12/22/2016 11:34AM

Giwner: Holiday bonuses available for handicappers at Meadowlands, Woodbine


Whether you deal in Christmas bonuses or Hannukah gelt, the sport of Harness Racing has something to reward you in the days leading up to the holidays this weekend. First at The Meadowlands on Thursday, there is a $25,874 pick five carryover and one night later at Woodbine handicappers can sink their teeth into a $548,396 mandatory payout Jackpot Hi 5 opportunity.

While these wagers come with a higher degree of difficulty, they also present a nice opportunity for players to get a larger return on their investment should they be so skilled (or lucky) to select the winning combination. It is almost certain that both pools will result in takeout free wagering, meaning the normal 15% cut that comes off the top of these wagers is covered by the carryover amount.

While I’m not going to provide straight analysis in this space since you can read my Meadowlands Thursday analysis here or watch videos I did with Matt Rose on both wagers here, I thought providing some inside-the-lines information on the races and presenting the contenders could be helpful.

[DRF HARNESS EYE: The digital edition of Harness Eye is now available for just $6! Monthly rates are as low as $2.67 per issue.]

Let’s start with the Meadowlands sequence which begins in race 1 on Thursday, off time approximately 7:15 p.m.

Race 1 – We have an amateur race here, which can be a crapshoot at times. Most of the wagering dollars are likely to fall the way of (2) ELLEN’S STREAK & (7) DREAM ROCKER. The former was unstoppable in these races three and four starts back but lacked the same zip two back and broke last time. She can win the race but taking a stand with her seems ballsy. I feel like Dream Rocker hasn’t done anything great or awful recently. He is more of a horse that if no one steps up, he’ll win the race.

Main Contenders: 2,4,7,8;  Price Plays: 1,3;  Somewhat Unlikely: 5,6,9;  Hard to Imagine: 10

Race 2 – These Non-winners events for 2-4 year-olds can often provide a haven for heavy favorites to dominate, but Racing Secretary Peter Koch has done a good job putting together an eclectic group that leaves many viable options depending on how you view the race. (2) EURO GAP could garner some attention having won his recent qualifier by open lengths with hobbles added, though I’m not sure that the victory was as impressive as the line looks on paper. (3) PRETTY PHYLLY G came out of the same race and was parked a long way before gaining the pocket. She only shows being on the front in the race because the leader drifted off the cones and backed up around the half. (7) WINDSUN MISSION moved into a new barn last time and showed no signs of the breaking problem that existed in previous efforts. I thought it was a very sharp win, albeit versus very weak foes.

Main Contenders: 2,6,7,10;  Price Plays: 3,4,9;  Somewhat Unlikely: 1,5,8

Race 3 – Here is another of these NW2 races that have no shortage of contenders. Speaking just on the win end, I’m not sure I would back any of these fillies as the favorite. (4) SOMETHINGINAWATER was a convincing winner under mild urging with the trainer in the bike during her recent qualifier. (3) QUEEN JOSEPHINE really didn’t get away very fast from the inside at Yonkers. Does that mean she’ll prefer a bigger track? (7) BIG BAD BEACH is the only horse in the race coming off a win and she picks up the red hot Brett Miller. That seems interesting.

Main Contenders: 3,4,7;  Price Plays: 1,5,9;  Somewhat Unlikely: 2,6,8

Race 4 – Some people loathe these bottom level trot races but I view them as reasonably formful. I definitely expect (8) WINDSONG ILLUSION to take plenty of tote action despite being 69-1 last time. He raced evenly from post 10 coming off two breaks but picks up Brett Miller, he of the eight wins last Friday. (1) MASTER OF EXCUSES and (4) MONTALBANO BI are the other most likely to win and take tote action.

Main Contenders: 1,5,9;  Price Plays: 10;  Somewhat Unlikely: 2,4;  Hard to Imagine: 3,6,7,8

Race 5 – All handicappers will have to make a huge decision here. Do you believe that (2) NOT BEFORE EIGHT simply lays over the field or are you so turned off by her recent lack of form that you feel the need to spread? Once you get past #2 there are three or four others which merit consideration.

Main Contenders: 2;  Price Plays: 1,6,8,9;  Somewhat Unlikely: 3,4,5,7;  Hard to Imagine: 10

For the record, my .50 pick five ticket reads:

1,2,4,7 / 6,7 / 3,4,5,7 / 1,5,9 / 2 = $48

You’ll notice all of my ‘Main Contenders’ don’t appear on the ticket, but that is because while I think people will view some of these horses as serious contenders, I don’t necessarily agree. I tried to list the contenders as how the public will view the race.

Moving on to the Jackpot Hi 5, my belief has always been that if you are working with a budget you must single a horse and hope for the best. In the case of Friday’s 12th race, that means you have a 1 in 12 shot of picking the winner and hopefully all the pegs fall in line behind that horse.

My hopes and dreams of hitting will live and die with (10) GRATIAS DEO. I don’t believe his recent past performance lines are a true indicator of what he can potentially accomplish on Friday. There was no opportunity for him to finish in the money last week from post 10 and he was certainly compromised in his prior start when all of the horses around him left and he wound up first-over.

While it doesn’t show in his recent lines, Gratias Deo does have some early speed, which he’ll need to overcome the tough outside post. At least at 12-1 on the morning line, there is the hope that if he wins we’ll be handsomely rewarded.

Looking at the race as a whole, I don’t see a ton of early speed signed on, which could easily benefit (1) A COOL CARD, (3) YS LOTUS, (8) PAPARAZZI HANOVER and (11) REGAL SON. That said, I wasn’t overly impressed with A Cool Card’s win last week versus cheaper. The other three are all being used in my second and third slots along with (5) SHADOW MARGEAUX, who is simply razor sharp now.

Before listing my ticket, I’ve enlisted our WEG handicapper Garnet Barnsdale to provide his viewpoint:

WEG has done a good job putting together a very evenly matched field of 12 here that should produce a decent payoff. With that noted, you have to look to narrow down the field somehow and my initial thought is to toss the (9) SHOCK N ROCK and (10) GRATIAS DEO, who I can't imagine can work out any kind of a decent trip with 10 horses starting inside of them, as main contenders. I also would be inclined to toss (1) A COOL CARD, who takes a big step up off a win vs. much weaker. 

That leaves us with nine horses of which I am likely going to look to center most of my action around (5) SHADOW MARGEAUX making the ticket. He raced huge on the rim first up last week and would have won if he could have fished cover out. I think he should find a helmet to follow here. (3) YS LOTUS should show more making his second start in this class, moving inside and with the Allard barn heating up of late. (4) ELECTRIC WESTERN should make the Hi 5 if he can come up with another sub-28 kicker. (8) PAPARAZZI HANOVER will be one of the main speed threats for a driver/trainer that has been hot here the past few cards. (6) THE REV went a long trip last week but kept coming. He is rounding into form and he does his best work in the winter. 

My top contenders: 5-3-4-8-6   

I might bet the ticket like this: 5/3,4,6,8/3,4,6,8/3,4,6,8/All 



Each of the above tickets costs $38.40 for a total of $115.20.

Wrapping the column up, here is my .20 Hi 5 play:

10 / 3,5,8,11 / 3,5,8,11 / 1,2,3,4,5,8,11 / ALL = $96

Good Luck!