By Jay Bergman for Breeders Crown
Each year the battle for the Breeders Crown is waged with divisional honors hanging in the balance. Rarely, if ever, has there been a field assembled with as many as five different horses who could catapult to the top of the division with a Crown triumph. Such is the case this year as legitimate contenders and major race winners in the signature three-year-old sophomore pacing division vie for the Dan Patch title.
North America Cup winner Up The Credit should like the home cooking. Meadowlands Pace and Battle of Brandywine winner Roll With Joe tries to seal it. Hoosier Cup winner *** The Dragon will try to rebound from some late season woes. Then there is the lightly staked Alsace Hanover, an impressive winner in the Adios and a recent Red Mile winner to contend with. And letís not leave off Big Bad John. His signature Little Brown Jug victory has to put him high on the list of those who could swipe the year-end hardware with a major effort on October 29. Nor should Casie Colemanís appropriately named Betterthancheddar be counted out. He was an also ran until his explosive effort in the twice-moved Cane Pace at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.
Those may be the top six contenders but they won't be able to make it to the $600,000 final without first stopping at Woodbine this Saturday night and earning a berth in two elimination races. At stake is not just a slot in the final, but each elimination winner earns the right to select a quality post position in the final that has so much riding on it.
The beauty of this sophomore pacing season has been that it truly belongs to no one and despite enough major events the door is wide-open for a candidate to secure the division in the yearís final major test.
Driver Ron Pierce is in the midst of maybe his greatest season ever and had to make a choice earlier in the year between Roll With Joe and Alsace Hanover. He confided that he only made the call to Roll With Joe because he has a future stallion career while gelding Alsace Hanover must earn his keep on the racetrack.
Roll With Joe was brilliant in the Meadowlands Pace and extremely game in the Battle of Brandywine. Yet he was on even terms with Big Bad John in the Jug and couldn't get by the Ohio-trained colt. His disappointing effort in the Cane can be attributed to tough post and a brutal trip.
For Up The Credit, who peaked early to win the yearís richest event, the $1.5 million North America Cup at Mohawk, a return to Woodbine could be just what the doctor ordered. The son of Western Terror has a wicked kick and a month ago showed that he could still fly with a 1:49.1 mile in the Simcoe at Mohawk.
For Big Bad John much had been expected and with 10 wins in 13 starts his record is impressive. Until his victory in the Jug though, Big Bad John did not have a signature win. Yet there clearly isn't a hotter three-year-old pacing colt in North America as the group heads to the big dance. Big Bad John has won four straight heading into Saturdayís elimination. Perhaps the biggest blemish on a stellar card was Big Bad Johnís fifth place finish as the favorite in the North America Cup at Mohawk in June after a scintillating elimination win. Big Bad John needs to do in October in Ontario what he couldn't in June.
Alsace Hanover seemed more destined for non-winnerís company than any date with Breeders Crown destiny when he first qualified at the Meadowlands this past March. In three races (2 qualifiers) The Panderosa-sired gelding lost by a combined 59 lengths!
The colt showed rapid improvement and by late June he was a solid second in the Hoosier Cup, and a month later posted back-to-back 1:48.4 and 1:48.3 miles winning both Adios elimination and final at The Meadows. The colt was at his best in the August Battle of the Brandywine but came up a nose short to Roll With Joe in one of the better stretch battles of the year. Known for his exceptional closing kick, Alsace Hanover prepped for the Crown with a victory in a division of the Tattersalls barely holding on while racing on the front end.
There may not be a faster horse in this division than *** The Dragon when heís on his A-game. Unfortunately the Hoosier Cup champ, who also captured eliminations of the Adios and Meadowlands Pace, has had a rough go in the late season. Trainer George Teague has done a masterful training job with this progeny of Dragon Again and his young son Montrell has enjoyed some memorable miles in the bike. A big qualifier at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs last week could mean heís ready to rebound.
Certainly it would be foolish to rule out Betterthancheddar. Trainer Casie Coleman has emerged with an extraordinary array of stakes pacing talent over the last few years. When the Bettorís Delight colt paced a back half in :53 flat in a sub 1:50 mile in just his third career start in late May the sky was the limit. But when the colt didnít qualify for the North America Cup final and finished last in the Meadowlands Pace it was time to retool. When Betterthancheddar showed up in the Cane on September 10 driver Yannick Gingras followed Colemanís instructions and drove him like he was ďthe best.Ē Indeed that proved to be the case when he scored a career best 1:49.2 mile in the Triple Crown event. The colt freshened with an impressive tune-up last week over a Woodbine oval which has yielded deceptively slow times since re-opening a few weeks ago.
The three-year-olds will go in two $25,000 (U.S.) divisions as races 10 and 11 on Saturdayís stellar Woodbine program. Post positions for the final will be draw at the Breeders Crown press conference at WEGZ stadium Club on Tues. Oct. 25.
BREEDERS CROWN - ELIMINATION - 3 YEAR OLD COLTS & GELDINGS
Post time: 10:38 P.M.
1. Rollwithitharry-M. Johansson-J. Takter
2. *** The Dragon-M. Teague-G. Teague. Jr.
3. Westwardho Hanover-D. Palone-R. Burke
4. Mystician-J. Jamieson-J. Gillis
5. Powerful Mist-J. Campbell-M. Givens
6. Odysseus Bluechip-M. Baillargeon-B. Baillargeon
7. Alsace Hanover-S. Zeron-T. O'Sullivan
8. Roll With Joe-R. Pierce-E. Hart
11 -- Pace, purse $25,000
BREEDERS CROWN - ELIMINATION - 3 YEAR OLD COLTS & GELDINGS
Post time: 10:58 P.M.
1. Prodigal Seelster-S. Zeron-D. Menary
2. Up The Credit-J. Jamieson-C. Jamieson
3. Hugadragon-Y. Gingras-R. Burke
4. Wink N Atcha-M. Teague-G. Teague, Jr.
5. Betterthancheddar-G. Brennan-C. Coleman
6. Fashion Delight-T. Tetrick-J. Campbell
7. Big Bad John-D. Miller-R. Potter
8. Fantaddy-S. Zeron-T. O'Sullivan