Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hinckley Holds Off Furious Drive by Stepien

by Rusty Nash for HANA Harness

August 24, 2015 – It was a busy triple header for the field of the 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge presented by the Bellino Stables, DRF Harness, Hambletonian Society, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs.

Friday night kicked off with four races.  One from The Meadows and three from Vernon Downs (one of our contest sponsors).  Four handicappers were able to select three of the four winners.  Michael Carter took the early weekend lead with the better priced trio at 144 points.  Anne Stepien, Sally Hinckley and Bryan Owen were close behind with 125 points.  At the end of night one Sally easily remained the leader of the pack.

Saturday was a marathon event with five from Mohawk and most of the Pocono Downs card on the playlist.  It was close to a “no contest” as Anne Stepien simply crushed the field with an amazing performance of 892 points.  With eight winners she scored almost double the next best handicapper.  If Anne was Wiggle It Jiggleit she would have won by the length of the stretch in 1:46 with Montrell enjoying a soft drink and a good read. 

With seven winners each tour leader Sally Hinckley and Gordon Waterstone were both a very respectable “best of the rest” on what proved to be a very difficult Saturday evening for many of the players.  Sally added 497 points to her contest leading total and Gordon added 473.

The Saturday night rain out of the Cup and Saucer at Charlottetown’s Red Shores Racetrack and Casino (one of our contest sponsors) saw that event added to the Sunday line up of the Prix D’Ete and the Roll With Joe.  Dennis O’Hara and Gordon Waterstone both went a perfect three for three and earned the maximum possible 87 points. 

Big movers on the weekend, in addition to Anne, were Gordon Waterstone and Bryan Owen.   Gordon moved up to fourth and Bryan brushed from fifteenth to eighth.  The continued excellence of Sally Hinckley earned her runner up spot on the weekend to Anne Stepien.  With a cushion of more than three hundred points Sally is still wearing the colors of our tour leader.  


Standings as of August 23, 2015 - Leg 30
Total Points
Points Earned
Overall
Position
Pos
Handicapper
Prior Week
This Week
Total Points
Last Week
1st
Sally Hinckley
1,970.90
629.90
2,600.80
1st
2nd
Anne Stepien
1,217.50
1,046.50
2,264.00
9th
3rd
Mark McKelvie
1,929.70
268.30
2,198.00
2nd
4th
Gordon Waterstone
1,378.90
568.90
1,947.80
6th
5th
Bob Zanakis
1,595.80
295.30
1,891.10
3rd
6th
Dennis O'Hara
1,462.00
358.50
1,820.50
5th
7th
Earl Paulson
1,536.50
263.70
1,800.20
4th
8th
Bryan Owen
1,054.40
547.80
1,602.20
15th
9th
Michael Carter
1,248.50
324.40
1,572.90
8th
10th
Josi Verlingieri
1,262.50
219.30
1,481.80
7th
11th
Mark Dezii
1,135.60
283.40
1,419.00
13th
12th
Ray Garnett
969.20
447.90
1,417.10
17th
13th
Rusty Nash
1,171.40
185.10
1,356.50
12th
14th
Garnet Barnsdale
1,043.80
282.60
1,326.40
16th
15th
Jay Hochstetler
1,173.10
137.40
1,310.50
11th
16th
Derick Giwner
1,079.00
144.60
1,223.60
14th
17th
Brandon Valvo
1,176.20
15.10
1,191.30
10th
18th
Ray Cotolo
757.30
93.50
850.80
18th
19th
Mark Deutsch
531.40
0.00
531.40
19th


Next week there are only two Grand Circuit events on tap and both are at Yonkers.  In all likelihood the ladies will again be leading the pack at the conclusion of next week’s contests.  Quite fittingly the two races are the Lady Maud and the Hudson Filly.


-30-

Monday, August 10, 2015

Hinckley on top in HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge

By Rusty Nash for HANA Harness
         
August 10, 2015 – After the Hambletonian leg of the 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge presented by the Bellino Stables, DRF Harness, Hambletonian Society, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs, Sally Hinckley has firmly placed her handicapping sulky back in front of Mark McKelvie.  She did it by selecting five winners in the twelve race marathon and posted an impressive 1,966 total contest points.  Mark McKelvie remains very close and is a mere 52 points behind.  Gapped back in third is our early pace setter Bob Zanakis.

The real action occurred back in the pack where thirteen positions changed.  The biggest mover of the day was Earl Paulson and his super computer.  The computer and its ace programmer led all handicappers on the day with seven wins and 554 points earned.  Earl moved up seven positions from eleventh to fourth.

Dennis O’Hara was a close second on the day amassing 537 points on six winners.  He was the only other handicapper to correctly pick 50% winners on the day.  His key was Flanagan Memory at $21 which earned him 231 of his points.  He moved up the most positions from thirteenth to fifth.

The best individual pick of the day went to Brandon Valvo who selected D’One at $31.40.  The European invader won with a thrilling come from behind effort to upset Bee A Magician.  It was that race, plus the Cane, where Wiggle It Jiggleit faded after a speed duel that tripped up most of the contestants.

Next week the handicapping tour visits Northfield Park for the Carl Milstein Memorial.  The handicappers will appreciate the short work week to rest up for the following weekend that sees us visiting seven tracks and puzzling through 18 scheduled events.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Blockbuster Hambo Day Racing at The Meadowlands


East Rutherford, NJ - The 2015 Hambletonian Day card on Saturday, August 8 at The Meadowlands has all the elements necessary to be one of the great events in harness racing history.

The races will begin at noon with a $40,000 Open Pace and over the next six hours 164 horses will compete in 16 races for purses of just over $4 million, led by the $1.2 million Hambletonian and the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks.

The story line for the Hambletonian became far more interesting when trainer Ron Burke entered the great filly Mission Brief in the open event, bypassing the Oaks and taking on last year's Hambo winning trainer/driver Jimmy Takter's five horse armada in the process.

The drama increased when Yannick Gingras, the regular driver for Mission Brief and Takter's top contender Pinkman, was named on both horses for the race. The two drew into separate divisions of the eliminations heats which will allow Yannick to drive each in their respective elimination before having to make a choice for the final, assuming both qualify.

Pinkman's late season rally as a freshman made him the champion of the division at two and he has defended his title with nearly flawless form this season. The most accomplished of the Takter five, Pinkman has won the Earl Beal, Stanley Dancer and Harry M. Zweig Memorials (all major stakes) in his last three start and has made well in excess of $1 million over his career for owners Christina Takter, John & Jim Fielding, Joyce McClelland and Herb Liverman. He is saddled with the far outside post ten in the first elimination.

Mission Brief has found the form that dazzled fans last season and was really keen to go in her most recent start, the Filly Zweig Memorial. The Muscle Hill lass is poetry in motion when on her game and has drawn the favorable post two in the nine horse second division for Burke Racing, Our Horse Cents, J&T Silva and Weaver Bruscemi.

The $1,000,000 Hambletonian final is race 13 and is scheduled to go to post at 5:15 pm.

The Hambletonian Oaks is a very well matched group of ten talented fillies. With the defection of Mission Brief to the main event and the tragic demise of elimination winner and consensus "horse to beat" Spirit To Win in a Monday morning training mishap, the race becomes a wide-open affair. Lock Down Lindy won her split in 1:51.4, starts from the inside for owners Mystical Marker Farms, Crawford Partners, Joe Sbrocco and In The Gym Partners and is currently doing her best work.

Wiggle It Jiggleit, currently the most exciting horse in harness, will race in the $319,400 Cane Pace, the first leg of pacing's Triple Crown (race 10). Wiggle It Jiggleit has been absolutely monstrous all season long and is coming into the Cane fresh off three weeks rest. He is a family project with young Montrell Teague driving the Meadowlands Pace winner for his father George's stable and trainer Clyde Francis.

The $109,500 Shady Daisy for the sophomore pacing fillies is another chapter in a season that has seen a very evenly matched group slug it out over the past two months with no filly able to rise above the others just yet.

The very best aged performers in the game are out in force on Saturday and account for several of the most competitive and entertaining races on the program.

Eleven pacing mares will race the route distance of nine furlongs in the $251,250 Lady Liberty (race 3). These mares may parade like ladies but when the starter says "Go" the gloves come off and the girls throw down. The Bamond family's absolutely iron-tough Anndrovette has won four division titles, $3.3 million and the Golden Girls stake last month here against many of these at the same distance when it looked like she may have lost a step. Well, she hasn't.

This year's edition of the US Pacing Championship is up next and offers a purse of $215,400 to a field of nine really good horses...make that eight really good and one great horse. The venerable $7 million winner Foiled Again has recently shown flashes of his best form after a slow start to the season for Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi and JJK Stables. He raced about as good as he ever has in the Haughton Memorial three weeks ago and had plenty of pace but no place to use it in last week's TVG Open. Foiled is also being honored with a Breyer likeness giveaway to all the kids that come out on Saturday.

The $301,500 John Cashman Memorial (open) and $181,450 Fresh Yankee (mares) feature trotting's elite in bulky fields at a mile and one eighth in races 5 and 6. All the stars of the division are on the racetrack in these trotting classics.

Magic Tonight returns home a champion, having won this year's Elitlopp in May for Swedish owner A. O J Konsult and trainer Roger Walmann. The expatriate son of Andover Hall faces a very deep field of eleven rivals including 2012 Hambletonian winner Market Share who is competing at the highest level on Hambo Day for a remarkable fourth consecutive season.

The Fresh Yankee is a brand new stake for mare trotters and the inaugural edition just could not have drawn a more stellar field. "Queen" Bee A Magician is the undisputed monarch of her division having won seven of eight starts this year including several versus mixed company while passing the $3 million career earnings mark along the way for owners Mel Hartman, Herb Liverman and Dave McDuffee.

"What about the young horses," you may ask. Well, the $389,450 Jim Doherty for fillies (race 2) and $349,850 Peter Haughton (race 7) for colts memorialize two of the game's legends with the first high-dollar opportunity for the freshmen.

Broadway Donna looks like a top filly, having dispensed of all competition with minimal effort thus far, including the fastest Doherty elimination last week for Jules Siegel's Fashion Farm. Woman's Will and Kathy Parker were the other elim winners and will seek the upset.

Southwind Frank is the favorite going into the Haughton, having won three of four thus far including both the NJSS final and his Haughton elimination with the greatest of ease. He is another from the Ron Burke barn and races for the same partnership as Mission Brief on what could be a huge day for those connections.

You want Wagering opportunities? We got 'em. There are $275,000 worth of guaranteed pools spread over several horizontal wagers and the day ends with a $231,403 carryover on the 8% take-out  Jackpot Hi-5. With this the close of the 2015 Championship Meet, this wager takes on "Mandatory Pay Out" status which will create huge interest and great value, potentially driving the pool into seven figures. Programs will be available here and in the Daily Racing Form.

If you can't make it live, the Hambletonian will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network from 4:00 to 5:30pm and is available in Hi-Def on TRN. The races are also available via live streaming from The Meadowlands website.

There are a ton of promotions going on throughout the plant all day long including the ever-popular Hambo hat giveaway.

It's the greatest day of the year in harness racing and it all happens at The Meadowlands on Saturday.



Monday, August 3, 2015

McKelvie on Top as Adios Weekend Scrambles the Standings

August 3, 2015 – With the multiplier feature of the 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge presented by the Bellino Stables, DRF Harness, Hambletonian Society, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs, the potential of the contest standings changing dramatically existed.  At the conclusion of the weekend, those predictions came true. 

After missing Friday night’s contest leg, Mark McKelvie responded with a roar, winning nine of the sixteen legs on Saturday, earning 1,075.9 points, which with his previous 717.6 points thus far has now propelled into first place with a total of 1,793.5, a lead of 126.6 points over Sally Hinckley’s 1,666.9.  Previous leader Bob Zanakis now sits third, with 1,372.3.

Other big movers this week were Gordon Waterstone who moved from seventh to fourth place, Josi Verlingieri (ninth to fifth), Rusty Nash (thirteenth to eighth), Mark Dezii (sixteenth to tenth), and Dennis O’Hara (seventeenth to twelfth).

While McKelvie already had eight winners at the end of the Meadow’s card, his coupe de grace was the fourth race at the Meadowlands where his last and final winner of the day pick in the TVG Trot of Flanagan Memory ($26.40, $9.00, $7.20) earned him a total of 383.4 points.

Standings as of August 1, 2015 - Leg 24
Total Points
Points Earned
Overall
Position
Pos
Handicapper
Prior Week
This Week
Total Points
Last Week
1st
Mark McKelvie
717.60
1,075.90
1,793.50
4th
2nd
Sally Hinckley
1,014.30
652.60
1,666.90
2nd
3rd
Bob Zanakis
1,059.50
312.80
1,372.30
1st
4th
Gordon Waterstone
641.70
442.20
1,083.90
7th
5th
Josi Verlingieri
631.90
450.10
1,082.00
9th
6th
Michael Carter
749.50
275.40
1,024.90
3rd
7th
Ann Stepien
703.00
303.50
1,006.50
5th
8th
Rusty Nash
569.90
436.30
1,006.20
13th
9th
Derick Giwner
618.60
374.30
992.90
10th
10th
Mark Dezii
546.40
416.70
963.10
16th
11th
Brandon Valvo
561.40
395.10
956.50
15th
12th
Earl Paulson
614.20
334.20
948.40
11th
12th
Dennis O'Hara
483.20
446.50
929.70
17th
14th
Garnet Barnsdale
639.00
267.20
906.20
8th
15th
Jay Hochstetler
566.90
322.50
889.40
14th
16th
Bryan Owen
570.00
306.70
876.70
12th
17th
Ray Garnett
693.90
154.70
848.60
6th
18th
Ray Cotolo
362.70
351.70
714.40
18th
19th
Mark Deutsch
203.70
230.30
434.00
19th


This week the contest kicks off on Thursday, with the Whenuwishuponastar early closer final at Mohawk Racetrack and then finishes up on Saturday with the Hambletonian with its minimum of ten contest races.  Handicapper selections, results and standings are available at http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com.  

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Back Attacks in HANA Handicapping Challenge

July 19, 2015 – It was a matter of time until someone in the back of the pack made a move in the 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge presented by the Bellino Stables, DRF Harness, Hambletonian Society, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs, so perhaps it was apropos such a move by two handicappers would occur on Meadowlands Pace night when eight contest races in addition to the Sheppard at Yonkers Raceway were contested. 

Thanks to four winners, Sally Hinckley leapfrogged from fourteenth to second place with 533.8 points for the week while Mark McKelvie moved from sixteen to fourth place thanks to his 316 points.  Overall leader Bob Zanakis scored 190.6 points this week for a grand total of 1,036.3 but the race has tightened as his lead is down to 48.5 points.

Hinckley and Zanakis both had four winners on the card but Hinckley greatly benefited from longshot Anndrovette whose victory in the Golden Girls FFA for mares earned Hinckley 432 of her 533.80 points.  Hinckley’s other winners were favorites Pinkman, Wiggle It Jiggleit, and JL Cruze.  Zanakis’ big winner of his quartet was Moonlight Dance who earned him 108.8 of his total 190.6 points in the Mistletoe Shalee for three year old filly pacers with his remaining winners being the same trio as Hinckley’s. 

Six handicappers had three winners on the card but while Mark McKelvie had only two winners, he made the best of it thanks to Spirit To Win being victorious in the Delvin Miller Memorial for three year old trotters which earned him 281.2 of his 316 points for the week (his other winner was the result of a scratch which gave him the post time favorite).

Standings as of July 18, 2015 - Leg 20
Total Points Points Earned Overall Position
Pos Handicapper Prior Week This Week Total Points Last Week
1st Bob Zanakis 828.30 208.00 1,036.30 1st
2nd Sally Hinckley 454.00 533.80 987.80 14th
3rd Michael Carter  701.80 40.60 742.40 2nd
4th Mark McKelvie 371.90 316.00 687.90 16h
5th Ray Garnett 657.90 18.20 676.10 3rd
6th Ann Stepien 555.20 74.10 629.30 6th
7th Garnet Barnsdale 566.00 47.50 613.50 5th
8th Gordon Waterstone 567.30 37.20 604.50 4th
9th Derick Giwner 517.70 77.70 595.40 9th
10th Josi Verlingieri 523.60 71.10 594.70 8th
11th Earl Paulson 499.10 60.80 559.90 11th
12th Bryan Owen 508.80 43.40 552.20 10th
12th Brandon Valvo 529.00 23.20 552.20 7th
14th Mark Dezii 457.90 73.70 531.60 13th
15th Jay Hochstetler  476.90 43.80 520.70 12th
16th Rusty Nash 428.10 87.50 515.60 15th
17th Dennis O'Hara  364.60 87.70 452.30 17th
18th Ray Cotolo 294.10 28.00 322.10 18th
19th Mark Deutsch 183.10 10.50 193.60 19th

This week, Saratoga Raceway is Saturday’s contest track with the $260,000 guaranteed Joe Gerrity Memorial while Sunday features the Zweig Memorial Trot and Zweig Filly Trot as well as their corresponding consolation races at Vernon Downs.  Handicapper selections, results and standing are available at http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com.