07/05/2012 8:24AM

Pandolfo: Googoo Gaagaa, Chapter Seven two trotters to keep tabs on


With so much negative news around horse racing, it’s great to have the stakes season upon us. So far this year there has been plenty of excitement, and the two-year-olds are still coming out for their debuts.

Here are some things to look forward to:

Cross-bred 3-year-old trotting star Googoo Gaagaa has the rail for Saturday’s Yonkers Trot, which drew only 5 horses. I just wanted to mention something about this trotting machine. In his world-record performance at Pocono Downs on June 23, it appeared to my eyes that he momentarily switched into a pace down the backstretch. If you watch the replay you can see that his gait was definitely off at one point and that could pose a problem around four turns at Yonkers. He has won 11 of 12 career starts and broke in his lone loss, certainly not a sign of a horse with a breaking problem. Of course, since he drew the rail he may not even have to go that fast to win the Yonkers Trot. But if he is pushed and the pace is hot, it will be interesting to see if he has any problems maintaining his trotting gait.

Another trotting star on the scene is Chapter Seven, the four-year-old trotter trained by Linda Toscano. The trotter has always had potential and was an easy winner in the Breeders Crown last October. But his two races this year have been something to see. The best trotters in the world usually come from Europe. But occasionally a North American-bred trotter is good enough to compete on the world stage. Right now, Chapter Seven looks like he should be able to compete against those monsters overseas.

It will be interesting to see if Linda Toscano and the owners keep him racing next year. If they do, he could be invited to the 2013 Elitlopp in Sweden, Europe’s most prestigious race. Chapter Seven has raced only 20 times, so he should have plenty of good races left. From a historical perspective, winning a race like the Elitlopp puts a horse in different category. If Chapter Seven continues to flourish this year, a trip to Europe would be a logical move.

Also coming up this Saturday is the Meadowlands Pace eliminations. The two fields are solid. So far the two colts that have impressed me the most are Thinking Out Loud and Sweet Lou, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an upset. We’ll have to watch the eliminations closely. This is a well-matched group of three-year-olds.

As of this writing Hall of Fame driver Dave Palone needs only two wins to pass Hall of Famer Herve Filion and become harness racing's all-time leader in wins. Palone’s been a credit to the sport his entire career and it will be quite an accomplishment. I doubt very much that Palone ever in his wildest dreams thought that he would one day surpass the great Filion and become the sport’s all-time leading dash winner.

Palone is a hard worker who keeps himself in great shape. Palone doesn’t just rely on instincts. He studies video replays and is a good handicapper. That’s why he always seems to be in the right place. As for Herve Filion, in my opinion he is one of the top 5 most talented harness drivers I’ve ever seen. Filion was a fierce competitor. It was not unusual to see him box his main rival in, or use other race driving tactics, like taking a rival wide on the turn so he could gain an advantage. If any driver could ever be called a “master” of the craft, it would be Herve Filion.

Last week at the Meadowlands trainer Jimmy Takter, a Hall of Famer, unleashed a two-year-old trotting filly named To Dream On. This filly by Credit Winner won her debut by 11 lengths in 1:55 3/5, which was the fastest time ever recorded by a two-year-old filly trotter in her debut. She is scheduled to make her second start in the 10th race at the Meadowlands Thursday. If you haven’t seen her race, tune in, because she could be a budding superstar.

I wanted to mention something about Pocono Downs, which is a very nice place, by the way. For several years now, Pocono Downs has been a track that seems to get faster almost every year. I keep a set of par times that I use for shipper adjustments for my Diamond System handicapping method. Almost every year I have to make an adjustment for Pocono Downs. This year, longtime track superintendent Bobby Weiss retired. I’m not sure who has taken over his duties, but the track surface at Pocono this year is much faster than it was last year.

I have Colonial Downs and Lexington as the fastest tracks in the country. But for the tracks that race long meets, I think it’s safe to say that Pocono Downs is now the fastest track in the country. This is unusual, because you’d expect a two-turn track to be the fastest, not a three-turn track like Pocono. Horsemen have always loved the Pocono strip because horses go well over it and seem to stay sound. But the races are so much faster this year that I have to wonder if we don’t hear some fallout from the horsemen at some point. Is the track still one of the best for the horses? Hard to say right now, but time will tell. But for the record, when horses ship in to your home track from Pocono, keep in mind that it is at least two seconds faster than a typical five-eighths track; it is as fast, or faster, than a one-mile track.

Speaking of fast times, many of you know that I would love to see the sport go back to the conventional wood sulky. Well, right now a harness track is seriously considering running races in such sulkies. This would stop the steady stream of easy wire-to-wire winners that pay $3.20. It could rejuvenate the sport. Stay tuned. You’ll hear it first right here at drf.com/harness.

To find out more about Pandy’s handicapping theories, check out his www.trotpicks.com or www.handicappingwinners.com websites, or write to Bob Pandolfo, 3386 Creek Rd, Northampton, PA 18067.