07/02/2012 10:11AM

Bergman: Googoo Gaagaa and Yonkers Trot starts parade of greats

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It’s easy to become jaded as an observer of the Standardbred sport. Reflecting on the caliber of today’s horses where miles of 1:50 have become standard, it’s easy to become cynical. I for one never want to get caught up in just how fast horses are traveling the distance. What’s impressive in this era is when a horse can carry its form from week to week and beat all comers.

This Saturday Googoo Gaagaa will attempt to capture the Yonkers Trot, the first jewel in trotting’s Triple Crown. Some have questioned the race's value in that only five horses have entered a race worth well over $400,000. To me this is simply a tribute to a great horse. Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs may be the fastest track in North America of its size, but that does little to discredit Googoo Gaagaa for his back-to-back wins in the Earl Beal Memorial elimination and final in world record time. While purists may scoff at a pedigree that crosses pacing blood with trotting, it’s impossible to look at the finished product and not see a brilliant trotter.

Watching Googoo Gaagaa in flight is perfection. It’s a thing of beauty to see a horse so balanced with each stride that his head never moves. I’ve seen my share of fast horses and certainly there have been those that were bred to be great ones and achieved it on the racetrack. It’s just so much more special when a horse with “backyard” breeding pops up and reaches this level.

The Yonkers Trot is not likely to be a great betting race. It is likely to be a spectacle nonetheless as should any event Googoo Gaagaa enters from this point forward. I’m not as anxious as some to see him being pitted against older horses anytime soon and there’s one reason for that - Chapter Seven.

In as much as Googoo Gaagaa has added color to the three-year-old ranks, the emergence of Chapter Seven as a four-year-old has instantly changed the dynamic of the aged trotting division. The storied son of Windsongs Legacy has overcome health concerns to become the best in his class and perhaps the best in the world. What made his victory in the Titan Cup Friday so impressive was that he willingly spotted champion Arch Madness a perfect pocket trip then went by that horse as if he were standing still. In a game dominated by speed and speed horses, Chapter Seven is most comfortable coming off the pace and clearly has a final quarter in him that no speed horse can match.

It will be an exciting season if somehow some of Europe’s finest want to engage this horse on North American soil.
While great trotters may be more esthetically pleasing to the eye and soul, pacing makes up a larger percentage of the racing and betting action. The Meadowlands Pace may not be worth a million anymore, but that shouldn’t make the race any less dramatic this season. That was pretty much assured on Saturday night at Pocono when A Rocknroll Dance resurfaced and upset in the Hempt Memorial. Much like Googoo Gaagaa, the A Rocknroll Dance story is compelling in that it is the culmination of years of hard work of trainer Jim Mulinix and his willingness to step out of his comfort zone (Ohio breds) and try for the big time at the Harrisburg yearling sale. He told me over the winter that he thought he might have made a mistake when the colt was hammered down for $15,000 to him while no one else was bidding.

Mulinix, like many veteran horsemen from Ohio, rarely gets too low or too high on his own stock but never loses faith. That faith was finally rewarded on Saturday as the colt finally benefitted from a good trip after some very difficult ones.
While it would be easy to say that A Rocknroll Dance is back, one must be very cautious considering the wide array of talent in this division. We must also realize that trip played a role in A Rocknroll Dance’s last win as it did when he was beaten. Such was true for the losers on Saturday, namely Bolt The Duer and Hurrikane Kingcole.

Bolt The Duer was driven perfectly by Mark MacDonald but had to tangle with HurrikaneKingcole through a vicious third quarter. The son of Ponder was ultra-brave in the stretch and while unable to hold off the winner he rallied back late to earn a tie for the place spot.

Hurrikane Kingcole fell victim to something that beats many good horses. Unlike his elimination race where he seemingly blew by a pacesetter that was going in slow motion, this week the horse occupying the lead was real. There was nothing wrong with the Cams Card Shark-sired colt that a good trip won’t cure next week.

The Hempt was an exciting race with an incredible finish. So close was the photo for second that a dead heat was declared. Yet anyone watching the race on simulcast would have had trouble finding that out. The Pocono production cut away from the official finish order and instead offered the viewer long interviews with the winning connections. I didn’t have a stopwatch on the proceedings but it seemed as if 10 minutes had gone by before any bettors found out the order of finish and the prices.

Needless to say those in power at Pocono have to realize it is a gambling sport.

The Meadowlands Pace should have a strong cast for two eliminations this Saturday. Bob McIntosh’s North America Cup winner and third-place finisher Thinking Out Loud and Dapper Dude qualified at Mohawk this past Friday. Two other colts are likely to come out of Ontario after Saturday night’s action. Warrawee Needy, the North America Cup pacesetter who stopped to a walk in the $1.5 million contest, tried his luck from off the pace in an overnight race and looked good for about seven-eighths of the mile before flattening out.

Trainer Jeff Gillis is likely to make another trip to East Rutherford, this time with Speed Again, an altered son of Dragon Again who was victorious in 1:50 2/5 defeating aged horses for driver Jody Jamieson.

Mel Mara was another colt that bounced back from disappointment in the North America Cup with a big mile. With Mike Lachance driving the son of Lis Mara paced home in 1:49 1/5 drawing away from a weak bunch but looking fit doing so at the Meadowlands.

Saving the best for last there’s no reason to believe that Sweet Lou won’t be ready for his best in the Meadowlands Pace. While the loss in the North America Cup may have been a bitter pill for driver Dave Palone and trainer Ron Burke to swallow, that pair hasn’t won as often as they have by lacking bounce back ability. Palone was adamant that he had lost no faith in the horse following the North America Cup.

The good news for New Meadowlands is that June is finally over and the arrival of the real championship season begins this Saturday night.