What a card of racing Woodbine has lined up tomorrow night! In race 2, you get to see the North American Horse Of The Year, San Pail, attempt to stretch his winning skein to 10 in the Glory’s Comet Trotting Series Final. “The Great One” has returned to the racing wars sharper than ever, reeling off two identical 152.1 miles in facile preliminary leg victories and figures to return to a giant throng of “Pail Posse” fanatics in the winner’s circle yet again.
This year’s edition of the Spring Pacing Championship goes as race 8 and is loaded with speed and talent. The $50,000 Youthful Final is also lined up to go in race 10 with the ingeniously-named “Piston Broke” (a horse that I gave out several weeks ago as a “horse to watch” on the Pass The Buck Talkin’ Horses radio show) trying to run his current winning streak to 4. In the $42,000 Fillies and Mares Open (race 11) British sensation Laneside Lexus attempts to avenge her first North American defeat. She was caught late in the mile last week in the same class in which she came into the race off a 22-day break. The inactivity may have left her a bit short in that mile. The $38.000 preferred (race 9) looks like a great betting race with a competitive field. I look for stone closer “Leafs and Wings” to come flying late and get a big piece of that pot at likely 15/1 or better. He has been in very good form lately and shown rapid improvement the past few weeks.
Back to the Spring Pacing Championship, though, where I attempt to flesh us out an upset winner. Double preliminary leg winner Golden Receiver, a winner of 7 of 8 so far in 2012 (including a 148.0 mile that is THE fastest January mile in history!) figures to take the bulk of the wagering support. What he doesn’t figure to get, however, is the easy pace trips that he enjoyed in the 1st two legs. In each of those two races, reinsman Randy Waples pointed Golden Receiver right to the top in quick opening quarters then slammed on the brakes and stole middle half (the half mile raced from the 1st quarter to the third ¼) breathers of 58.4 and 59.0. When a horse of his quality can get that kind of a major breather, he’s virtually unbeatable. The question we need to ask as handicappers is always “Will he get the same trip tonight”? The answer in this case is that he can get the same type of easy trip, but, with $125K on the line and other early speed lining up against him that he hasn’t faced yet in the series, it’s quite possible, likely even, that Golden Receiver will face stern challenges in the middle half of the race tomorrow night. He may even get caught up in a bit of a 1st ¼ speed duel for the lead as Sparky Mark from the 9-hole and Aracache Hanover from post 6 are notorious “quick leavers” that also produce their very best results by controlling the pace. The favorite also has last year’s early season sensation St. Elmo Hero to worry about, as Elmo is a horse who likes to either control the pace or make an early “first-over” move to challenge.
Golden Receiver has been one of the very best pacers in North America this year and has shown that he can both leave quickly and finish his miles fast which is the mark of a very, very good horse. He is a deserving favorite in this race. Last time I checked, though, this is a horse race, and no horse is unbeatable. I have a pretty strong feeling that the dynamics of this race, which with so much other “early speed” signed up (and drivers likely changing tactics to mount earlier challenges In this race) will conspire against Golden Receiver and soften him up just enough to produce an upset. “Who then…..WHO Driveon???” you’re all likely yelling at your computer screens by now.
Classic RockNRoll, although he didn’t get near the winner, I found to be very impressive in Golden Receiver's 2nd leg win. When leader GR stole an extremely slow 30.4 2nd ¼ in this race and Classic RNR found himself situated 8 ½ lengths back at that point, he could have been forgiven for an off-the-board finish when the pace inevitably picked up noticeably in the 2nd ½ of the mile. Classic RockNRoll, however, kept coming, finally making it up to 3rd thanks to a 26.1 kicker and a 53.3 back half. He threw down an identical back half the week before when also finishing 3rd to Golden Receiver and came home in a wildly fast 25.2 that night! So you ask: He lost to the favorite twice already - it’s obvious he can’t beat him, isn’t it? Well, no. It’s obvious that he can’t beat him when Golden Receiver gets things all his own way unchallenged in the 1st ¾ of the race and I just don’t foresee the Final playing out that way. Expect more aggressive steers and early challenges - $125K in April isn’t chump change. While Classic RockNRoll is no lock by any means, it’s obvious that he’s currently in prime physical condition and is certainly worth a bet if he’s anywhere near his 12/1 morning line. Beating this game is all about finding “value” and I believe there’s plenty of value offered here. All in all this is the best card of racing Woodbine has thrown together so far this year with plenty of decent wagering opportunities. One thing I can’t forget is my $20 for my winner’s circle picture with The Great One. I have a feeling I’m going to build quite a collection of those pictures this year! (Save me a good spot, Susan Hughes!)