05/23/2012 10:19PM

Sweet Lou leads a powerful crop of 3-year-old pacers


Harness racing has seen some very good 3-year-old pacers over the last decade. Somebeachsomewhere stands out as possibly the greatest of a group that includes Rocknroll Heaven, Rock N Roll Hanover, and others. While there have been some standout performers, you would be hard-pressed to find more than one or two other top quality sophomore pacers during the years that the previously mentioned horses competed.

Often enough one or two horses shine while the others simply play catch-up and hope to get an upset victory somewhere on the Grand Circuit tour.

At first glance 2012 would appear to be a special year for the second-year pacing colts. The list of potential stud pacers includes Sweet Lou, A Rocknroll Dance, Warrawee Needy, Bolt The Duer, I Fought Dalaw, Simply Business, Time To Roll, Pet Rock, Dapper Dude and quite a few others. With fewer than two starts under their belts, a bunch of these youngsters have already broken the 1:50 time barrier in 2012.

Looking at the impressive lineup of possible stars over the last few weeks, I was sure that this was going to be the year that intense battles would develop through the division at each and every stakes event. No one horse would dominate and each would take turns as King of the Hill week after week.

Then I saw Sweet Lou make his debut at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania.

Watching Lou for the first three-quarters of a mile I was not impressed. He did not show blazing speed and his gait was certainly not picture perfect. But when the stretch drive began, without more than possibly a flick of the stick, Lou took off and crossed the wire in an eye-popping 1:49 3/5 over the five-eighths oval.

Yes, the time was impressive; especially when considering that only seven 3-year-olds were able to pace faster on that size track over the course of the entire 2011 campaign.

What stood out most was the ease with which Sweet Lou won. He scooted through the stretch effortlessly and barely seemed as though he was breaking a sweat. There is no doubt in my mind that had the competition been tougher Lou could have paced a sub-1:49 mile that night.

Now if Lou can pace 1:49 3/5 in his first start of the year over a five-eighths track in May, What can he do on a mile oval in July during the warmer weather against some of the colts mentioned earlier? Could we be looking at another Somebeachsomewhere-type freak of nature talent?

Time will tell whether Sweet Lou can be the top dog 3-year-old that trainer Ron Burke has been waiting years to develop. At this point the only certainty is that time records could be in jeopardy as one of the most talented crops of pacers that have hit the track in years continues to develop.

Molson kicks stakes season into high gear

Friday’s $300,000 Molson at Western Fair for older pacers looks like an interesting event. Foiled Again should head to the gate at even money or so, but stablemates Atochia and Clear Vision certainly have a chance. My upset pick would be Razzle Dazzle, who has always appeared to have ability but has yet to put it all together.

You can watch, wager and take in all things Western Fair on Friday night just by visiting our exclusive event page - http://www.drf.com/events/western-fair-molson-pace-western-fair

DRF is offering free Harness Eye past performances for the $15,000 guaranteed pick four, which begins on race nine of the 14-race card. The link above also contains a video analysis for the wager from Matt Rose and yours truly.

Jeff Gural’s latest plea

I just read the latest missive from Jeff Gural asking horsemen to enter as many horses as they can at the Meadowlands. Here is an excerpt:

It seems everybody likes to qualify their good horses but when it comes to racing they would rather go someplace else.  One wonders does it really make sense to build a new grandstand and try to fill it with customers young and old if there are not enough horses to race?  Our income is derived solely from wagering and only half as much as is bet on a seven horse race as is bet on a ten horse race.  The other option is to do what our competitors do and only allocate 10% of our available purse money to stakes races and 90% to overnights.  Personally, I think that would be a disaster for the industry especially in light of the problems we may face next year in Canada if WEG has to cut back on their stakes programs. 

In any case, if any one has any suggestions as to the type of races they would like to see us card at the Meadowlands that would help alleviate this problem please email me at jgural@newmarkkf.com and I will discuss it with the racing department. 

While horsemen certainly have the right to race wherever they choose, most agree that the survival of the Meadowlands is paramount for the industry. Trainers should make an attempt to fill the box, but the problem is just as much the number of tracks currently racing. How could the Meadowlands fill their card with full fields when there are 9 or 10 other tracks within a few hundred miles racing on the same days?

Once again I’ll toss out the suggestion of having some amateur races on the card. Here you have a group of people that in most cases own their own horses and would love to race on the card at the greatest track in the country.


kingsailor2 More than 1 year ago
well done on Lanson
Peter Sipari More than 1 year ago
This issue of too many racetracks within a couple hundred miles of one another is disturbing. The Big M has been my favorite betting track the last 18 years. I gave up in Chicago due to inferior conditions, less than quality horses and too much funny business. The horsemen certainly can race wherever but the truth is, as in all business today, they are looking for the fast dollar.Though purses are not always compatiable there is also the casino money allowing smaller tracks to offer larger purses which in return reflects what i said about making easy money. It will be an awful event if the Meadowlands cannot continue operating.
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
Derick, why is new Jersey hell bent on allowing neighboring states to siphon money outta of the state with tracks like Chester, Pocono and Yonkers right next to their borders? Makes no sense to me.
Kalar Walters More than 1 year ago
Ouch! After reading the other comments maybe I'm not so enthused after all. :\
Kalar Walters More than 1 year ago
WOW! I tracked down the video of the BC race last fall and what a performance by Sweet Lou!! Also saw his qualifying race on May 4. 1:50.4 WOW!!! I've never thought to check out pacers. Now I think I have a new love. :D Thanks, Derick!!
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
Derick , I really , genuinely . enjoy your writing. I first started following harness racing when Une De Mai won the INternational trot at Roosevelt . I would love to know your thoughts on a sport where drivers are routinely welcomed back into the game after race fixing ( Forrest Gerry , Howard Parker , Jim Morrill , Richard Wojcio ( who did jail time), Bill Bresnahan, Fred Grant, Ken McNutt , Ben Webster to name very very few of many) and if the lack of real penalties and policing of the sport was responsible for its wane. I remeber packed houses at Roosevelt and Yonkers , the giant crowd at the Meadowlands on opening day etc.................................While I am not a tinfoil hat person who thinks evry time I lose it is beacause a race is fixed and I believe that overwhelmingly drivers do their best , I was curious to your thoughts on the subject...... hear is a link to a news story back in the day http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1454&dat=19731221&id=P2o0AAAAIBAJ&sjid=4wkEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5573,5285798
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
Ignore link it cut off....
Derick More than 1 year ago
I think the past issues of race fixing have certainly tarnished the sports image in the public eye. That said, with slot money available at most tracks, the days of race fixing are mostly behind us. These drivers and trainers are racing for too much money to worry about getting caught doing something illegal.
kingsailor2 More than 1 year ago
This degenerate handicapper is now officially turning to standardbreds and away from thoroughbreds since it looks like they are banning lasix for the latter (I'm not going to guess who is going to bleed in any race--no mas for me). Although I've "invested" years and tens of thousands of dollars in the latter, it's time to give them up and turn to the "respectable" horses, as the song in The Music Man says. I thank you for your column and I'm going to use your insights to jumpstart my new career.
Derick More than 1 year ago
Glad to have you on the harness team!
Marvin Friedman More than 1 year ago
The last time i looked it seemed that the game i once loved was legally dead. Im afraid its going to take more than a few bloggers suggestions to revive it. Like the tb industry too many tracks are competeing for fewer and fewer fans.Until and unless harness tracks can agree on non competeing datesit will be survival of the fittest,you have noone to blame but yourselves
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
Here is what I think led to the downfall 1) For all racing They stopped trying to attract racing fans and now many tracks are becoming a 3 ring circus that race some horses. Pig racing Camel racing wiener dog racing PLEASE 2) For Harness racing Equipment got too good.....You almost never see a big brush from the back of the pack. If you aren't among the top 4 turning home , kiss it goodbye The passing lane - drivers have become less aggressive and sit longer and take less chances because of it Penalties without teeth - recently , how is Eric Ledford allowed back but he is only one of DOZENS