Upcoming Crown Trot Could Be A Classic

Published: September 17, 2010 10:54 am EDT

In 2009, Lucky Jim streaked onto the scene and dominated the open trotting class in devastating fashion, as he won the Breeders Crown Trot at the Meadowlands Racetrack on his way to year-end divisional honours in the United States. After the tour-de-force, he was expected to be the leader of the pack in 2010. But this is horse racing

, or, more specifically, high-stakes trotting, where from week-to-week the condition, soundness and elements change -- and so to do the racing powers.

Sure, the old guard still exists. Lucky Jim has put forth some big efforts this year -- notably, a superb 1:51.1 wire-to-wire performance in the $125,000 Su Mac Lad at the Meadowlands in April. The five-year-old son of SJs Photo won four of his first five races this season, but has been held winless in purse races since. The Julie Miller-trained and Andy Miller-driven charge did qualify at Chester Racetrack last week in an eye-catching 1:54 and seems fit to tackle the best when they meet for the $600,000 Breeders Crown Open Trot at Pocono Downs on October 9.

2010 Su Mac Lad - Lucky Jim - 1:51.1

The 2007 Breeders Crown sophomore trot champion, Arch Madness, another powerhouse in the aged-trotting division, has returned and exhibited the same kind of raw ability and grit this season. Arch Madness started his season slowly, but picked up his game finishing a neck behind Lucky Jim in the Su Mac Lad. He followed that with a flawless performance when he captured the $220,000 Arthur Cutler Memorial at the Meadowlands in May. The 1:51 mile put him more than four lengths in front of Lucky Jim at the wire.

2010 Cutler Memorial - Arch Madness - 1:51

Following the Cutler, Arch Madness tested the five-eighths mile track at Pocono and shattered the World Record with a stunning 1:51 for driver Brian Sears and trainer Trond Smedshammer. The clocking was even more remarkable given the fact that the gelding started from Post 8.

Following the back-to-back 1:51 miles, Arch Madness’ form took a turn for the worse. The veteran has been sidelined since July. Smedshammer has reported that Arch Madness has trained back well after having recovered from a broken splint bone. “He should qualify next Thursday (September 23) at Pocono and if he’s good we’ll go to the Crown.”

While Lucky Jim and Arch Madness have struggled to maintain the level of success they have attained in the past, Slave Dream, a virtual unknown on the big stage prior to this year, has recently emerged as a division leader. The five-year-old son of Pearsall Hanover recovered from a minor skip in stride at the start to capture the $300,000 Nat Ray on Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands. Sent off at odds of 7-1 in the Nat Ray, driver John Campbell saved as much ground as possible and then had enough trot in reserve to pass Enough Talk in a 1:52 personal-best clocking.

2010 Nat Ray - Slave Dream - 1:52

Slave Dream proved his Nat Ray upset was no fluke when he returned to action late last month with a solid victory in the Frank Ryan at Rideau Carleton Raceway. Sylvain Filion guided him to an open-length victory in 1:53.3 over the five-eighths mile track surface.

Slave Dream has improved with age, as he has earned nearly half of his $704,596 career bankroll this year.

Supplement Speak

Speaking of improving with age, no trotter on the planet has come along as far as San Pail over the last two seasons. The six-year-old by San Pellegrino has earned over $1.3 million during that period. Marvelously consistent, San Pail has won 20 of 34 starts during that span including two impressive victories in the Maple Leaf Trot.

2010 Maple Leaf Trot - San Pail - 1:51.3

A contemporary of Arch Madness on the Ontario Sires Stakes circuit as three-year-olds in 2007, San Pail has started but one time in the U.S. in his 86-race career. The Rodney Hughes trainee followed his 2009 Maple Leaf Trot championship with an appearance in the $300,000 Nat Ray on Hambletonian Day. He finished a respectable fourth behind Lucky Jim’s scintillating 1:50.1 mile.

The San Pail connections face an interesting decision in the next two weeks. Co-owners Rod Hughes and Glenn Van Camp will have to supplement San Pail to the event since he wasn’t originally made eligible. The $75,000 cheque is due by noon on September 27. The complex nature of that decision will probably hinge to some degree on the performances of Lucky Jim and Arch Madness in the coming weeks.

Enough Talk has done enough in the last few years for people to listen and respect his appearance in any major trotting event. The seven-year-old world champion by Enjoy Lavec came out of the gate strongly this spring for trainer-owner Peter Kleinhans and peaked with prep and final scores in the Titan Cup at the Meadowlands in July. Enough Talk followed a disappointing break in stride in the Maple Leaf Trot eliminations with a second-place finish in the Nat Ray.

2010 Titan Cup - Enough Talk - 1:52

Kleinhans prepped him last week with an overnight event at Vernon Downs. Although Enough Talk was a beaten favourite in that mile, it was his first start in nearly one month and signaled that he’s on the right path towards the Breeders Crown.

Sleepers Ready to Awaken

With plenty of question marks dotting that canvas of this division it would not be a major surprise if another horse emerged in the next few weeks. Certainly Hot Shot Blue Chip, an impressively-fast three-year-old last season that was hampered by continuous loss of gait problems, is the most intriguing. The son of Revenue S most recently scored an effortless open-length 1:53 victory in an Open event at Pocono on September 7.

Lanson, Likeabatoutahell, Neighsay Hanover and Triumphant Caviar have all been steady campaigners this year and could enter the fray off encouraging performances in the coming weeks.

Lucky Jim is favoured in tonight's $195,000 Credit Winner Stakes at Vernon Downs. He’ll face a field of six rivals which will include likely Crown combatants Slave Dream, Enough Talk and Hotshot Blue Chip, as well as the leading contender for the Crown Mare Trot, Buck I St Pat.

In a division with so many different leaders through parts of the season, this year the Breeders Crown Open Trot shapes up as one of the most compelling and competitive contests ever.

(Breeders Crown)

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