12/05/2013 1:23PM

Harness Racing: Who is Pacer of the Year?


We watched all year as the Horse of the Year debate between Bee A Magician and Captaintreacherous raged on. In the end, “The Captain” fell short in the TVG Free For All final and likely lost his chance at the big prize. 

There should be no doubt that the queen 3-year-old filly trotter Bee A Magician will be crowned the United States Harness Writers Associations’ Horse of the Year. The Richard Norman trainee hasn’t lost in 17 starts this year and earned an amazing $1,547,304 in a division with only two races worth $500,000 or more in 2013.

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That leads us to the most interesting year-end battle. Who deserves Pacer of the Year? Captaintreacherous or Foiled Again? Here are the vital statistics and facts:


Captaintreacherous out-earned Foiled Again $2,055,033 to $1,404,984. But those numbers alone may not tell the entire story. The 3-year-old pacing division in which Captaintreacherous competed in offered 12 races worth at least $250,000. Foiled Again only had 7 races of $250k or more available for him in 2013. “Captain” raced for an average of $313,784 per start and Foiled Again for an average of $183,341 in each trip to the track.

Time Record

Captaintreacherous paced a 1:47 1/5 mile at The Red Mile in Lexington, Kentucky. Foiled Again paced a career best 1:48 mile at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

Win rate

Captaintreacherous won 13 of 16 races and only finished worse than third once. Foiled Again won 11 of 29 contests and finished worse than third 5 times.

Stakes wins

Captaintreacherous won every major stakes race he entered except the Battle of the Brandywine (finished second). The 9-year-old Foiled Again won 3 of the 6 richest stakes offered for his age group.


Captaintreacherous had two major foes to compete with during the year in Sunshine Beach and Vegas Vacation. Foiled Again had to deal with Pet Rock, A Rocknroll Dance, Bolt The Duer and Golden Receiver, among others.

Head to head

Foiled Again won the TVG FFA final while Captaintreacherous finished sixth.

Truth be told, I ranked Foiled Again ahead of Captaintreacherous in my recent Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll. Perhaps I was riding the high of Foiled Again’s Breeders Crown and TVG wins. After further review and with all due respect to Foiled Again, I think Captaintreacherous had a slightly better year. The only knocks against him that I can find were that he didn’t race on a half-mile track (like it or not, they are part of the sport) and he couldn’t do what most 3-year-olds can’t – beat the best older pacers in the country. No matter what measure you use, Captaintreacherous was the best 3-year-old pacer in the sport all year long. I can’t say that Foiled Again was the best older pacer all year. In fact, there were points during the year when I’m not sure he would have been in the top three.

My hat is off to Foiled Again and what he accomplished at the ripe age of 9. I sure hope he can put together his fourth straight $1 million year in 2014. I marvel watching him. That said, no matter how much I would like to give him my vote for Pacer of the Year, I can’t.

Meadowlands Handicapping Note

Some handicappers have pointed to the fact that most of the horses that won on Saturday, November 30 were on or near the lead. They used this limited sample to say the track was speed-biased and that this is how it might be on a consistent basis.

While early speed tends to win more than its fair share of races at most tracks, the evidence simply doesn’t support any bias on November 30. While 8 of the 13 horses which had the lead at the three-quarter marker won, those horses paid $2.10, $3.80, $4.20, $4.60, $3.60, $7.80, $2.10 and $3.60. They included Bee A Magician, Shake It Cerry, Market Share and Shebestingin, all of which laid over their competition.

Does it help to be near the lead to win at the Meadowlands? It certainly doesn’t hurt. Will the track favor speed on windy nights? Yes. Otherwise, the track should play as fair as any harness track in the year 2013 can.