04/17/2014 12:55PM

Derick Giwner: More than meets the eye in final round of Levy, Matchmaker

USTA/Ken Weingartner
Clear Vision is one of two horses (along with Foiled Again) that trainer Ron Burke feels best about if he makes the Levy Memorial final at Yonkers Raceway.

Let’s face it, outside of marveling at the weekly exploits of the great, game, resilient, gutsy 10-year-old war horse Foiled Again, the George Morton Levy Memorial series at Yonkers Raceway has left something to be desired up to this point. Short fields and shorter prices have been the norm. But there could be some drama in store for the fifth and final preliminary leg.

Trainer Ron Burke’s dominance in the series has been evident. With five of the top six horses on the series leaderboard hailing from his barn, one would think the decisions would be easy. But with only two of his handful of qualified entrants permitted into the final, Burke was in a precarious position when it came time to drop his numerous contenders into the entry box. How do you decide which horses to enter and avoid playing favorites?

“In fairness to all the owners, I decided to race every horse or none at all,” said Burke, who didn’t seem bothered that only two would make the final. “Two will slide into the $100,000 consolation where theoretically they’ll be in an easy spot.”

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Foiled Again, he of the Twitter hashtag #FoiledAgainForever which I proudly take credit for assigning, leads the Burke brigade. The son of Dragon Again has dominated the series with a perfect record in four starts and earned a berth in the final simply by entering the fifth leg. All eyes will be on Foiled Again in the $567,000 final on April 26, but for this Saturday, the focus is on stablemates Bettor’s Edge, Itrustyou, Clear Vision and Easy Again. Those four will have to battle for supremacy and a sole spot in the rich finale.

As a handicapper, I immediately start over thinking the situation. Which horse would Burke want to make the final?

While Burke was clear that the lucky winner of the foursome would be decided on the track, it was also clear as day which horses he feels provides the most opportunity in the final.

“I only have two that can win from anywhere—Clear Vision and Foiled Again,” said Burke, who felt Clear Vision was starting to find his peak form. “I don’t know if any of the others can win from the eight-hole. They all have holes in their games.”

The intrigue of the fifth leg goes beyond the Burke barn. Of the other finalist contenders, only Mach It So has locked up a seat at the final table. While Dancin Yankee, Apprentice Hanover, P H Supercam, Sapphire City and Malak Uswaad N currently hold temporary tickets to the final, six others could potentially earn their way in with a strong showing on Saturday. So it is safe to say that the 20 horses signed on Saturday are all coming to play with their “A” games.

For what it is worth, Burke seems to fear Dancin Yankee the most should he advance to the final, and despite his unblemished record in four Levy starts this year, would not be surprised if Foiled Again was defeated in the final.

“If he draws posts one, two or three in the final, I’d be shocked if he lost. But a post like the eight-hole evens it out for everyone,” said Burke.

For those looking to follow the richest standardbred ever, Foiled Again will take a week off after the Levy final. He will then head to the Meadowlands for two races before a decision needs to be made between the Bettor’s Delight at Tioga Downs or the Molson Pace at Western Fair.

Burke has already locked up two spots in the $371,400 Blue Chip Matchmaker final for pacing mares. Rocklamation and Summertime Lea will advance.  The trainer admitted that 2014 might be the final season for Rocklamation.

“I’ll be shocked if she comes back next year,” said Burke, who said it is hard to keep older mares from losing their edge. “I want to put everything into her to be the best mare she can be this year. She’s iron-tough and deserves more recognition.”

The Matchmaker intra-barn intrigue switches to the PJ Fraley stable. While his Anndrovette, three-time Older Pacing Mare of the Year, is a virtual lock to advance to the final, barn-mates Shelliscape and Krispy Apple sit just seven points apart in the standings.  What makes the situation even odder was seeing that driver Tim Tetrick chose off Anndrovette to drive Shelliscape.

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According to the perennial leading driver, the decision was made by the owners. Which certainly makes you think that they would prefer Shelliscape in the final over Kripsy Apple, no?

While Tetrick was impressed with Shelliscape last week and could certainly change his mind with another big effort on Friday, he will likely switch affiliations again in the final.

“Unless it is a situation where Anndrovette draws the eight-hole and Shelliscape gets the rail, I’ll drive Anndrovette,” said Tetrick.

So there you have it. While you may have gotten used to the recent parade of favorites in the series, the Levy Memorial and Bluechip Matchmaker may not be so cut and dry this weekend.