08/21/2014 10:21AM

Gisser: End of summer musings


Thought I’d share a few harness racing kudos and thoughts between soccer training two-a-days. What do high school sports and harness racing have in common? A change in training styles in recent years.  Not that long ago, coaches in many sports would go two- or even three-a-day summer training sessions. Now, nearly all have cut back on training to keep their athletes fresher and better prepared. Pretty much the way Standardbreds are trained now, compared to the old days when racing multiple trips was the norm.

Congratulations to Jimmy Takter on his Hambletonian win with Trixton. He is one of the greatest trainers in the history of our sport, but his driving abilities are not as strong. So to beat (arguably) the best driver ever in John Campbell had to be a thrill. You could tell in the interview. But right away, some wags on social media were saying Campbell let Takter win. If it was tongue-in-cheek, I didn’t hear that way, so I went back to the video to see if I missed something. I hadn’t. Takter had the better horse and deserved to win on that day and Campbell gave his horse every opportunity. This is where I planned to reference my column “It’s just one loss,” about Captaintreacherous from last year, in regard to Father Patrick. Then he went out and got beat again in the Tompkins-Geers at Tioga. But there is still plenty of racing left to sort out the division. (Note: A wag posts outrageous opinions, often anonymously, usually in social media or on obscure blogs or message boards. I, on the other hand, am a pundit. A pundit posts outrageous opinions under his own name, on less obscure and sometimes even well-read blogs and publications, and gets paid for it).

Congratulations to Northfield Park on the Carl Milstein Memorial festivities Friday night (8/15). It was the richest race in track history with a $400,000 purse, and fans responded. They jammed the place the way they used to when the Battle of Lake Erie was a real big deal, or on the Ohio Super Night. The parking lot was totally full by 7 PM and they put on a great show. There was a legends race that brought back memories of my first days at the track in the mid-seventies. (Dan Ross won that one at 5-1); competitive Sires Stakes and generally just a very good undercard. In recent years, with purse account overpayments and the uneven playing field surrounding Ohio, putting on such a great show was impossible. But management showed they had not forgotten how to do things right when they could afford to, with the infusion of slots cash. The undercard even offered a $100,000 Millstein Consolation, with a field better than many editions of the Cleveland Classic, the track’s Grand Circuit 3-year-old event. Ron Pierce steered National Debt to a 1:49 4/5 victory in that one. A rabbit-like 25 1/5 opening panel assured a fast mile there, and once they got to three-quarters in 1:21 2/5, the only question was how fast would the mile go? The big race saw 3-10 choice McWicked collared by hunch play, All Bets Off, in the stretch. That horse was driven by Matt Kakaley, who first made his name at Northfield. And the horse shares a name with a popular locally-produced cable TV show hosted by horseplayer and sports-talker (among other things) Bruce Drennan. I have been pretty hard on Northfield over the last couple years, but this was a great night of racing, harking back to the half-mile oval’s glory days, and previewing good things to come.

McWicked’s loss did not hurt him in the sport’s Top 10 poll this week. He remained sixth. Father Patrick’s loss did hurt. He dropped from third to fifth. Trixton, whose Hambletonian win was not enough to place him ahead of his training-mate, moved up from fourth to third with what I guess was a particularly impressive week off. It’s late August and Horse of the Year talk is beginning. The sophomore colt divisional winners always get consideration for the big year-end honor, but it’s a pair of veteran campaigners who dominate the poll right now. Sebastian K and Sweet Lou are one and two, with Sweet Lou getting closer to the top every week. Both have been dominant, but as long as Sebastian K keeps winning, Sweet Lou will not pass him for my poll or HOTY vote. But there is a horse which will if she runs the table. Sandbetweenurtoes is an undefeated 3-year-old pacing filly. She is eight for eight, but has banked “just” a quarter-million dollars, the least of any of the top 10. Right now I have her sixth while the poll has her seventh, but should she win out, especially with a Jugette title, a Lexington win, and a Breeders Crown win, she could easily earn my vote for the title. It’s only August, and just like in baseball, titles are not won now, they are only lost, but it sure is fun talking about it. That’s it until next month. Now go cash.