08/18/2014 9:39AM

Bergman: Artspeak heads rookie class

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Artspeak is undefeated in four career starts.

Two-year-old pacing stakes racing began in earnest this past Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack. Gone are the days of prepping youngsters for races in June and July with major purses. The Meadowlands cast aside early season rookie stakes like the Wilson and Sweetheart, rightfully. Horseflesh is simply too dear in these times and burning up pacing fillies and colts early is not just brutal on the horses, it’s also bad for business.

In these times where fewer and fewer yearlings are being created, we need to hold on to as many of the talented ones as we can, otherwise there will hardly be enough to put together full fields a few years from now.

What is still fascinating about this business is that for every blue-blooded Captaintreacherous that is conceived, there are so many of lesser pedigree that can take your breath away.

In his first two years as a stallion, Somebeachsomewhere made a strong impact as breeders and buyers expected. In his third year at bat it’s been a little bit different story, with less firepower on the racetrack and some of the older more established pacing sires getting the headlines.

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It would be hard to open any column focusing on the two-year-old crop without Artspeak in the spotlight. While many of the youngsters at Mohawk on Saturday had difficulty handling the tricky footing, Artspeak showed a gait—even during warm-ups—that was as fluid as anyone could imagine. There were countless horses post-parading that had trouble putting any two hooves down in unison, but Artspeak was a picture to behold. The son of Western Ideal-The Art Museum toyed with the competition in his $91,425 division of the Nassagaweya, pacing to his fourth victory in as many starts and stamping himself without question as the early favorite to capture the rich Metro Stakes (eliminations are slated for Saturday August 23).

Trainer Tony Alagna has made the most of teaming young driving star Scott Zeron with many of his horses during baby races and early overnights. Zeron seems to know what to expect from the horses and he’s done a fabulous job prepping Artspeak for bigger and better races without so much as calling on the colt for top speed. The 1:52 4/5 mile was most definitely under wraps.

It’s hard to believe that lightning could strike twice for the 3 Brothers Stable but it appears to be that way as JK Shesalady, the two-year-old sister to North America Cup winner JK Endofanera, was clearly the most impressive pacing filly to race in divisions of the Eternal Camnation at Mohawk.

The homebred filly caught everyone’s attention with an earth-shattering three wide move on the far turn that caught her circling a rather decent field in a heartbeat and drawing off powerfully. Now undefeated in four lifetime starts, the Art Major-sired filly has been off the pace in every one of them and full of pace in the stretch. While it’s easy to get excited about the quickness she’s shown thus far, it would be wise to reserve “greatness” judgment until she’s put to the test on or near the front end and continues to pace explosively to the wire.

Nancy Johansson trains JK Shesalady and Yannick Gingras drives her as he did her big brother this past Sunday to victory at Tioga Downs.

Next stop for this filly will be Saturday’s She’s A Great Lady. At this point there is still the word “great” missing from her moniker, but that could come in a few weeks time.

There were so many two-year-olds that were either too far back to get into the picture or appeared to have trouble handling the racetrack at Mohawk this past Saturday. As a handicapper it makes things twice as tough going into key elimination races this week. Does one just throw out bad lines as meaningless or do we really have to question some of these “off” performances as the result of two-year-olds getting in with a tougher group for the first time and not being on that level?

The well-bred Asap Hanover was most impressive in baby races at the Meadowlands and then won easily in his Mohawk debut on August 7. On Saturday he never got untracked for trainer Linda Toscano and driver Tim Tetrick. The Somebeachsomewhere-sired colt can be excused in someway for failing to reach the leaders during a vicious 27-second third quarter, but he didn’t seem to have that much pop when the pace slowed in the final quarter.

On the other side of the fence was a third-time starter named Rollin Ring Afire. The colt entered his Nassagaweya division with a second and third-place finish in two starts for trainer Charlie Norris. Both races were from off the pace and both solid efforts from the son of Rocknroll Hanover. What was different about this colt as compared to most of the others with more fashionable pedigree was that his dam-sire was an Ohio-stalwart by the name of Ruffstuff Baker. The colt was from a $100K winning dam named She’s A Ruff One, also a filly that played exclusively in the Buckeye State.

Rollin Ring Afire was also far behind during the soft first half but unlike most of the others in the field, this colt flew between horses in the stretch and finished a powerful third. Sylvain Filion was the first catch-driver he’d seen in his brief career and hopefully he’ll remain with the colt for the Metro eliminations.

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In closing, it was a strange night at Mohawk if you factor in that leading driver Yannick Gingras saw two of his horses get taken down for “pylon” infractions. Ironically on both occasions Gingras was following a pacesetter driven by Hall of Famer John Campbell. Unlike too many of today’s leading drivers, Campbell is one of the most mindful when it comes to keeping the left passing lane closed for business in the homestretch.

That’s racing the way it was meant to be.