06/07/2012 2:55PM

Tioga Downs: Drop The Ball gets season rolling in Artiscape

Lisa Photo
Drop The Ball earned over $500,000 at 3 last year.

Perhaps the prerequisite for acceptance as an upper-echelon Standardbred is speed. It is hard to beat the best horses in North America without being fast.

On Sunday at Tioga Downs, Drop The Ball, perhaps one of the quicker older pacing females in training, will face nine others in the $184,000 Artiscape.

Drop The Ball was a highly regarded sophomore filly in 2011. She made over $528,000 and even made an appearance in the Meadowlands Pace against the boys. This year she faces the tough task of tackling the best pacing females in North America while only a 4-year-old.

“In hindsight, if I would have known a couple of her quirks, she could have been more competitive in the (Meadowlands) Pace,” said trainer Ross Croghan, who feels he finally has the mare figured out. “The puzzle was different with her. When she trained at home there were never any signs of problems, but at the track she would get pissy behind the gate and start kicking. She wasn’t that turn-key type.”

With another year of maturity and Croghan on top of her issues, Drop The Ball could be primed for some exceptional efforts.

“She has the talent to do amazing things on the right day,” said Croghan, who has mapped out a 12-race campaign from June through October for Drop The Ball. “She won’t have a perfect season, but she’ll have her days when things set up for her.”

Drop The Ball qualified back well within herself at the Meadowlands and finished a strong uncovered second in her 2012 debut at the same East Rutherford oval. While the performances were good, she was far from at the level it takes to beat the best in her division.

“We haven’t wound her up or stretched her out yet,” said Croghan. “She won’t take long; she’s all racehorse.”

Drop The Ball (post 5) will certainly need to be on the top of her game if she is going to handle the likes of reigning Pacing Mare of the Year Anndrovette (post 9), 2010 Mare of the Year Dreamfair Eternal (post 1), and fellow 4-year-olds Krispy Apple (post 2, coupled with Anndrovette) and Rocklamation (post 7).
That lineup does not even take into account Put On A Show, who won 3-year-old filly Pacer of the Year honors in 2010. After a missing the entire 2011 season, the two-time millionaire has come back strong in 2012 with four wins in eight starts.

Plus the situation at Tioga may not be up Drop The Ball’s alley.

“She’s sharp enough to win, but with up to 10 horses in the race over a speed-favoring surface, it is not her ideal situation,” said Croghan, who did admit that if Drop The Ball could work out a second-over trip she would be very tough.

The Artiscape headlines a stellar 12-race card that also features the $182,000 Bettor’s Delight, an open event for pacers. Foiled Again (post 7) and three of his coupled Ron Burke stablemates loom as the chalk despite facing a stacked field including: Razzle Dazzle (post 1); Rockincam (post 2); Bettor Sweet (post 5); Real Nice (post 9); Bettor Sweet (post 10).

Post time for the June 10 card is 1:30 p.m.