By Ken Weingartner, USTA — Two-year-old pacers Captain Albano and Geocentric will head to their respective Breeders Crown finals Friday at Harrah’s Hoosier Park in a similar position. Each was made a 4-5 morning-line favorite to bring back a trophy.
Captain Albano, a colt trained by Noel Daley, has seven wins and a second in eight starts this season. The filly Geocentric is unbeaten in nine races for trainer Brian Brown.
Last week, Captain Albano won his Breeders Crown elimination by 3-1/2 lengths for driver Todd McCarthy. He brings a six-race win streak to the final, where he will leave from post two. Better Is Nice, who won his elim, is the 5-1 second choice, starting from post three with Andy McCarthy in the sulky for trainer Tony Alagna. The other elimination winner, Storm Shadow, is 6-1 from post four with Bob McClure driving for Ian Moore.
Captain Albano’s wins include the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship and divisions of the Bluegrass and International Stallion stakes. The son of Captaintreacherous-Angelou is the fastest 2-year-old male pacer of the season, with a mark of 1:49.2. Purchased for $150,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale, he’s earned $288,180.
“The only time he ever got beat, I missed a week with him because he’d been sick,” Daley said. “The thing with him, there’s been no bottom to him. I think he’s got a big heart and a big set of lungs. He comes back in every time he’s raced with like a yawn, like he hasn’t even been around.
“I think he’s a lot better than even I thought he was. I think people have sort of underrated him a little bit because he’s tripped out in all those wins. In Pennsylvania, every week he went around, someone wanted to go a quick mile in front of him. So, we haven’t had to put him on the front end since his first start.
“Right now, he’s the one they’ve all got to beat. It’s a competitive lot; there’s half a dozen of them that are going to think they’re a shot in there. We’ll just see how it works out, but I think he can do the work, too, if he has to. It will be a good race.”
Better Is Nice has hit the board in all 10 of his starts, winning seven. The son of Bettor’s Wish-Thatsoveryverynice, a sire stakes champion in New Jersey and Kentucky, was bred by Alagna Racing and Marvin Katz. He has earned $503,120, tops among all 2-year-old male pacers in 2023.
“I believed in the mare,” Alagna said. “I owned the second dam (Fox Valley Zena) and bred her to Vintage Master and got Thatsoveryverynice. I bred Thatsoveryverynice to Bettor’s Wish and got this colt. It’s been a couple generations in the making, but he’s the right one.
“He’s real versatile. He can leave, he can come from off the pace; he can do it a lot of different ways. He just has a really strong will to win, and that’s so important.”
Geocentric won her Breeders Crown elimination by 1-3/4 lengths for driver Tim Tetrick. The daughter of Sweet Lou-Geometry, a $55,000 Standardbred Horse Sale buy, will start Friday from post two. She has earned $549,251 to lead all 2-year-old pacers.
“From day one, everything has been right,” Brown said about the Pennsylvania and Kentucky sire stakes champion. “She’s just a good horse. You have to like pretty much everything about her, especially her willingness. Timmy didn’t pull her plugs (in the elimination). I think only maybe one race did he pull her plugs, in the final of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. It’s been a hell of a ride so far.”
Pass Line, a homebred who won the other Crown elim for driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Ron Burke, will start the final from post four and is the 5-2 second choice. She has hit the board in all 12 of her races, winning 10 and earning $390,948. Her victories include the Ontario Sire Stakes championship in Canada, where David Menary conditioned the filly for the Burke Brigade.
“She’s had a great year,” Burke said. “David did a great job with her up there. When we sent her up there, we thought she was nice. She’s turned out to be way better than nice. She tries hard. She’s just a very hard-trying horse.”
Burke also has high hopes for My Girl EJ, who was second to Geocentric last week. Another homebred, she has hit the board in nine of 10 races, winning three. She is the season’s fastest 2-year-old pacer, with a mark of 1:49.1. She will start from post eight with Dexter Dunn in the sulky and is the 8-1 third choice.
“That’s our best filly, I think; it’s between her and Pass Line,” Burke said. “She raced great (in her elim), an impossible spot. She drew post eight, but they’re not going to get to three-quarters in 1:25 next week. With the stretch here, it gives you a lot of choices to make moves. We thought all along she was our best filly. She’s a good horse.”
Friday’s card also includes the Breeders Crown finals for 2-year-old male and female trotters. T C I is the 6-5 favorite among the boys while Warrawee Michelle is the 2-1 choice among the fillies. The eight remaining events will be held Saturday. Racing begins at 6 p.m. (EDT) both nights.
Warrawee Michelle won her elimination last week for trainer-driver Ake Svanstedt and will start from post four in the final. She has hit the board in six of eight races, with three victories and $128,125 in purses.
“She is one that can win the final,” Svanstedt said. “I like her. She can leave fast, she’s nice to drive, and she fights. She has everything a good horse should have. The long stretch here doesn’t bother her. She fights until we are done.”
Soiree Hanover, who in September won the Jim Doherty Memorial at Hoosier Park and received an automatic berth in the Breeders Crown final, is the 5-2 second choice. She will start from post one with Tim Tetrick driving for trainer Lucas Wallin. She has hit the board in all seven of her races, winning five. She brings a three-race win streak to the final.
“She has been training really good,” Wallin said. “We haven’t gone any speed with her, but she feels very good. She’s actually been good since we started to train her in January. She’s been very solid. Race-wise, she hasn’t changed much. She’s taken steps along the way, keeps improving, but hasn’t really changed much.
“She has a really good attitude and she really wants to pass horses. Tim can drive her pretty much any way he wants, but she loves chasing horses. Of course, she is fast and strong, but her attitude is probably what sticks out the most, I think. It’s nice that she’s already been on that track, and she got around there good.”
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