06/09/2015 2:23PM

Giwner: $1 million International Trot coming October 10

Mike Lizzi
The International Trot will take place on October 10, the same day as the Allerage and Kentucky Futurity at The Red Mile.

In Harness Racing, million-dollar races don’t exactly come around every day. Depending on the exchange rates between the U.S. and Canada, we have either one or two each year—North America Cup (Mohawk) and Hambletonian (Meadowlands). Well, you can add Yonkers Raceway and the International Trot into that mix.

The track announced that the International would return from a lengthy hiatus shortly before they held the $250,000 International Preview won by Natural Herbie in 2014. When the stakes calendar came out this year, the International was nowhere to be found, but lo and behold, with no fanfare whatsoever, the $1,000,000 race suddenly appeared on the schedule for October 10.

If that date rings a bell, it is because the Kentucky Futurity, Tattersalls Pace and Allerage series are all slated to be contested on the same day. That’s right, I said day. The Red Mile and Yonkers are both slated to race afternoon cards on October 10.

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Yonkers, which races the majority of its programs at night, will switch to a yet to be determined afternoon time slot to accommodate simulcasting of the International Trot to France’s PMU wagering hub. The race is expected to lure some top European talent, though it will be interesting to see which horses compete in the Allerage, which has a much lower purse but is contested over a mile track, versus the rich International on the half at Yonkers.

Conflict is hardly something new on the Harness Racing calendar, but Alex Dadoyan, Executive Director for the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, views the clash differently.

“I like to look at it as when the Blue Grass at Keeneland is the same day as the Wood Memorial in New York. The Thoroughbred racing world views it as one of the biggest days to showcase the game,” said Dadoyan. “For simulcast locations, having multiple major stakes, at least in the Thoroughbred game, produces some of the best revenue days of the year.”

The biggest fear for those who love the sport from a pleasure or wagering standpoint is a conflict between actual post times of major stakes. Dadoyan said that the International was expected to be contested early on the card and was unlikely to interfere with the Kentucky Futurity, the final leg of the Trotting Triple Crown in 2015.

Yonkers Raceway began an experiment with sending its signal to Europe last year with good success and continued that into this year with an expanded schedule. The track currently simulcasts on many Tuesdays and a handful of Sundays.

Will the best colt stand up?

In two weeks time we will have a pretty strong idea about which are the best 3-year-olds from each division, especially between the male pacers. Right now it seems that Artspeak and Wiggle It Jiggleit are at the head of the class, but much can change after the $1 million North America Cup eliminations (June 13) and final (June 20).  Three 8-horse Cup elims are on tap Saturday.

I’m certainly not ready to crown a king or a leader quite yet. Both Artspeak and Wiggle have been impressive, but let’s see if any horses come out of the woodwork before we jump to an opinion.

The trotting colt division is just as cloudy and I’m not sure the Goodtimes final on NA Cup final night will produce much clarity. Pinkman and Canepa Hanover (racing Friday in the Goodtimes elims) from the Takter barn are the clear leaders in my book, but some of the top trotters don’t start showing their hands until at least mid-June.  

The most interesting race this weekend for colt trotters is in a $74,539 division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at Pocono Downs. Pinkman (post 5), Whom Shall I Fear (post 7) and Centurion ATM (post 8) hook up. Pinkman is perfect in two starts and Whom Shall I Fear has won four of five races. Ceturion ATM makes his seasonal debut.

Mission Brief back in July

Mission Brief won the other day, but it is hard to get excited about her the way she has looked. Despite her shaky performance, trainer Ron Burke has not lost any confidence in his speedy filly and is still thinking big.

 “I’m a little sick that the 3-year-old colts are so good, but if I can smooth her out, we still have a big shot,” said Burke when asked about going for races such as the Hambletonian against the boys.

Mission Brief will not start until the Del Miller at the Meadowlands (July 18) according to Burke. She is expected to qualify prior to that appearance.

Here’s hoping she comes back strong.