08/20/2015 10:36PM

Giwner: Stakes weekend road trip

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Top 3-year-old pacer Wiggle It Jiggleit will be in action on Saturday at Pocono Downs.

There is a plethora of major stakes weekends on the horizon and few can top the action on tap this Friday to Sunday. Vernon Downs, Pocono Downs, Mohawk, Tioga Downs, The Meadows, and even Charlottetown Driving Park have races worthy of the national spotlight.

While it is great to have so many elite horses in action, one has to wonder if having three races worth $50,000 or more on the same weekend for the same class of horses (older pacer) is in the best interest of anyone. But I don't want to go into a rant on scheduling because the entire column will be wasted on deaf ears. Instead, let's focus on the positive--the horses and the racing.

[DRF HARNESS LIVE: Real-time insights all weekend long]

As much as I would like to be everywhere at one time, the laws of nature simply prohibit it. That said, I've scheduled an ambitious three-track weekend. Where I go so too does DRF Harness Live and I'll be providing insights of the stakes races the entire weekend. Of course, we'll have the full staff assembled for the regularly scheduled Saturday edition of LIVE starting at 5:30 p.m. with Pocono.

The first stop on my road trip is just a short 200 miles Northwest to Vernon Downs in upstate New York. The track is not only hosting three major stakes for older warriors, but also a solid card of NY Sire Stakes races with most of the top drivers in attendance. By the way, the "top drivers" moniker includes some new blood this year as Corey Callahan and Jason Bartlett are both in the group along with perennial leading men Yannick Gingras, Brian Sears and Tim Tetrick. Callahan and Bartlett finished sixth and seventh in earnings last year and we'll see if they can hang with the hi-five all year.

Back to Vernon . . . Older trotters of both sexes and aged female pacers headline the card that features great mares like Bee A Magician and Anndrovette. But the highlight will be the $200,000 Crawford Farms. The older trotting division took some hits with Sebastian K and Father Patrick recently retiring and that seems to have paved the way for a wide open divisional fight since leader JL Cruze is not expected to compete in stakes action through the Fall.

John Cashman winner Flanagan Memory, $3.7 million earner Market Share, Elitlopp winner Magic Tonight and Breeders Crown champ Intimidate form a stellar field on a must-watch night of racing that starts at 6:45 p.m. and can be viewed here.

Friday also marks the return of Mission Brief to the track following her second-place finish in the Hambletonian. She will face-off against her peers this time, tackling Hambletonian Oaks winner Wild Honey in the Moni Maker at The Meadows.

The main course of the three day extravaganza of racing is Pocono’s Super Stakes Saturday. The 14-race card offers total purses exceeding $2.4 million and nine races worth at least $100,000. Three-year-old filly pacers battle in the wide-open $350K Valley Forge that is a spectacular field from a betting perspective. The Colonial and Battle of the Brandy, worth $500K each, will offer heavy-hitting favorites in Hambletonian winner Pinkman and the multiple stakes winning sophomore pacer Wiggle It Jiggleit.

For those keeping track of my frequent driver miles, the trip from Vernon to Pocono is 156 miles.

Those looking for north of the border racing on Saturday have two strong options. Mohawk has five races for 2-year-olds between the Nassagweya and Eternal Camnation stakes. Charlottetown, on Prince Edward Island, has its marquee event as eight older pacers vie for the Gold Cup & Saucer. Yonkers Raceway co-track record holder Crombie A is the 5-2 morning line choice.

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Just 108 miles from Pocono is Tioga Downs, which is offering up a strong card of its own on Sunday. Top older pacers Foiled Again and State Treasurer will meet up in the $150,000 Roll With Joe and two rich Empire Breeders Classic finals are also on tap.

When all is said and done for the weekend, the divisional races for year-end honors should be in sharp focus as we head to the five-eighths marker of the stakes season. That and I’ll have logged 700-plus miles of driving time. Do I hear any volunteers to be my chauffeur?

 

Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
The Gural tracks have no passing lane. You get up the rail if the leader drifts from fatigue. Tioga is a hard track to figure but it'll be wild on Sunday.
Christian Borello More than 1 year ago
I'm not looking to be a chauffeur but I'd love to make the trips. I might be at pocono downs on Saturday.