11/19/2014 9:48PM

Pandolfo: Resilient Crown contenders loving the Meadowlands


With the Breeders Crown being raced later in the season this year, the temperatures will be cooler than they were the past few years. That could be a good thing. The cooler the temperature, the slower the races. Slower final times help keep the races fair because it gives the closers a better chance of catching up. The weather forecast is calling for temperatures in the mid to high 20's for Friday night, and about ten degrees warmer for Saturday, with 5 to 10 mph winds.

Last week was opening week of the Meadowlands fall meet, and I thought the track was tiring and favored closers, although it was not a severe bias. Four horses went wire to wire over the two nights of racing. It was perfect, really, because that's exactly the type of conditions you want at the Meadowlands.

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In a way, the Meadowlands is a throwback to the glory days of harness racing. It's a track that's not kind to cheap speed. Class rules! Handicappers often use the word "speed" when talking about a horse that has the ability to leave quickly. "That horse has good speed." Well, if your definition of speed is "early speed," that's not enough to win at the Big M, especially on colder nights.  A sharp horse with good early speed can beat classier horses on some of the half and five eighth tracks simply by using the speed and post position bias to its advantage.

But at the Meadowlands, stamina is just as important as speed. Races are won by horses that tend to have something left for the stretch run. At many harness tracks, grinders, horses that tend to plug away on the outside, are at a disadvantage. But at the Meadowlands, grinders only have to negotiate two turns, and the more tiring surface and longer stretch works to their advantage.

In last week's eliminations, we saw some good matchups between speed and stamina type horses. In the 2yo colts and geldings elimination, speedy In The Arsenal was 3/5 from post 10. He jetted to the lead in :26 3/5, set the pace, weakened and finished third, beaten by Traceur Hanover. What a difference a track makes. The week before, In the Arsenal was an easy wire to wire winner at Dover Downs, while Traceur Hanover showed nothing from off the pace. But at the Meadowlands, Traceur Hanover was able to gradually make his way up on the outside, racing without cover. He put away In the Arsenal, and then held off the pocket horse, Lyons Levi Lewis, for a game 22-1 upset win.

It looks like Traceur Hanover likes this track, and that's important at the Meadowlands. Some of the best horses in the sport, including a few that will be racing this weekend, have had a difficult time winning over this track. Consequently, any horse that likes the surface can use that to its advantage.

Another game grinding effort last week was the win by 3yo filly Color's A Virgin, who was supplemented to the Breeders Crown for $62,500. We all have our favorite horses and this filly is one of mine. Her trainer Brian Brown is based in Ohio, but Color's A Virgin has raced mostly at Hoosier Park in Indiana. She had a good year in Sires Stakes action there last year, winning 5 of 9 starts.

This year Color's A Virgin once again did very well at Hoosier, a two turn track that fits her stamina style. But it was the Jugette victory at the Delaware County Fairgrounds that first caught my eye. In her elimination, she went first over and drew clear in the stretch. In the final, she drew the rail. Normally when you get post 1 at the speed favoring Delaware oval, you blast out of the gate. But that's not her style. She was 5th early, followed cover and drew clear in the stretch. Not that many horses make winning from off the pace look so easy at that speed favoring half mile track.

After winning the Jugette, Color's A Virgin continued to win at Hoosier Park. But if I needed any convincing of just how good of a grinder this filly was, I saw it on October 31. It was a big night of racing at Hoosier but the elements were rough. It was cold, snowy, and very windy. In The Nadia Lobell stakes, Color's A Virgin went first over into a strong backstretch headwind, powered to the lead and drew off easily. This filly acted like the wind didn't matter, but it does. After that performance, I immediately knew that I'd be backing her in the Breeders Crown.

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In her elimination at the Meadowlands last week, Color's A Virgin ranged up gradually on a long first over trip, and then drew clear handily in the stretch. Color's A Virgin has that one-paced, almost mechanical stride that typifies a grinder. She never really looks like she's going that fast, but she never slows down. And that's how grinders win. Speed horses are slowing down in the stretch, game grinders just keep on chugging. Color's A Virgin has the class to win at the Meadowlands.

To find out more about Pandy’s handicapping theories check out his www.trotpicks.com or www.handicappingwinners.com websites, his free picks at handicapping.ustrotting.com/pandycapping.cfm or write to Bob Pandolfo, 3386 Creek Road, Northampton, PA 18067.