04/18/2016 8:55AM

Giwner: My top 10 sophomore pacers for 2016

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Derick Giwner
Pure Country was undefeated in 2015.

Now midway through April, with the next wave of stakes payments in the books, we are starting to see some of the elite 2-year-old pacers from 2015 return to the track for qualifying action. A couple of my Top 10 have shown up at The Meadowlands already, prompting this column of my leading 3-year-old pacing prospects this year.

My criteria for evaluating horses that likely haven’t started since last Fall involves almost equal parts “feel” and pure data. Pure speed is a factor. If a horse is fast as a 2-year-old, they are likely to be at least as fast a year later. But at least you can measure speed. You have to watch a horse race to determine class and “heart”.

In the end, below is simply my best educated guess. I’m sure many of you will disagree and I’m even more sure as these horses return to the races, some will underperform and others will shine. Let’s dig in with the countdown.

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10-AMERICAN PASSPORT

He didn’t win his first race until late September last year, but displayed good speed at both ends of his miles and hinted at big ability. He should be coming north from Florida any day now to qualify at The Meadowlands.

9-SHEZAREALDEAL

Ross Croghan trainee made a good deal of money ($353,336) as a rookie while displaying impressive speed. I’m hesitant to use three fillies on my list since the boys go for so much more money, but I’d be more upset if I left her off and she had a big year. She qualified on April 9 at Pompano in 1:55, finishing third.

8-BIG TOP HANOVER

He was one of five quality 3-year-olds that Yannick Gingras had a choice of driving last Saturday (4/9) in a qualifier and he stuck with this $450,253 earner. He was on the rim briefly on the final turn and ducked inside to finish up willingly. Western Ideal colt showed promise at age 2 . . . let’s see how he progresses in terms of speed.

7-TRAVEL PLAYLIST

The numbers say he was the fastest rookie pacer. The son of Art Major-Village Madonna won in 1:49 2/5 at Vernon Downs, which is very impressive. While the speed is there, he made much of his money in NY Sire Stakes races and will still need to prove himself against Open company.

6-CONTROL THE MOMENT

This Well Said-sired colt was the only other 2-year-old to join Travel Playlist in the sub-1:50 club in 2015, pacing a 1:49 4/5 mile in his Metro Pace win. He did just about everything right until getting dethroned as the odds-on favorite in the Breeders Crown.

5-L A DELIGHT

She only lost once in 12 starts as a freshman and was seemingly unbeatable. But she never hooked up with the unbeaten Pure Country, so the jury is still out on which filly is better. The one thing we do know is that she is in top hands with Robert Mcintosh training.

4-PURE COUNTRY

Undefeated filly was perfect in 10 starts and earned the most money by a 2-year-old pacer in 2015. Jimmy Takter-trained lass proved versatile by winning on the lead and off the pace, most of the time by open lengths. She qualified on Saturday (4/16) at The Meadowlands and finished second. It took her a while to hit high gear but she was moving very well approaching the wire. I also saw her in the paddock and she certainly looked the part of a champion.

3-RACING HILL

He peaked late in 2015 and looked the part of a top horse. While he faltered in the Breeders Crown, he worked very hard during that race, and let’s remember that he was the second choice that night behind Control The Moment. My gut tells me that if he came out of the winter months with a bit more speed, he could be very dangerous. Like Tony Alagna stablemate American Passport, expect to see him returning soon.

2-CHECK SIX

This guy was one of the better (if not the best) 2-year-olds in Pennsylvania last year before getting derailed by a foot issue. He tried to make a late season comeback but just couldn’t get up to speed quickly enough. I’ve heard good things about him in recent weeks. His comeback qualifier was solid (3rd, 1:53 2/5) on April 9 and he was very sharp in a 1:52 score this past weekend.

1-BOSTON RED ROCKS

As the Breeders Crown and Governors Cup winner, I’m giving him the respect of the No. 1 slot. Don’t get me wrong, he raced super in the majority of his starts and is a very deserving Winter Book favorite, but I never felt like he separated himself from the pack as a clear-cut leader.

Hopefully the majority of the pacers above and a few new shooters enter the fray to produce a great year of racing. Good luck to all the connections. Dream big!

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