Leaf Trot for older trotters and the Roses Are Red for older mare pacers. Northfield has the Battle of Lake Erie for older pacers (Foiled Again is expected to be the star attraction). The Meadows offers eliminations for the Adios Pace and a bunch of Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action. Hoosier Park has an entire card full of stakes. Four rich $200k finals highlight Indiana Champions night. Finally, Tioga Downs hosts the Tompkins-Geers series for 3-year-old trotters on Saturday, with the sophomore pacers going on Sunday.

Enjoy the racing!

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