09/01/2014 10:11AM

Bergman: Second half of harness season upon us

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Trixton could be on his way to capturing year-end honors.

It’s hard to believe we’re at the halfway point to an exceptional season for standardbreds. Much like the popular sports of football and basketball, the second half is far more critical to how our stars are perceived. Without question we have seen some epic performances thus far, but many will be out of the minds and memories by the time the calendar turns to December.

June, July and August have brought with it some incredible miles and some epic streaks, but September, October and November are sure to define the champions.

The second half is always more important than the first no matter how we try to balance our opinions.

It’s not just what have you done for me lately. In this sport it is more about being able to go the distance and still be at the top of your game in the fourth quarter. As the saying goes it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

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The events of this past weekend may prove a turning point for some and the end for some others. First on the list was the streak that came to an end on Saturday when Sweet Lou’s winning streak came to an abrupt halt. Modern Legend had his moment to shine and took full advantage of a race that saw all four of Ron Burke’s elite pacers battle for the lead and a 66-1 outsider rise to the occasion to pick up all of the pieces.

I spoke with Sweet Lou’s driver Ron Pierce on Sunday about the horse and the race.

“I knew when he crossed over to the lead on the turn that he wasn’t the same,” said Pierce. The driver’s strategy was similar to what it had been throughout the 10-race winning streak but on Saturday Sweet Lou didn’t have it and finished off the board.

As with any disappointing performance one could find reasons for defeat. We live during times where everyone wants and feels entitled to an explanation. To me asking for the reason only clouds the matter further.

Sure we could speculate that the horse may have been sick. We could speculate that he could have been just a tad gimpy. We could speculate he had a bad week. Yet all that really matters is that after 10 incredible performances, so consistent and spectacular one has to give credit to trainer Ron Burke and his team, Sweet Lou was entitled to have an off night.

What Sweet Lou’s defeat means for the second half of the season is to be determined. What it does is opens the door to a host of possibilities that include a return to form by Foiled Again and the potential improvement in the ranks of two-time Pacer of the Year Captaintreacherous.

Yannick Gingras drove Foiled Again in the Canadian Pacing Derby as if he believed the veteran was up to the task of beating his three stablemates and the others in the field. Perhaps re-energized by the cooler weather in Ontario, Foiled Again made three distinct moves and was outkicked by a horse making just one.

The three-year-old male trotting ranks always prove to have two distinct halves. While Father Patrick was arguably the best in the division prior to the Hambletonian his two losses in August, for varied reasons, opened the door to the division and gave Trixton the opportunity to capture year-end honors. Trainer Jimmy Takter had the two in separate locations this weekend with Father Patrick impressively defeating Nuncio in the Zweig at Vernon and Trixton winning the Simcoe with ease at Mohawk.

It’s nice to see Father Patrick looking like the horse that captured the Beal so impressively at Pocono on June. He’ll need to remain that sharp if he’s to put together another winning streak in the second half.

While trainer Takter appears to have all of the power in this division it should be noted that there are some talented trotters on the horizon that may just be able to step up, if not in the next few weeks, in the months ahead. Young trainer Frank Antonacci had to wait 12 months for Mr Lindy to return for his three-year-old campaign. The Cantab Hall-sired colt has now won three straight times without defeat after capturing the $60,000 Zweig consolation with ease on Friday night in 1:54 1/5. He’ll obviously have to go a lot faster but there’s plenty of time to play catch-up.

E L Titan wasn’t quite up to post nine or a solid field in Saturday’s Simcoe, but the good-looking and exquisitely bred son of Muscle Hill should only benefit from the hard-used effort that netted no purse money. That was just his second start as a three-year-old and he was on the lead working hard through a 1:23 1/5  three-quarter clocking. This is a horse that has but three charted lines from July through the end of August and what strikes me in a positive way is that in his July 4 qualifier he reached three-quarters in 1:29 3/5, but his August 9 first start he reached three quarters in 1:26 1/5.

Another horse caught the eye on Saturday in the Simcoe. His name is Damfoolrmillionair. The sophomore by Muscles Yankee is a half-brother to the $3 million winning San Pail. Trainer Brad Maxwell has taken the long road at three after racing in some major stakes at two. It appears as if that experience paid off because he made multiple moves in the Simcoe and was a solid second behind Trixton in a 1:52 2/5 mile. His 1:53 effort was his fastest to date and may indicate that he’s about ready to be a player to watch in the second half.

The second half awaits and it will be exciting to see whether those first half stars can maintain their advantage or whether there’s an upstart or two waiting in the wings for a chance to shine.

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