10/23/2016 2:22AM

Bergman: Looming Breeders Crown battle between Huntsville, Downbytheseaside offers intrigue

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Huntsville winning his Breeders Crown elimination Saturday night

After 14 elimination races for the Breeders Crown on Saturday night at the Meadowlands, the key storyline going forward will likely be the showdown between Huntsville and Downbytheseaside in the $600,000 event for juvenile colt and gelding pacers. That became rather obvious following two scintillating performances at opposite ends of the extended program.

First it was Huntsville, a horse that is rapidly becoming perhaps the best pacer Ray Schnittker has ever had. The son of Somebeachsomewhere has an amazing presence on the racetrack and cruised to a 1:51 3/5 victory, racing without cover and a lack of concern by driver Tim Tetrick. The homebred was more than content to wait through slow fractions and when he moved, he moved with purpose.

Downbytheseaside, a multiple world champion, won for the fourth straight time for trainer Brian Brown. David Miller waited until the backstretch to move Downbytheseaside, and once in command shut down the third quarter ever so slightly, as to give the appearance that he was ready to surrender at headstretch. Nothing could have proven further from the truth, as the colt shifted into high gear for Miller and sprinted off in 27 seconds flat into the wind.

Both winners are sons of Somebeachsomewhere, and they last raced against each other in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final on September 11, a race that Downbytheseaside finished second in after starting from post eight to Huntsville, who drew post five on that occasion. The positions are somewhat reversed for next Saturday’s final with Downbytheseaside landing post two and Huntsville aside the “seaside” in post three.

Marion Marauder is looking to close out a brilliant season in the Breeders Crown, but he tasted defeat in the preliminaries, if only by a short nose. The Triple Crown champion allowed pylon-skimming Sutton to come up the inside and nail him on the wire after rating sensible fractions. Not far behind in third was Southwind Frank after taking a lot of air racing without cover. The 1:54 2/5 mile was indicative of the division stars looking to conserve as much energy as they could for the final. The third-place finish did no favors for Southwind Frank as he drew post nine for the final, while Marion Marauder lucked out with post two.

Bar Hopping, given a chance to catch his breath in the other elimination division, put on a show, sprinting off in 1:52 4/5 for driver Tim Tetrick, who enjoyed a banner night.  Bar Hopping bull-rushed longshot leader Southern Cross at the half and trotted a 55 2/5 final half to distance himself from runner up Waitlifter K.

Tetrick, in addition to guiding Huntsville and Bar Hopping into next week’s finals, also cruised to victory with the likely Crown favorite for juvenile colt trotters with Walner, who opened the card with an impressive 1:53 3/5 mile. Tetrick also scored with Newborn Sassy in a Crown elim for 3-year-old filly pacers, but that Jo Ann Looney-King-trained filly will be in with the big girls in the final, most notably the other division winner Pure Country, who will be seeking back-to-back Crown victories.

With division leader Betting Line scratching out of the 3-year-old colt and gelding pace, the field became wide-open for the final. Western Fame and Check Six were victorious in their eliminations. Racing Hill didn’t fire as expected but did qualify for the final, and Lyons Snyder, with Brian Sears in the bike, was a brave second, perhaps indicating that he’s coming back to early-season form.