Breeders Crown to provide clarity in freshman and sophomore divisions
by Brett Sturman
It’s not often argued that the Breeders Crown can influence divisional considerations for each and every 2 and 3 year division, but that is the case this year. Even for horses that have stayed comfortably at the top of their divisions for most of the year and will direct their own destiny in the Breeders Crown eliminations, things can change quickly over the next two weeks.
2 YEAR OLD MALE PACER
The two most successful in this division so far are Stockade Seelster and Save America, and both moved to 10 in their respective eliminations. Stockade Seelster bounced back from his only Anomaly loss in his Metro elimination, beating Save America by a pocket in the Metro Finals -Trip. He has yet to leave Canada and looking at his remaining schedule won’t. Both an O’Brien and Dan Patch award hang in the balance.
Save America is showing two tough straight losses in entering the Breeders Crown, but before that they stormed through signature events north of the border including the Nassagaweya, Champlain and a Metro elimination. You would have to consider that if either he or Stockade Seelster won the crown, they would be in the driver’s seat for the year-end honors.
Combustion recently burst onto the scene with a 1:49.3 win in Lexington in his International Stallion Stakes division. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it going for Pelling. Both he and Save America are post-Breeders Crown nominees for appearances including the Governor’s Cup and Matron. Like Combustion, Confederate goes on a super-fast mile in Lexington. Tip Top Cat guarantees a note as a recent big money purchase; makes the first start for Burke. Mamba makes his first start in his Crown elimination following his excitement over Save America.
2 YEAR OLD FEMALE PACEMAKERS
With Twin B Joe Fresh (1:48.4) shut down for the season after another outstanding win at the International Stallion Stakes, Sylvia Hanover could control her own destiny in the Breeders Crown. Sylvia Hanover enters the Breeders Crown with a 6-for-7 record, including wins in her last five, most recently winning elimination and the She’s A Great Lady final. She currently sits a few notches below Twin B Joe Fresh in the latest Hambletonian/Breeders Crown top 10 poll, but that could change with a Breeders Crown win.
Strong Poison has a 1:49.3 mark back from a KY Championship Series race five ago, and all of her recent second places have come only from Twin B Joe Fresh. She seems poised to give Sylvia Hanover a chance and is also involved with the Three Diamonds to wrap up the year should additional consideration be needed later. Charleston have an impressive 7-5-2-0 record and will have another shot at Sylvia.
2 YEAR OLD MALE TROTTER
Oh Well was extremely impressive in winning the Mohawk Million and after an impressive summer in the Meadowlands is looking to turn that into back-to-back wins in Canada. A Breeders Crown win would further cement his top-flight status. Kilmister opted for a bye to the final after winning the Peter Haughton earlier this season and a win would also put him in contention for the division’s top spot. Wellwood winner Winners Bet also rates a shot; and this trio of horses are all eligible for the Valley Victory in November if there are any outstanding issues.
2 YEAR OLD FEMALE TROPPERS
Righteous Resolve has been the rave for most of the season in these parts, and she’ll get a chance to cap off a dream freshman season next week after deciding on a bye to her Breeders Crown final. After setting a Champlain Stakes record in September, she opted to sit out the Mohawk Million, a race where she likely would have been favored against stallions.
Instagram Model is the other filly who opted for a bye and will take a 5-for-6 record into the Crown Finals. Coach Stoebe was quoted earlier this year as saying the two main goals this year for Instagram Model are the Jim Doherty Memorial (mission accomplished) and the Breeders Crown; a win in the latter could make things interesting. Also not to be overlooked is Special Way, who enters the Breeders Crown with five straight wins, most recently with a win at the International Stallion Stakes, and has beaten fellow Crown contender Walner Payton three times in a row; very flattered when this rival came back to crush the closest enemies in bluegrass.
3 YEAR OLD MALE PACER
With Beach Glass eliminated from the Breeders Crown following surgery to repair a pinched epiglottis following his fourth-place finish in bluegrass, Bythemissal remains in the driver’s seat of the division. A winner of the Adios, Milstein, the Little Brown Jug, as well as a runner-up in the Hempt (Beach Glass), a Breeders Crown as an added prize would complete a journey that began not long ago. This would not only go hand in hand with division honors, but possibly also a shot at Bulldog Hannover in TVG pace. Not without a shot of his own, Pebble Beach finally found his way back into the Tattersalls Pace winners’ circle after finishing second in five straight runs. It seems like ages ago at this point, but he kicked off the 3-year major stakes season with a win in the Pepsi North America Cup. Between those two signature races plus a Breeders Crown win would be a worthy resume for consideration for the Dan Patch award. Bythemissal and Pebble Beach are also eligible for matrons.
3 YEAR OLD FEMALE PACEMAKER
It’s hard to believe, but despite missing most of the season, last year’s 2-year-old champion Niki Hill is suddenly once again leading the second filly. Returning in September, having been sidelined from just one season start at that point since an injury in May, she came back to win convincingly at the Bluegrass and Glen Garnsey Memorial races at the Red Mile over the same mares who have highlighted the division to date. Even with limited starts, a win in the Breeders Crown would make her worthy of a repeat Dan Patch winner.
Max Contract finished third behind Niki Hill, most recently at Glen Garnsey, and she broke down in tears earlier this season winning back-to-back Mistletoe Shalee, Tompkins-Geers and Shady Daisy; has come a long way this season and she would deserve strong consideration if she could pull off the excitement of the Breeders Crown. Boudoir Hannover leads this group in season results and their highlight is a 1:48.3 win in the Nadia Lobell; Main competitor of Niki. Just like last year, Ohio bred Sea Silk had another strong year.
3 YEAR OLD MALE TROTTER
This was one of the broader open divisions all year, but Rebuff did a tremendous service most recently as he stormed down the lane to win the Kentucky Futurity, returning to his best early-season form in the process. Unfortunately, a recent illness means he doesn’t have a chance to defend his Breeders Crown win from last year, but he could be the one to move up to the top of the division at the moment, even if he misses this year’s event. Between the Futurity, a division of the Dancer, a Hambletonian elimination win and a national season mark of 1:49.3, he would likely win the division’s Dan Patch if voted on today. Who can advance if they win the Breeders Crown? That would be Cool Papa Bell. He has since proven that his Hambletonian exploits were no fluke, and he closed in a manner similar to Rebuff in the Futurity. He’s also won the NYSS Finals (again by double digit odds), the Langley at Hoosier and while there are no morale wins, he made up a lot of ground in the Beal after breaking early. A Crown win along with the Hambletonian might be good enough.
3 YEAR OLD FEMALE TROTTERS
The hilarity has dominated most of the year as he is considered not only the best filly in this division but also the best 3 year old trotter, period. Another Breeders Crown win like last year would of course cement her standing, but a few others are hot on her heels.
Jiggy Jog moved into the other elimination away from joviality. Assuming they meet in the finals – and if Jiggy Jog were to win – she would have reason to skip joviality. These two just met in the Filly Futurity, where Jiggy Jog used the tactical advantage to pounce on Joviality and keep her at bay. She also beat them in their Hambletonian elimination. In turn, joviality has beaten them as well, and it raises the stakes for their upcoming showdown at the Breeders Crown. I’ll admit, with these two fillies competing with the stallions at times, Fashion Schooner seemed to be completely overlooked, even though he was almost perfect this year. She has taken a different path by racing almost exclusively in the Meadowlands for most of the summer, but the Hambletonian Oaks Champion beat Jiggy Jog when they met at the NJ Classic in September. She would have deserved the Dan Patch as much as anyone if she won the Breeders Crown.