08/18/2016 2:05PM

Pocono: Saturday 8/20 Analysis

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Best Bet: SPIDER MAN HANOVER (5th)

Spot Play: BROOKLYN HILL (8th)

Race 1

With a bunch of early speed signed on to this competitive opener, I originally was discounting (4) BUSHWACKER as my top selection. But who am I kidding? Speed trumps all at Pocono and this guy should be sitting no worse than second on a track where he has 11 wins since 2014. (5) PHIL YOUR BOOTS has a win and a second at a similar level here two and three starts back. (3) IDEAL COWBOY gets some much needed class relief but I’m just not in love with him as the likely chalk. (6) BETTOR’S EDGE has tons of class but needs the right trip in this field.

[DRF HARNESS LIVE: Real-time insights from the DRF Harness team this Saturday at 6:30 p.m.]

Race 2

(5) MAJOR UPTREND had excess cover from post nine and finished evenly after a three week hiatus. Five-year-old has done well here in the past and can upset (2) LUCAN HANOVER with a decent trip. The latter came up short last time but gets David Miller in the bike now and could be overbet. (6) DREAMS BEACHBOY has been third or better nine times in 10 starts at Pocono this year including four wins.

Race 3

(5) DEVIL CHILD has clearly picked up her game since removing Lasix. In what looks like a competitive race, I’m giving her the edge on her perfect 2-for-2 record over the surface for a barn that excels here. (1) SASSA HANOVER wasn’t going far from post 10 in the Lady Liberty. She is back inside where she can utilize her early speed at a price. (6) NOT BEFORE EIGHT comes into this race in fine form. If Zeron can get her in striking positive, watch out! (4) MEDUSA has big early speed and seems like a must for the tri and super.

Race 4

(8) DEEP IMPACT rallied nicely in his first start down from Canada on August 5 and seems worth a flyer in a field with plenty of question marks. (9) REIGNING MONI has blown away the competition in his last two starts with Gingras in the bike. Can he clear the lead from post nine? (3) MAVENS WAY seems to be going the wrong way lately but does take a huge drop in class.

Race 5

(5) SPIDER MAN HANOVER moved into the Ron Burke barn prior to his last start and promptly posted a lifetime best win. Western Ideal colt was always a talented 2-year-old and perhaps Burke can get the best out of him. (4) NOCTURNAL BLUECHIP gets an interesting driver change to Tetrick. (8) CRUISE PATROL has gone some big miles while in Canada and now he is back in the Takter barn.

Race 6

(6) OBRIGADO is not a horse I tend to select often, but this looks like a golden spot for him to gun to the front and take no prisoners or sit the pocket to (8) JL CRUZE and nail him late. The latter comes off a good fourth-place finish in the Cashman and should put up a big fight. (1) HONOR AND SERVE finally draws a decent post after four straight outside assignments. I wouldn’t be shocked if he stepped up tonight.

Race 7

(9) ROCKNROLL VISION showed me a little something when finishing second and third behind Blue Moon Stride a couple of months back. Filly now makes her second start for new trainer Nancy Johansson and gets Gingras back in the bike; taking a shot. (4) GRACEFUL VISION has more wins (three) at Pocono this year than the rest of the field combined. (2) SKINNY DIPPER could end up as the post time favorite, but her 2 for 23 lifetime record leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Race 8

(5) BROOKLYN HILL is the poster child for needing a change and it finally comes in the form of Callahan taking over the lines from Miller. This colt has one big run in him and I’m praying that Callahan elects to change tactics and race from off the pace. (2) BLENHEIM has displayed some hints of ability. If the four weeks off doesn’t hurt him, I give him a decent shot of being involved. (8) LAGERFELD had no shot in the Hambletonian final. He should fit nicely with this group.

Race 9

(4) SAFENSOUND HANOVER has been racing well of late and has proven versatile this year. His form with the addition of David Miller intrigues me in a field without a standout player. (1) JJ FLYNN woke up in a big way last time; again? (6) DR J HANOVER has won four straight at Yonkers and tries tougher foes now. (3) MICHAELS VICTORY has displayed the speed to beat these in the past. (8) IDEAL ROCKEY gets some serious class relief but continues to disappoint.

Race 10

(4) MEL MARA came home the final half in 53 seconds last week versus the best open pacers in the country and couldn’t make a dent in a three length deficit. Perhaps we’ll get a more aggressive drive this time around with the competition slightly weaker. (7) LUCK BE WITHYOU sports a crazy-good 11 wins in 16 starts here over the last two years. He owns this track. (3) DEALT A WINNER only needs to mind his manners to have a major say in the outcome. (6) BIT OF A LEGEND N is hard to completely toss off your tickets but may be at the mercy of the pace.

Race 11 – Valley Forge

All of the top 3-year-old pacing fillies are on hand for this edition of the Valley Forge. (6) DARLINONTHEBEACH has bounced back wonderfully since suffering AFIB when racing in the Lynch Final here back on July 2. I have to give her the edge having drawn inside of her main rivals and likely looking at a clear first shot at the lead. While (9) PURE COUNTRY has won all of the big races, but you have to downgrade her slightly starting from post nine. I’m also concerned that facing the boys and traveling as much as she has could have a negative impact. (1) CALL ME QUEEN BE should be firing away from post one and rarely misses an opportunity at hitting the board. (7) BLUE MOON STRIDE hasn’t displayed the ability to defeat the top two yet.

Race 12 - Colonial

My selections in the Colonial are more of a play against likely favorite Marion Marauder than an all out endorsement of the top two. (6) SOUTHWIND FRANK hasn’t been ‘himself’ in well over a month in my opinion, but the switch to Pocono is a plus for him as speed does well there. I’m still of the opinion that he is the best trotter in this crop. (1) DAYSON has wicked speed and seems to have his act together now with hobbles added. As long as he isn’t under 3-1, I’d take a shot with him. (2) MARION MARAUDER did everything right in the Hambletonian and was clearly the best horse that day. That said, he is in unfamiliar territory now on a five-eighths track for the first time. I can’t play him on top as the favorite. (8) BAR HOPPING couldn’t handle two heats but that isn’t an issue on Saturday. Notice that he fired off the gate in 26 3/5 here in the Beal elimination. The outside post might not be a big issue.

Race 13 – Battle of the Brandywine

(3) RACING HILL is exactly what you want from a horse. He is game, versatile and just knows what to do on the track. I’ll give the razor-sharp 3-year-old a slight edge over (1) BETTING LINE, who is riding an eight-race win streak for trainer Casie Coleman. This race should provide good clarity between the top contenders in this division. (5) CHECK SIX doesn’t seem to be fast enough to win, but he has the early speed to make noise and get into the exotics. (8) CONTROL THE MOMENT seems likely to be an underlay from the tough outside post.

Race 14

(4) K LEES SHAKENBAKE wasn’t going anywhere from post eight last time. He moves inside and should be able to charge by in the stretch. (2) ALLBEEF N NOBULL seems likely to take charge early on the mile. (1) ROLLIN RING AFIRE hasn’t been racing well but does get a nice driver change to Tetrick.

[POCONO: Watch the best 3-year-olds compete on Super Stakes Saturday--Live on DRF!]