10/07/2013 11:16AM

Jay Bergman: Breeders Crown championships should provide great moments

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Derick Giwner
Golden Receiver got back on track in the slop at The Red Mile and hopes to carry that streak to Pocono Downs.

Though two fantastic weeks of Grand Circuit racing at the Red Mile under ideal conditions came to a conclusion on Sunday before the deluge, handicappers should take note entering this week’s Breeders Crown eliminations at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

While both track surfaces have a touch of red, the similarities end there. What the Red Mile did for a host of horses was help to forgive the pain of contact on a racing surface. So many trotters and even some pacers performed at their highest levels at the Red Mile. Many horses went even faster in Lexington than they had in Wilkes-Barre over the year, a fact that had to confound the conspiracy theorists.

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If Sunday’s rain did one thing positive for handicappers, it changed what past performances will look like when faced with Crown eliminations this Saturday.

It hardly seems an accident that the two oldest combatants in Sunday’s Allerage Farm Open Trot and Pace miles were victorious at The Red Mile. While soundness plays a major role in any horse lasting to the age of nine, during these demanding times, you have to believe that the determination both Arch Madness and Golden Receiver displayed while under pressure in the homestretch, had something to do with a racing surface that’s kind on the feet.

Those two warhorses are likely to find a different set of circumstances when they compete in Pennsylvania either this Saturday (10/12) or next.

It’s been argued by some that the mile track presents the “fairest” locale for championship races. The belief that “all” horses have an equal chance because of the length of both front stretch and backstretch remains a myth of the highest proportion. While it may be true that horses can go at maximum speed for a longer distance without hitting a turn on the mile track, the five-eighths mile surface still offers enough straights and wide enough turns to make the racing play fair.

The Red Mile did play towards closers during its two-week meet. Though Mohegan Sun at Pocono is speed favoring, the quality of the competition is likely to lead to races being hotly contested and horses coming from at least mid-pack having legitimate chances to close.

If Lexington action proved one thing to those who believe our best horses are four-years old and above, it’s that the stress and strain of so many fast miles takes a toll. Golden Receiver, a dominant horse throughout the winter and early spring, had lost his way in this division during the summer. The eight-year-old son of Village Jove had not won a competitive race since early May before his victory nearly five months later at the Red Mile on Sunday. Golden Receiver would have been the favorite on Sunday had the race been held at the Meadowlands and in April. Instead he went postward at nearly 13-1.

Because Golden Receiver’s driver, Corey Callahan, was able to get the lead in :28 1/5 over the rain-soaked surface, it left the two “hot horses”, primarily A Rocknroll Dance and Pet Rock, far off the action with drivers likely unaware whether it was going to be a 1:50 or a 1:52 mile they were involved in. Callahan’s charge was able to pace consecutive quarters of :27 2/5, :27 1/5 and :27 1/5 to pull off the upset. At the same time, A Rocknroll Dance hardly seemed comfortable on the surface and Pet Rock lost any chance while getting backed up behind that ones cover on the final turn.

In the Breeders Crown eliminations and final, we’re likely to see things play out much differently. Pet Rock, A Rocknroll Dance and the inconsistent Bolt The Duer have all proven themselves on the five-eighths mile tracks during their solid racing careers. Bolt The Duer may be the quickest horse in the group from the gate on the smaller surfaces since Golden Receiver is the confirmed quickest on the mile track. Pet Rock and A Rocknroll Dance have both proven to be as versatile as they come winning races from behind and on the front end. It would be wise of all not to forget another veteran performer that didn’t make the trip to Kentucky but will likely show in Pennsylvania. Foiled Again tuned up for his Crown appearance with an easy victory in the Kane at Batavia this past Saturday in 1:52. Trainer Ron Burke should have an arsenal in this division, with his sharpest horse appearing to be Clear Vision at the juncture.

The Breeders Crown Open trot has turned into a real horse race following the results in Kentucky. This year alone four of the likely entries for this division have won over the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs surface in 1:51 2/5 or better. Wishing Stone (1:51 2/5), Sevruga (1:50 3/5), Guccio (1:51 1/5) and Uncle Peter (1:50 3/5) have taken to the surface in a major way. Even Arch Madness took a liking to the surface. He cut the entire mile leading to Uncle Peter’s track and world record clocking.

Perhaps only Market Share will need the benefit of an inside draw and some racing luck to take home his first Breeders Crown.

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Then of course, we don’t know what to make of those racing North of the Border. San Pail will make only the second start of the year tonight (October 7) at Mohawk. And last year’s three-year-old Breeders Crown winner Intimidate looked every bit the killer when he captured the Credit Winner in 1:51 at Vernon Downs in early September. The four-year-old was scratched from a race at Mohawk last Monday.

There will be 12 Breeders Crown championship races contested on October 19. A dozen championships during a likely six-hour program (first post is 5:00 p.m.) may not give enough time to enjoy what are sure to be some great moments and great races. There will be solid events for two-year-olds. There will be some major challenges for three-year-olds, with Captaintreacherous looking to accomplish what he didn’t as a two-year-old. For my money, the Open Crown events should receive top billing.