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In the 3-Year-Old Pace, Whose Turn Will It Be?

Friday, October 28, 2011  By: Bill Finley
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TORONTO–The only thing that has been consistent about North America’s top 3-year-old pacing colts is their inconsistency.

Ten of the continent’s best will descend on Woodbine Saturday night for the $500,000 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old pacing colts & geldings and, nearly 11 months into the year, no one has any idea who is best. That, at least, should change late Saturday night.

“Everything is still up in the air,” said Ron Potter, the trainer of Little Brown Jug winner Big Bad John (Western Hanover).

“There are several nice colts in there and they’ve split things up among themselves all year. ‘John’ is as good as any colt out there, but so much is going to come down to racing luck.”

When Big Bad John won the Little Brown Jug and then the Bluegrass at the Red Mile it appeared that he was ready to take control of the division and earn a Dan Patch Award as the top 3-year-old pacing male in the U.S. But, after getting caught behind a slow pace in last week’s Breeders Crown elims on his way to a third-place finish, he looks like just one of many in the running to win Saturday night.

The three biggest events for 3-year-old pacers are the Little Brown Jug, the Meadowlands Pace and the North America Cup. Up The Credit (Western Terror) won the North America Cup but comes into the Breeders Crown on a five-race losing streak. Roll With Joe (Cam’s Card Shark) won the Meadowlands Pace but lost in both the Little Brown Jug and his Breeders Crown elimination race.

They’ll be joined in the field by Adios winner Alsace Hanover (The Panderosa), Cane Pace winner Betterthancheddar (Bettor’s Delight) and Tattersalls victor Hugadragon (Dragon Again). Then there’s Westwardho Hanover (Dragon Again), who was finishing behind the leaders of the division most of the year but stepped up last week to win an elim.

Trainer Jim Campbell will send out Fashion Delight (Bettor’s Delight), who will be a double-digit long shot. He understands he doesn’t have the most accomplished horse in the field, but with the way the year has gone with this group he knows that anything can happen.

“The reason this is happening is there are so many horses that can go fast,” Campbell said. “They can pace in ‘49' or better and if any horse is off their game just a little bit there are five or six others that will jump up. That’s what you are seeing this year. There’s a stakes race every week and going these speeds these horses can’t keep their form week in and week out.”

That’s been a problem for Alsace Hanover. He was good enough to win the Adios and finish second in the Battle of Brandywine but then lost two straight $50,000 Open races. But, because he finished second in his elimination despite a bad trip, he is the one that has caught the attention of many handicappers.

“Alsace was very good last week,” O’Sullivan said. “He had a horrendous trip considering where he came from. If he gets a little bit closer and if he’s anywhere near what he was last week he’s going to put in a really big race.”

Ed Hart, the trainer of Roll With Joe is also confident. In what will likely be the last career start for his colt before he stands at stud, Hart believes he is ready for a peak effort.

“He’s going to move forward off (his elimination race),” Hart said. “He hadn’t raced since he qualified at Yonkers, which we did to keep him tight. We had shipped him to Lexington and he got sick, so we couldn’t race him. He needed his race last week and I think it was a good start.”

The draw should also play a part, particularly for Big Bad John, who drew post nine.

“I would say the trp is going to play a huge part who wins this,” O’Sullivan said. “A lot will depend on what they do off the gate, who leaves, how fast they go.”

Hugadragon will likely go to the front from post three and his stablemate, Westwardho Hanover may also be an early factor. A fast pace will help horses like Alsace Hanover, Betterthancheddar, Roll With Joe and Big Bad John.

That’s the group of top contenders, and Up The Credit could always wake up. Then there’s 30-1 shot Odysseus Blue Chip (Cam’s Card Shark). He’s just 4 for 16 this year and hasn’t won anything all that important. Could it be his night? With this bunch, nothing is impossible.


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