Friday, June 11, 2010

Horsepower and Star Power Invade Tioga Downs for Bettor's Delight

Three of the country's top five ranked horses and the two top-ranked drivers in the country will be in town for Sunday's $228,000 Bettor's Delight for free for all pacers.

Shark Gesture is the number one ranked horse in the latest harness racing rankings. Won the West is number four. Foiled Again is fifth.

Strength in Numbers
Trainer Ron Burke will send four pacers into Sunday’s (June 13) $228,000 Bettor's Delight at Tioga Downs, where the No. 1-ranked horse in harness racing will be waiting for the challenge.

Burke’s stable will be represented by Won The West, fresh off his victory in the $293,280 Molson Pace in Canada, along with Molson runner-up Foiled Again, Atochia and McCedes in the Bettor's Delight. Shark Gesture, who beat Won The West by a half-length in last month’s $200,000 Graduate. and is the top-rated horse in the sport’s most recent poll, also is among the 10-horse Bettor's Delight field.

Shark Gesture drew post six while Burke’s horses all received inside positions: McCedes in post two, Won The West in three, Foiled Again in four and Atochia in 10 (which is on the rail in the second tier, behind Mr Wiggles, who drew post one).

“We figure if we can’t beat him (Shark Gesture) we’ll throw them all at him,” Burke said, laughing. “If Mr Wiggles wasn’t there, we’d have the whole inside cornered. As it is, it’s hard to get around all four of mine. The ones of mine that want to leave are to the outside and the other two that will look to try to shuffle through late drew the inside. The only way I could’ve drawn it up better is 1-2-3-4, but 2-3-4-10 works all right.”

Lay of the Land
Won The West, who has won 29 of 75 lifetime starts -- including the 2009 Breeders Crown Pace in a stakes-record 1:47 -- and earned $2.35 million, should feel at home on the five-eighths-mile oval at Tioga Downs. The horse has finished no worse than second in 18 of 24 career races on a five-eighths track. Among his 14 five-eighths wins is a victory at Tioga Downs in the 2007 Tompkins-Geers.

Foiled Again also excels on the small tracks. He has 17 of his 38 lifetime wins on five-eighths-mile tracks and has finished no worse than second in 19 of his last 20 starts on half-mile tracks dating back to October 2008. Foiled Again has won 38 of 101 career races and earned $1.49 million.

“I think the five-eighths-mile track closes the gap between West and Shark Gesture,” Burke said. “I don’t know how much of a gap there was to begin with; we’ve beaten him as much as he’s beaten us. But I think on the smaller track, it definitely does not bother us and I don’t think it helps him.

“It looks like (Shark Gesture) is going to have to be two- or three-wide into the turn this week if he’s going down the road. I’m anxious to see how he handles it. It doesn’t matter to West or Foiled. They’re both probably better on the smaller tracks.”

Danger: Shark in the Water
Shark Gesture, who last raced on a five-eighths-mile track in November 2006, opened eyes last Friday when he prepped for the Bettor's Delight with a 1:48.2 qualifier mile at the Meadowlands. The time was the fastest qualifier in harness racing history.

“I know people think it was an extraordinary mile, (but) people go around the Meadowlands so fast these days it’s unbelievable,” trainer Larry Remmen said. “He was well in hand; George never pulled the earplugs or anything. We’re very excited and looking forward to this weekend.

“He had the time off, and he thrives on work. We wanted him to go racehorse time, but went with a qualifier because you can be comfortable and go your own lick.”

Shark Gesture, driven by George Brennan, who recently notched career victory 6,000, has won two of three starts this season and earned $133,000. The 7-year-old has won 22 of 69 lifetime races and earned $2.03 million. He was unraced from July 2007 to December 2008 because of an abbreviated stud career.

Remmen and his brother Ray trained Beach Towel, the 1990 Horse of the Year, but Shark Gesture gets the nod as the stable’s brightest star.

“He’s a tough son of a gun,” Remmen said. “He’s by far the best horse we’ve ever trained. We’ve never had an animal like him. We’ve had some nice horses; Beach Towel was a great horse. This horse is just a phenomenal horse.”

The Field
Following is the field for Sunday’s $228,000 Bettor's Delight at Tioga Downs, in post position order with listed drivers and trainers. McCedes, Foiled Again and Atochia are coupled for betting purposes. Atochia starts from the second tier: 1. Mr Wiggles, Tim Tetrick, George Teague Jr.; 2. McCedes, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 3. Won The West, David Miller, Ron Burke; 4. Foiled Again, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 5. Hypnotic Blue Chip, Jody Jamieson, Kevin McDermott; 6. Shark Gesture, George Brennan, Larry Remmen; 7. Blatantly Good, Richard Silverman, Mark Kesmodel; 8. Pacinello, John Campbell, Jim Doherty; 9. Jeremy’s Successor, Tim Tetrick, Dean Eckley; 10. Atochia, Jim Morrill Jr., Ron Burke.