03/07/2016 5:17PM

Giwner: My top 3-year-old trotters of 2016

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Brooylyn Hill is Giwner's dark horse selection, #2 on his list.

I’m grateful for the USTA’s T.J. Burkett every year about this time. He asks for the small favor of ranking the horses I feel will be the Top 10 money earning 3-year-old trotters for the current year. It is really less of a task and more of an opportunity to refresh my memory after a few stakes-free months of racing.

At the top of every list has to be Southwind Frank. The Ron Burke-trained colt was nearly flawless in 2015 with 11 wins in 12 starts. With his versatility and speed, it is hard to argue that he was the most impressive male freshman from last year.

Burke has already stated that Southwind Frank is coming back in good order. Does his prior year performance guarantee anything? Of course not. He will have to travel at speeds which he has never experienced and likely face more adversity in his second year of racing. The son of Muscle Hill still has plenty of work to do before he lives up to his father’s legacy.

But the above is just playing Devil’s Advocate. He is the most likely male trotter to dominate the sophomore division.

Coming in second on my list might be a surprise entrant for some. Brooklyn Hill only won two races in 10 starts as a rookie and seemed to hang in the stretch way too often, but I’m writing about the potentially best 3-year-old, not 2-year-old.

It took nearly the entire year but Brooklyn Hill brought his “A” game on October 8 at The Red Mile and gave us all something to think about. He was ultra-game defeating Dog Gone Lucky, a horse that might rank second on many lists.

I love the fact that trainer Jonas Czernyson put this colt away early last year to save him for the grueling grind that awaits from June through October.  “There was absolutely nothing wrong with him when we put him away after Lexington,” said Czernyson. “We did the right thing by him and we hope he does the right thing for us.”

My gut says we haven’t seen the best this guy has to offer and at least at the moment Czernyson confirmed that training is progressing right on schedule.

“He grew up a lot, actually. I’m very pleased with the way he came back. The way he is training right now and based on what he did last year, I’d say he is my top prospect,” said Czernyson, who has three other colts that he is hoping to keep on the Hambletonian trail.

Despite shutting him down early, Czernyson has no plans to bring Brooklyn Hill back early. “We are not going to do anything different with him than any other horse. We’ll try to get a good heavy foundation in him,” said the trainer, who is aiming for a May qualifier with the trotter.

From an earnings perspective I’m really reaching with my third selection, but how can I not have a Jimmy Takter horse in my top five? I was always high on Bar Hopping and felt he was the best of Takter’s 2-year-old contingent last year. While I came away disappointed in 2015, the ultimate goal is the Hambletonian and perhaps no trainer knows how to get a horse to peak for the big dance like the Hall of Fame trainer.

Milligan’s School seemed to be right there in every start and that consistency earns him a fourth-place ranking on my unofficial list. There seems to be some talent here and I can certainly see him turning some of those runner-up finishes from 2015 into winner’s circle photos in 2016.

My top five concludes with a filly. I’m a huge fan of Double Exposure and feel she has the opportunity to be a special talent. The Tony Alagna trainee did it all as a freshman in my book. She showed maturity, speed, versatility, and the ability to take air on the rim.

“She is doing well. We left her out until mid January because she raced late in the season, but she has trained back really well,” said Alagna, who also has another top trotting filly in Caprice Hill. “They are both very nice fillies and I wouldn’t be surprised if either stepped up.”

Alagna reports that Caprice Hill is aiming for a return in mid May while Double Exposure is targeting a June arrival.

The quintet above is my elite five. If I was starting a fantasy stable of 3-year-old trotters they would be my clear top selections. The remainder of my Top 10 list shapes up as follows:

Dog Gone Lucky – Ended 2015 with a string of victories and has a four-time Hambletonian-winning trainer in his corner. While he brought his “A” game every week, I never saw dynamic speed, which is a must to make my top five.

Marion Marauder – He only won one race in 2015 but was in the money 9 times in 13 starts. We found out he could compete with the best and he seems like the type of horse that can improve over the winter.

Broadway Donna – She earned more than any other trotting filly in 2015 and certainly showed enough raw speed.

Dupree – He had some good moments and certainly displayed enough ability to consider as a breakout candidate.

Make Or Miss – I’m not sure I love this horse but if we are talking solely about earnings, I think he has the natural speed to make some noise in a couple of big races.

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