04/25/2014 7:23AM

Giwner: Weekend Thoughts

Derick Giwner
Yonkers Raceway is the place to be this Saturday as Foiled Again goes for his third Levy win.

This is an exciting weekend. Stakes season officially kicks off with the Courageous Lady at Northfield Park on Friday and of course the George Morton Levy Memorial and Blue Chip Matchmaker finals at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday.

Whichever races interest you most, we have you covered. You can watch the entire Northfield card and view my Courageous Lady video analysis on our event page. For the Yonkers card on Saturday, we are launching DRF Live. What does that mean? In a nutshell, I’ll be on-track watching warm-ups and visiting the paddock to bring those handicapping the card some insight. I’ll even try to post some candid shots of Foiled Again as he seeks his third Levy title. Starting at 7pm you can follow along on this page.

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Across the river, while I admit that the preliminary rounds of the Legends versus Phenoms driver challenge hardly excited me, I have to commend the Meadowlands for putting together the perfect finale to the series. On Saturday, 10 drivers will compete for a top prize of $15,000 in a quintet of 10-horse $9,000 purse C-2 “mini-series” races where only the top two horses will be eligible to race the following week for a purse of $25,000. In effect, the track was able to put together the perfect races. There will be no “conservative” drives and waiting for next week. There are no agendas. Every horse needs to win (or finish second) and every driver has 15,000 reasons to be aggressive at every opportunity. Good stuff!

The Meadowlands also announced that its marquee event, the Meadowlands Pace, will likely offer a $750,000 purse. I have to say that it is great to see the Pace well subscribed and back at the top of the heap of 3-year-old pacing races.

This weekend marks the start of the 2014 HANA Harness Grand Circuit ‘Shoot-Out’ Handicapping Contest. Fifteen handicappers will be giving their best selections in Grand Circuit stakes races from Saturday through mid-December with the top three winning money to be donated to the Standardbred Rescue operation of their choice. I have joined the fray this year and plan to work hard to earn the top prize for New Vocations, You can follow along with the contest and see all the “expert” selections here.

With all the buzz in the harness world about the USTA’s decision not to put up $75,000 to help place the Meadowlands Pace and Little Brown Jug on national TV (CBS Sports Network), owner-trainer Jack Darling took matters into his own hands. He started a grassroots effort via a blog post on Standardbred Canada’s website to raise the needed money. In fewer than 24 hours, between horsemen, farms, owners, etc., the amount raised stood at just under $20,000. So for those that think the industry doesn’t care, think again.  

Finally, you’ll want to follow me on Twitter on Saturday morning as some of the stars of today and tomorrow will be qualifying. Top Hambletonian prospect Father Patrick and 2012 Swedish Horse of the Year Sebastian K are just a couple of the many expected to be stepping on the East Rutherford track.

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