(Editor's note: This coverage was made possible through a sponsorship with the Hambletonian Society)
Race 1 – N/W $20,000 Last 5 CD | Pace | Purse: $23,000
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, 1st Half of Daily Double, Start of 20-cent Pick 6 ($50K Guarantee)
An interesting overnight to get the Hambletonian card started. Often on days and in weather conditions like Saturday afternoon, we can see many get overly giddy and make a race on paper much more competitive. So a horse like No. 4 VIRGO offers interesting value in the event the race builds into a speed show, given this gelding has improved in every start since shipping from Woodbine Mohawk Park.
Yet, in the event the front receives minimal challenge, that places the ball in favorite No. 5 BILLY CLYDE’s court, since he has been dominant on his ascent back towards stakes company. No. 7 BETTORS DONTTELL should also be forwardly placed and competitive no matter the race setup.
RACE 2 – Fillies & Mares Open | Pace | Purse: $40,000
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, 2nd Half of Daily Double, Pick 3 (2-3-4)
No. 7 KEEP ROCKIN A faces a class drop to a degree, as she was once facing the top mares in the Free For All events last year but as now just become a top-level condition mare. But do not discount her for her last few efforts at Hoosier Park because that track does not carry speed the same way as The Meadowlands.
There is a strong chance she’s even better than those lines show. No. 6 DRAMA ACT is an obvious contender given her consistent form but will be a short price. No. 4 MAJORCA N should also be primed to get involved at an okay price. We’re ultimately trying to fade the class-dropping No. 5 WATCH ME NOW N, who has been receiving some buzz given her okay efforts against stakes company, but for the price she’ll offer its much better to try elsewhere.
RACE 3 – Dr. John Steele Memorial FFA Mares | Trot | Purse: $145,000
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, Start of 20-cent Pick 5 ($75K Guarantee – 15% Takeout)
Even though she lost last week, No. 2 BELLA BELLINI is just the best. Period. She outmatches any of these mares on the right day and, going a tightening mile last week, that day will again be Saturday. No. 1 ATLANTA and No. 6 WHEN DOVESCRY are the obvious ones underneath. BELLA BELLINI is the morning-line favorite but gets my seal of approval as a multi-race single.
RACE 4 – Muscle Hill Stakes | Trot | Purse: $50,000
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, Pick 3 (4-5-6)
This race features many holdovers from the Hambletonian Trail and can get kind of wacky. Looking at a horse like No. 6 CASTLE HOUSE, he offers interesting value given his improvement from week to week on the New York Sires Stakes circuit and racing mostly on smaller tracks. He has the potential to improve coming to the bigger track and seems on a solid upward trajectory to maybe hit good form at the right time.
The most obvious way to go would be a horse like No. 3 TESTING TESTING, who receives a class drop after failing to make the Hambletonian Final. But everyone sees that. No. 2 TORRONE will add Lasix while also having some sneaky good efforts behind horses including Keg Stand, who will race later in the Hambletonian. He gets a good draw and honestly has as great a win shot as some others in here. This usually is a tough race.
RACE 5 – Peter Haughton Memorial Final | Trot | Purse: $337,000
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, Start of Survivor Pick 7 (Mandatory Payout)
These 2-year-old races always have a chance at being big balloons or chalk city. And I guess that can be said of every race, but with little form to work off particularly with this division it can be worthwhile to try and take a gamble. A horse like No. 9 CELEBRITY BAMBINO has been showing more to his ability with every week minus the elimination, where he abandoned his leave attempt and tried to come from off the speed, which does not appear to be his game. These connections will have to fire from this spot if they want a shot in the race and he certainly has the speed to get there and finish the job.
No. 1 KILMISTER looked the best of everyone from the elimination in winning but will admittedly have stronger talent to beat from his stablemate No. 8 OH WELL. But remember, a race like this offers a ton of probable value vertically, so trying to search for some unproven or quirky horses to hit the ticket can land a decent payday. From the eliminations, No. 3 WALLANDAR is the most interesting, given how many breaks he’s shown. But he managed to stay flat from a tough spot when trying to slip through a seam at the pylons. He likely has more trot to him than that elimination showed, but just has to mind his manners to possibly land on the ticket at a great price.
RACE 6 – Continentalvictory Stakes | Trot | Purse: $33,500
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, Pick 3 (6-7-8)
No. 8 LILBITALEXIS was disappointing in that Hambletonian Oaks elimination. Same time, this filly all last year and even this year has shown herself to be a stronger contender when placed closer to the race than where she’s been racing. Now that she’s in with a weaker group of fillies, its either she now shows that she’s anything or she just doesn’t belong.
No. 2 MONKEY QUEEN is a full sister to champion Gimpanzee and has admittedly shown some promise in her three starts. She’s developing and possibly belongs against better, but the progression is obvious and the talent is potentially present. We’ll respect but look for other prices.
No. 6 PALERMO HANOVER has also shown decent form against slightly better competition and can possibly work a good trip from this spot.
RACE 7 – Shady Daisy | Pace | Purse: $92,300
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, Pick 3 (7-8-9)
Sure, the argument exists that if No. 1 GOTTHEGREENLIGHT was really as good as she might be then she would’ve danced many of the big stakes dances before this. And yet, in sticking to the New York Circuit, she has been a dominant force and even lowered the Yonkers track record when racing in hand. Plus, as a 2-year-old, she glided over this track with ease and speed. She’s super unexposed and offers a ton of value so she’s the stab.
No. 6 MAX CONTRACT became the now horse showing up under similar circumstances as GOTTHEGREENLIGHT except with a much shorter resume to boot. Nonetheless, MAX CONTRACT has talent and has proven it with back-to-back stakes wins.
No. 7 BOUDOIR HANOVER also has demonstrated she sits atop of the division with her consistent speed, but is currently just knocking at the door.
RACE 8 – Cane Pace | Pace | Purse: $275,000
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, Start of 50-cent Early Pick 4 ($100k Guarantee – 15% Takeout)
He had to race from an impossible spot from a tough draw in the North America Cup, but in returning to the states No. 3 MAD MAX HANOVER has gained a groove. He snagged the runner-up spot in the Meadowlands Pace and followed that with a dominant effort to win the $61,800 Geers Stakes two weeks later. It appears he’s now the “it” horse to beat the obvious speed and talent of No. 6 BEACH GLASS.
Underneath those two, it’s a wide-open affair. No. 5 EARLY ACTION had a rough start to the campaign with a surgery forcing him to debut in the North America Cup elimination. Since then, he’s been slowly rebuilding the momentum of his promising 2-year-old season and may finally be ready to show himself as something – at least in the underneath spots for now.
RACE 9 – Lady Liberty FFA Mares | Pace | Purse: $173,000
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, Pick 3 (9-10-11)
No. 7 TEST OF FAITH is just too good. The question can be raised as to whether she’s vulnerable because she’s had a few weeks off and since she tends to race better from week to week, but considering how she can win being below 100% against this group makes it tough to evaluate that threat. Some interesting prices in this race – because there is no fun or value in just using TEST OF FAITH and then the obvious second choice in MIKALA – include No. 8 KOBE’S GIGI, who has been sneaky good in this stakes events and carries wicked speed to put her anywhere she needs to go; and No. 10 GRACE HILL, who went an uncharacteristic mile two starts ago that was perhaps her strongest performance to date despite finishing eighth. She’s always had promise and may be a great use in the verticals given her outside post likely inflating her price.
RACE 10 – Sam McKee Memorial FFA | Pace | Purse: $278,000
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, Start of 20-cent Pick 6 (15% Takeout)
He’s not a world-record pacer by any means, but No. 6 CATCH THE FIRE is as solid a Free For All Pacer as the division has. Coming off a tightening mile at Pocono where he sped in hand to a 1:47.4 victory (admittedly against weaker), he appears to slowly be regaining his footing after doing double duty in Ohio as a racehorse and as a stallion.
No. 1 ABUCKABETT HANOVER does have world-record speed on paper, but with no freakshow speedster like Bulldog Hanover to chase, its tough to tell whether he truly possesses it himself. Nonetheless, this is the best spot he’s drawn in weeks so if there’s any time for the ABUCKABETT HANOVER who has cost me many dollars to come through, its this time when I am once again kind of against him.
No. 8 WORKIN ONA MYSTERY also performs better on the bigger track and raced okay in the Joe Gerrity Memorial at Saratoga Raceway. He’s capable of good speed himself and can be involved at a decent price. I only haven’t mentioned No. 9 ROCKYROAD HANOVER because he is such an obvious horse that will also be a low price, so use your own credence as to your plan of attack here. This race can fall either in a super expected way or there will be a shock.
RACE 11 – Vincennes Invitational | Trot | Purse: $60,000
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, Pick 3 (11-12-13)
This is such a balanced race of top-condition trotters where several of the better ones draw outside in an overflow field of 12. No. 8 BALENCIAGA has always possessed talent but has never been able to get his head straight. Going an off-the-speed mile to snag a sharp second to VENERATE last week, trainer Paul Kelley likely has this guy on the right track once again. In a group like this, he should be aggressive.
No. 9 TAKE ALL COMERS has gone good mile after good mile against solid 4-year-olds but will have to overcome this tough draw. He has the speed to get in play but is likely a shorter price on the class drop.
No. 7 SCIROCCO ROB is a stalwart of the upper-condition levels on the Pennsylvania circuit and now makes a return to The Meadowlands, where he holds his lifetime mark of 1:50.3. He just still appears to be at the top of his game and can possibly get involved. This is a great race with many different viable options.
RACE 12 – Hambletonian Oaks Final | Trot | Purse: $500,000
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, Start of 50-cent Late Pick 4 ($125K Guarantee – 15% Takeout)
This kind of race can be an Ake Svanstedt special. He just made the final by a whisker with No. 7 BAPTISM after she lost a few lengths from interference in the stretch. With a horse in front of him, Svanstedt hustled the filly and she responded swiftly to land the final qualifying spot to get here. Now she’s coming into a big day, a setup which Team Svanstedt have surprised with many times, and will likely have some equipment changes. Oh, and she’s going. She will be a price and will have to be put in play if Svanstedt wants to win – any other position for her would be unrecoverable. She has to be given a good race and so we’ll take a chance with her.
No. 5 VENERABLE is obvious and was also game in holding off pretty much the whole field in her elimination. She should have more in the tank than that elim showed. No. 6 SELFIE QUEEN has the reins handed off to veteran Swedish driver Orjan Kihlstrom after getting babied by Jimmy Takter in her last few races. For a hot-headed 2-year-old, she’s holding herself together much better and could get a nice check from this spot. Oh, and No. 4 MANON is getting rerigged for this race completely. Don’t neglect her.
RACE 13 – Jim Doherty Memorial Final | Trot | Purse: $355,000
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, Pick 3 (13-14-15)
God. Oh God. I have no idea. This is the most wide-open race on the whole card. We have all these 2-year-old fillies who have not shown what they are or their ceilings. A horse like No. 7 GRACEFUL PATTY is interesting given how strongly she has finished every race, but in every race she is just placed in an awful spot. Maybe this time around she gets into the race and puts that kick to use? (6) MAMBACITA will take money despite a second-place finish in the New Jersey Sires Stakes Final. No. 5 INSTAGRAM MODEL showed talent in her baby races and finished the mile well in her elimination. She probably gets put into a better spot with this improved draw. If there was any race to just bet someone’s birthday numbers, maybe its this. A lot can happen that we might not be able to predict here. Oh, and also worth mentioning – No. 1 UNA MADONNA sold earlier this season in a private transaction for a high six-figure price. So take that for what its worth.
RACE 14 – John Cashman Memorial FFA | Trot | Purse: $279,000
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, Pick 3 (14-15-16)
We’re calling this one the CHALK SPECIAL! Wishing you were more parched? By golly, me too. Don’t worry, none of your pills will slide down your throat from this race! We’ve got No. 4 ALRAJAH ONE IT who currently outranks his stablemate and probable second choice No. 5 ECURIE D DK. Man, I already need a drink of water. I’m dying over here. Oh no. Then there’s No. 3 CUATRO DE JULIO. I feel myself shriveling. I am puckering into oblivion and there is no saving me. Tell my family I love them, and that if No. 2 AMBASSADOR HANOVER is double-digit odds again to include him in the verticals.
RACE 15 – Hambletonian No. 97 Final | Trot | Purse: $1,000,000
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, 1st Half of Late Double, 10-cent Hi-5 (15% Takeout)
Every time I look at this race, it appears to set up as a perfect showcase for No. 2 JOVIALITY S. Of course my peers disagree with how this race can set up – and perhaps they’re right. But in my eyes, with speed to the outside and REBUFF starting from the most difficult spot he could at the pylons, JOVIALITY S will likely have a target to strike at, which she has always liked contrary to her many coast-to-coast efforts.
Let’s not also forget No. 8 KING OF THE NORTH has a fierce late kick when properly utilized. He likely tries to get a more conservative steer from this spot and, given the scenario of a potential speed-melting battle, can get involved. No. 10 LOOKS LIKE MONI had nowhere to race in that elimination and has just been getting better with each start and with the Takter’s continual tinkering. This is by no means an ideal spot, but he has the ability to land a check better than some of these others.
RACE 16 – N/W $10,500 L5 CD | Pace | Purse: $15,500
Exacta, Trifecta, 10-cent Superfecta, 2nd Half of Late Double, 10-cent Hi-5 (15% Takeout)
Closing the card is perhaps a simple affair where No. 1 IMAGINARY LINE may finally land himself in the winner’s circle off three-straight runner-up finishes. He draws well and is in with a group where he likely is better. No. 10 WES DELIGHT drops in class and has put in great miles from outside posts. He should get involved and maybe even win. No. 4 WHITECOOKIE has tailed off a touch in his last two starts, but he maybe wakes up on the class drop. Or regresses further. I don’t know – I thought about having him as my top contender but I am admittedly irked by how those last two races look.
Horizontal wager suggestions
Race 1 – 20-cent Pick 6: 4,5 / 7 / 2 / 2,3,6 / 1,8,9 / 8 = $3.60
Race 3 – 20-cent Pick 5: 2 / 2,3,6 / 1,8,9 / 8 / 1 = $1.80
Race 5 – 20-cent Survivor Pick 7: 8,9 / 8 / 1 / 3 / 7 / 1,6,8,9 / 8,9 = $3.20
Race 8 – 50-cent Early Pick 4: 3 / 7 / 1,6,8,9 / 8,9 = $4.00
Race 10 – 20-cent Pick 6: 1,6,8,9 / 8,9 / 4,7 / 5,7 / 4 / 2 = $6.40
Race 12 – 50-cent Late Pick 4: 4,7 / 5,7 / 4 / 2 = $2.00
Race 12 – 50-cent Cross Country Pick 5: 4,7 / 1 / 6 / 2,4,8,10 / 2 = $4.00
For your betting reference, below are the takeout rates for individual pools at The Meadowlands:
Win-Place-Show: 17 percent
Exacta: 19 percent
Survivor Pick 7: 15 percent