Saturday Harness Preview for 5/24/2014
by Ted Black
In the two weekends between the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, while many thoroughbred racing fans eagerly await California Chrome's pursuit of becoming the sport's 12th Triple Crown winner, harness racing fans will be following the action closely tonight and next Saturday as Yonkers offers one of the sport's first major stakes.
In the first of two eliminations for next Saturday's $375,000 Art Rooney Stakes for three-year-old colt pacers, last year's two-year-old colt champion He's Watching, a dominant force in the New York Sire Stakes who won all eight of his starts, will make his sophomore debut from post two with Jim Morrill, Jr. in the bike for trainer David Menary.
He's Watching arrives off a pair of very good qualifiers and will be the one to beat this evening and again in next week's final. Looking to unseat the champ are several pacers with good debut efforts already underneath them, including Unlocked, Gold Rocks and Stevensville, who arrives off a 1:50.2 score at Pocono Downs.
Several races later in the second Art Rooney elim, most of the focus will be on Maxi Bon, who was second against PASS foes last weekend but had tallied in 1:49.4 at The Meadowlands two starts back for trainer Tony Alagna. Maxi Bon looks certain to earn a spot in the final, but from post five in a field of that size and on a half-mile track he is by no means a cinch to win this elim.
In fact, a case could made for an upset for all four of his rivals. Ideal Fashion won his seasonal debut in 1:52.3 and has the rail this evening for trainer Jim Campbell. Some Playa has a 1-1-1 slate and $20,000 bankroll for trainer Jennifer Sabot. All Bets Off sports a seasonal mark of 1:51.2 from two outings for trainer Ron Burke and Thereisaspaceforus has finished second in both of his sophomore starts for trainer Jimmy Takter.
There are also two eliminations for the $175,000 Lismore for three-year-old pacing fillies this evening at Yonkers.
A field of five fillies will go postward in this first elimination and the race appears far more watchable than playable. It Was Fascination makes her seasonal debut from the rail, while Bettor Business, Southwind Silence and Palm Beach have combined for one third-place finish in six winless starts between them. A Little Starstruk owns the only win in the group, a 1:55.3 score.
Two races later in the sixth, the second Lismore elim, all eyes will clearly be focused on Also Encouraging, who has won both of her starts this year for trainer Casie Coleman and drew the rail for this event. She will likely be the 1-5 favorite this evening and looms as the potential 3-5 favorite next week, assuming she does not draw post eight.
Her four rivals appear overmatched right now, lacking a win among them. Tyra, JK Molly and Gentleman's Delight are all winless from two starts each, while Rusty's Bliss owns a second-place finish from four starts this year. All four will be looking to follow the leader throughout and all but one of them will earn a spot in next week's lucrative final.
In addition to the two sets of stakes elims, there are also several overnight races at Yonkers that bear watching.
In the seventh, the $38,000 Open Handicap, expect Levy regular Easy Again to go postward as the odds-on favorite despite his outside post assignment and look for Meadowlands invader Rockin Amadeus to draw considerable support as well while starting alongside him. But both appear vulnerable and worth playing against.
Sapphire City not only exits the Levy series he also has an affinity for the oval and shares the all-age track record and also drew the rail this evening. He will ensure a lively tempo up front, which could open the door for Glass Prince to post a 10-1 upset. This Maryland-bred gelding has displayed signs of brilliance over the New York half-mile oval this spring and this could be the prime spot for him to topple Open rivals.
That same evening at Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland, the abundance of overnight races on the card might not offer a stakes horse just yet, but there could be one in the near future. The latter races should be well worth the wait.
In the ninth, a non-winners of three races lifetime event for pacers, look for Above The Storm and Rice Crisp Breeze to settle the issue in the lane. Above The Storm has enjoyed a decent start to his sophomore campaign for owner Lloyd Gilmour, a former driver on the circuit and brother to the late, great William "Buddy" Gilmour of On The Road Again fame. Rice Crisp Breeze has won twice in 11 starts this year for owner-trainer Judy Welty.
Several races later in the 11th, look for Save The Date to continue his winning ways for trainer Eli Scott, Jr. In each of his last three starts, Save The Date has looked superb, lowering his lifetime mark to 1:54.3. He will soon be returning to Harrington Raceway in Delaware to try the next round of Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund elims for sophomore pacing colts with the hopes of earning a spot in the $100,000 DSBF final on Governor's Day, July 24.
Then in the finale, look for Sweet Jon to garner his first win in seven starts this year for trainer-driver David Hill, III, although the durable and classy Three of Spades will be looking to overhaul that one late. Both horses are accustomed to facing much, much tougher at Dover Downs and both should be well clear of their rivals when they cross the finish line in the Rosecroft finale tonight.