Final harness racing poll to be announced on Tuesday

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Ted Black

December 4th, 2017

After six months of voting and tabulating votes, this Tuesday will mark the final Hambletonian Society/United Trotting Association Top 10 poll and while the results will not directly impact the voting for divisional honors and horse of the year, they will undoubtedly shed some light on how close several of the voting results will be this winter.

In the previous poll unveiled last Tuesday by the USTA, Hannelore Hanover, the unquestioned champion aged trotting mare for 2017, and Ariana G, undoubtedly the champion three-year-old trotting filly, each received 14 first-place votes among the 35 cast and were separated by only five points with the aged mare slightly ahead. Just behind them was Manchego, the obvious two-year-old filly trotting champion and Downbytheseaside, the likely champion three-year-old colt pacer and pacer of the year.

But of that quartet only Downbytheseaside raced last week and he delivered an emphatic performance to capture the $300,000 Hap Hansen Progress Pace in 1:48.3 over stablemate Fear The Dragon, who at one time had been the top horse in the poll. That performance likely swayed the 35 voters in the poll into leaving Downbytheseaside well clear of Fear The Dragon and another 125 voters who partake in the horse of the year voting to do the same.

Nevertheless, the chase for trotter of the year and horse of the year is going to be very, very close. While Hannelore Hanover, Ariana G and Manchego will all cruise to divisional titles, only one of them can be named trotter of the year. Downbytheseaside should get three-fourths of the votes for champion three-year-old colt pacer and he looms the favorite to garner pacer of the year although some might side with freshman filly pacer Youaremycandygirl or perhaps an aged pacer such as Keystone Velocity or Mach It So.

So, if 150 votes are cast, look for either Hannelore Hanover or Ariana G to emerge as the trotter of the year with 70 each. Machego had an excellent campaign, but two-year-old filly trotters rarely overtake their rivals, especially accomplished ones such as Hannelore Hanover and Ariana G. Then look for Downbytheseaside to get 75-80 votes for pacer of the year, so the most likely scenario for the horse of the year voting will be that the eventual winner will take home the title by plurality vote and certainly without a majority.

In fact, it seems impossible to line the voting for harness horse of the year any other way than by making Hannelore Hanover, Ariana G and Downbytheseaside anywhere from 8-5 to 2-1. My gut feeling is that Ariana G will eventually prevail, but not by more than a handful of votes. So, if given the chance I would line her at 8-5, Downbytheseaside at 9-5 and Hannelore Hanover at 2-1 and then all others in a field vote at 3-1. Some years voting is close, but typically a match race. This year will be a three-horse chase to the final ballot tabulation.