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Meadowlands Selections and Yonkers Driving Battle
It recently came to my attention that people miss me. It is always nice to feel wanted and apparently my Saturday selections from the Meadowlands are in higher demand than I thought. Quite a few people have approached me lately asking why I stopped making picks for Saturday and when I would start again.
First off, let me say that my Saturday replacement, Jay Bergman, is a first-rate handicapper and I would be glad to use his picks to accompany my handicapping. Secondly, my Saturday selections should return in late March or April.
As a one-time treat (for the few of you who consider my picks a special offering), I’ve looked over the Saturday card and have an abbreviated look at the races at the bottom of this post.
Yonkers Driving Colony
Now that Brian Sears has joined the Yonkers Raceway driving colony, I have heard plenty of talk as to how much better he is than reining Yonkers Kingpin George Brennan. People point to his 52 wins in 205 starts versus Brennan’s 40 wins in a higher 230 starts.
Certainly the early returns have Sears with a healthy lead and appearing to be the clear top dog. But let’s take into consideration that Brennan has accumulated his total with his main client, the Gilbert Garcia-Herrera stable, having started just a handful of horses through the first six weeks of action.
Most will agree that harness racing is a trainer’s game and you can’t win races without power. Look at driver Matt Kakaley. He is a wonderful young pilot who is actually second in the Yonkers standings with 42 wins in 188 starts, but do you think he would have quite as many wins without getting first call for the powerful Ron Burke barn?
Is Sears ultimately better than Brennan? That would be a good debate. While either is capable of winning from any spot on the track, each has unique skills which make them better in certain circumstances. Brennan can fire a horse up at a moment’s notice and Sears has a knack for working out good trips and having “something left” in the stretch.
One thing is certain, With a top three of Brennan, Sears and Kakaley, and a strong supporting cast of Jason Bartlett, Eric Goodell, Jordan Stratton, Cat Manzi, Brent Holland, Mark MacDonald and others, the group at Yonkers is one of the best the track has seen since the days of Walter Case Jr. and Luc Ouelette.
Six weeks is a decent sample size, but before we crown the Yonkers driving champion, perhaps we should let the race play out a bit more.
Saturday Meadowlands Selections
Race 1 – When I conclude that (3) STALLONE BLUE CHIP looks best on paper, it is time to move on. I haven’t been impressed with this 4-year-old and I’ll be passing on this race.
Race 2 – This is a weak-looking bunch with not much to sink my teeth into. (5) BUCKEYE IN CHARGE would seem to be in a good spot this week. (6) MR HALLOWELL and (7) PAN GRAD are both getting interesting barn changes.
Race 3 – I don’t see a lot of speed coming from the outside horses, which could leave (4) MR DENNIS sitting a nice trip either first or second. He really didn’t look great on the track last week. Perhaps that sharp 1 1/16 from the prior week got the best of him. Let’s look for him to perk back up this time in the easier division.
Race 4 – (4) ALEX BULLVILLE gets aggressive every once in a while and brings a strong effort on the front. He had no shot last time into a 56 4/5 half and this seems like the perfect spot for him to take charge.
Race 5 – Nothing jumps off the page.
Race 6 – Since returning from a layoff, (2) IDEAL MATTERS has been making steady progress and displaying more life with each outing. This B-1 race did not come up very tough and he is simply fastest of this bunch.
Race 7 – Another pass for me.
Race 8 – (2) OSCAR OSCAR ran into a “ready to roll” A J Corbelli last week. After Oscar posted a 26 and change opening quarter, he seemed to lack enough of a stretch kick in the lane. Now he moves inside from post 8 to 2 and should have much more in reserve for the final stages.
Race 9 – I don’t like anything per say, but (2) FREDDY DAY HANOVER looks like a decent option on the drop-down angle.
Race 10 – (3) COME ON RIDGE put in a valiant effort while challenging on the rim and basically tackles a similar group this time. If the trip is slightly better he should get a big piece.
Race 11 – Everyone will be all over (3) HOLDINGALLTHECARDS and (4) YO CHEYENNE ROCKY, but to me (5) SHAWS CREEK BUFF could be the play. This guy was flying in the stretch last week, his first start on Lasix. At the expected nice price, it is worth taking a shot that Lasix made all the difference and this guy is ready to be much faster.
Race 12 – You are on your own here.
Race 13 – (4) I DO HANOVER has shown versatility in rolling to consecutive victories and this field doesn’t come up very tough.
I would like to preface this by saying I have been around this game for a long time. I was there in the 70's when the Meadowlands opened and helped a friend take care of his trotters and pacers at a farm near Freehold. I know a little bit about the game and what trainers do for their horses. Or in some cases what they do TO their horses. My question is; when are they going to load Ron Burke onto the same bus they used to drive Lou Pena out of the business? For exhibit A I give you Perrito Caliente. Burke took over this horse from Joe Seekman at Balmoral. I have been watching and betting Balmoral going on 6 years now and believe me when Seekman had Caliente he was a gutless piece of garbage. Then a few weeks ago he debuts for Burke at the Meadowlands, wins and when they get him to the winners circle his eyeballs are about to burst from their sockets and he is almost impossible to hold. Then last night he wins first over (something he never did at Balmoral against inferior competition) and is so out of control they didn't even attempt to get him into the winners circle. Are the judges so blind that they can't see this stuff? Do they really believe that Burke puts a puppy dog in the stall and gives them vitamins and all of the sudden these horses become world beaters? There was one from last year, the name escapes me for the moment, but in the horses second start for Burke in a stakes race at Balmoral (how ironic) the horse went 1:19 to the 3/4 while pulling the drivers arms out of his sockets. He went on to win in 1:48 and change and better his lifetime mark by a substantial margin. Until they take guys like this and make them race out of detention barns (maybe everyone should) the Meadowlands will continue to be a joke.
i remember when Sears left the Meadows for the Meadowlands and to the surprise of many he blew the place apart! :)
Thanks. Some people where I bartend and I really wanted to find out whether the name came from its geneology or not.
It's inconceivable to me that the management at Yonkers & The Meadowlands are so out of touch that they cannot find a way to coordinate their races so there are at least a few minutes between post times of the 2 tracks. As a last minute bettor, it's impossible to bet one and then run to the other before their race goes off. Then they wonder why the handle is not what it should be. Unreal!!!
Watching Meadowlands last night on TVG, and trying to figure out how the favorite for the 5th race got the name Veal Marsala? Anybody know?
While I enjoy the racing at Yonkers, the short track distorts the racing and distorts driver statistics more so than at most tracks to the point of making the numbers almost meaningless. I would like to see stats (like they do in baseball sabremetrics) of how drivers fare relative to the odds (what are the average odds on their wins, places and shows?) and, just for Yonkers, how they do from posts 1-3, 4-6, and 7-8. That all said, Sears is IMHO is head and shoulders the top harness driver in the NY area. His absence at the Meadowlands is still felt every night, and his ability does not show like it should because of the short track effect at Yonkers. He adds class and credibility to a "sport" dearly lacking in both. I don't understand the business of jockeys, but Gural should find a way to get him back to the big track before the grandstand opens. Sears presence affects how everybody else drives and has everyone on their toes. With Sears across the river, the Meadowlands many races feels like a cheap casino, a crap shoot, with little sport or personality.
Matt Kakely is good and young but , at least in my opinion , still gets involved in some terrible drives. Joe bongiorno is also a solid up and comer as is Jim Marohn jr
Different drivers have different strengths. Brennan is awesome leaving the gate and getting quick speed from a horse but not as good off the pace. McDonald is very aggressive almost too much so sometimes . Sears always seems to put his horse in a position to win. That's said none of them come her Walter case at his best he is still the best 1/2 mile 5/8 track driver I ave ever seen. Herve is still the best going uncovered that I have ever seen though tony Morgan is pretty good for drivers today
Mike you are nuts - Bartlett, Stratton, and Mcdonald would compete anywhere and dare we exclude Manzi from any competitive discussion he is far from finished. Derick I agree with your assessment of a competitive colony but also I know we are aligned in that just as I am defiant that Michael Jordan types will rise again it is far fetched for me to believe that another Walter Case Jr. is right around the corner. As for your picks - thanks for the saturday night treat and kudos to both you and Jay for continued correspondence on some of the games best racing venues!
If Kakaley keeps getting more and more drives he'll win the title, far better than Sears or Brennan and Kakaley is still on the upswing of his career. Other than the top 3 and maybe Holland it is a terrible colony though
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