Three-Way Trainer Title Battle – What do they look like this weekend?

by Angela Hermann

Bernell Rhone continues to lead the way in our trainer standings, but Mike Biehler and Mac Robertson have been making things interesting lately. Biehler tied up with Rhone at one point, but has remained close while Mac has recently cut into their margin. All three barns have solid favorites and likeable longshots throughout the coming weekend – Here’s what they bring to the table….

Thursday:

Race 1 – Bernell kicks things off with morning line favorite Disappearing Cash. Though she looks like the one to beat on paper, she’s assumed that role many times before and come up short. She never loses by many, but the lifetime best mark here is third. It’s another field that looks ripe for the picking though, watch out.

Race 2 – Biehler and Rhone both bring entrants to the table in Carousing and She’s On Her Way, respectively. Carousing certainly appears to be in better form, and makes the drop from Allowance company to claimers for the Ulwellings. She’s On Her Way should get the early lead with her good speed, but just hasn’t been able to stretch it like she did last year. If this race should come off the turf though, move her chances way up. On the lawn, though, this handicapper prefers Carousing.

Race 4 – Biehler brings two chances to this maiden claimer. King of the Hills cuts back from two consecutive route efforts, while Three Desperadoes tries to rebound from his last effort as the beaten favorite. Both appear to want a similar position early, stalking what should be a tepid pace. Three Desperadoes appears to be the slightly better sprinter, and made slight improvement from start two to start three. Give the edge to TD, but still think they may be up against it with limited speed signed on for them to stalk.

Race 5 – Mac shows up as the only trainer in the fifth, seeking two in a row with John’s Knight Out. The quality of the field he faced August 3rd will be tested here, as he meets several horses that defeated those foes in the past. Overall it appears to be an evenly matched race, but Derek Bell should be able to ride nearly the same race he did that day. Should be tough.

Race 6 – The Ulwellings have another live runner for Biehler in Tapinot. Ry Eikleberry hops aboard for the first time, and Tapinot has only known Juan Rivera up to this juncture. The rider change, in addition to first-time blinkers, seems to indicate that they are going for the lead. Tapinot has not shown blazing early speed in the past, and draws outside of quick Sharp Angle. It’s an evenly matched field, but without a cozy early lead I have to question his chances.

Race 7 – Speedster Taconite draws the rail for Mac Robertson, and with the likely scratch of Seattle Sal chances only escalate. Throw his first race of the year out and Taconite is back to his old self, coming into this spot off an impressive win at this price. Should go off favored or as the second choice, and will be very tough to run down.

Friday:

Race 1 – Big Cal represents the Biehler barn in a small but competitive field. Big Cal did NOT like the turf at all last time, but returns to his preferred distance and surface. If he runs the same race that he did in his first outing of the year, he should be in front at a short price. However, if he should stub his toe there are a number of talented runners capable of running him down.

Race 3 – Biehler and Robertson go head-to-head on the turf with two very different animals. Go for the Moon (Robertson) has not won in quite a while, but always runs close enough to take money. She’s come back as the beaten favorite in her past three outings, but has plenty of speed to lead this field for at least a little while. Borregan Lass has speed herself, and enters this race as a new member of the Biehler stable. She was claimed out of her first race for $10,000 but immediately moves up in class. She also stretches out and switches surfaces – an awful lot of changes for a filly who handled her first assignment gamely. Borregan Lass certainly appears to be moving in the right direction/has more room to improve, but both are somewhat vulnerable with questions to answer.

Race 4 – Mike Biehler draws in again, this time with a first time started named Downtown Delight. The son of Devil His Due has a couple of good recent works and finds a field with plenty of forgettable efforts. Ry Eikleberry takes the call, and there are some things to like. Get a good look in the paddock!

Saturday:

Race 1 – Morning line favorite Lucky Straw represents the Biehler barn. He’s been hot and cold thus far in three lifetime starts, so the question is which Lucky Straw shows up today? Based on morning workouts and his race on June 17th, he has the talent to easily wire this field. Based on his last performance, his first beyond 3 ½ furlongs, he’ll be the field’s caboose. With the lack of experience in any other combatant, this should be your favorite at post time as well.

Race 2 – The MTA Stallion Auction Laddie appears to be a two horse race, one of those being Samendra. Trained by Bernell Rhone, he appears to have the controlling speed and should be able to take this field wire to wire. Dancingwithbigron used to show more early pace than he has lately, but still could call on that early lick should Derek Bell decide to keep the pressure on ‘Sam. Still, Samendra has not lost to Dancingwithbigron and shouldn’t start Saturday.

Race 4 – The girl’s division of the MTA Stakes appears to be a bit tougher for Bernell, as he saddles longshot Sajani. Her only win to date came in a rather suspect statebred route, and she hasn’t shown any early speed in her career. Things may turn her way down the road, but for now it appears she is in a bit too tough.

Race 5 – This field is anyone’s guess, but you can get 6-1 on Dean Butler and Bernell Rhone with Breaking Barriers. Previously trained by Deb Hale, he has two third place finishes from four career starts. All of those efforts came at the bottom of the barrel for MN breds, the same type he faces Saturday. Minnifrey, the victor of his last race, came back to be beaten as the heavy chalk last weekend and leaves even more questions for BB to answer.

Race 6 – The long-awaited debut of Private Warrior comes in a surprising spot – a maiden claimer. The string of works is strong though not consistent, and the field he faces doesn’t exactly jump off the page. No need to repeat Mac’s percentages with first timers or two year olds – This horse should be favored and is your likely winner if all goes according to plan. Curious though….with a Maiden Special Weight on the same card why go here?

Race 7 – Emerald Bay Stables brings back Pursue a Dream for his 2011 debut. Trained by Mike Biehler, this horse has never won on our turf course but faces his easiest field to date. He is dropped in for a tag for the first time in a long time, and draws the rail. It’s not an easy field by any means, but it’s not the likes of Inca King and Heza Wild Guy, winners of his last two tries on our turf. His mornings works have been steady up to August 9th, but with no activity since that time does he need the race?

Race 8 – Biehler tries the turf again, this time with Minnesotan Pioneer Edition. Dean Butler takes over, and at a square 5-1 it appears he has a good chance from the inside. There is some speed entered to set up his late kick, but Butler will need clear sailing. Pioneer Edition fell in his last start but has worked since then. Big class drop here as well!

Race 9 – Mac and Mike both take a shot in the last with Making a Racquet and Jump to the Rescue. Making a Racquet takes a huge class drop from Allowance company, while JTTR looks to put two in a row off her maiden score. It took the drop to 10,000 claimers for ‘Jump to prevail, while Making a Racquet appears to need the class relief after an almost 30 length defeat. With a lot of speed in this field, it seems to benefit Biehler’s horse but Making a Racquet’s class alone keeps her in this. Pretty even chances in both corners.

Sunday:

Race 2 – Biehler begins a string of five straight races with Local Big Shot. Drawn well in a field of six, Juan Rivera’s mount has the speed to wire this field but could also stalk from the outside post. Nothing drawn to his inside appears to have quite the gate speed, but he’s also offered up for the lowest price of his life. He looks tough to catch!

Race 3 – Turf Sprinter Machorina stretches back out for Emerald Bay, but has drawn into a field of horses that like the front end. She is three of four in the top two on our turf, but watch for scratches of speed horses as it is everywhere in this field. Seems to set up for the closers, but they aren’t exactly win machines.

Race 4 – The only trainer in the first half of our card Sunday, Biehler returns with Somerset Swinger. A first-timer and a bad actor, she was entered last week but scratched by stewards. She worked a moderate half instead but appeared to be more than ready that day. Lots of first timers draw into this race, as well as speedy Spuety’s Cabin. If she can get past that one, the rest of the field does not appear to be all that tough.

Race 5 – A full sister to Three Desperadoes makes her debut in this race, Three Blind Mice. She has worked out inconsistently for Biehler but a couple of the breezes appear to show early pace. None of the starters in this field, either, appear to be worldbeaters. Stands as good of a chance as any in here, but don’t feel quite as confident about her as Somerset Swinger.

Race 6 – All three of our leading trainers meet for the first time this weekend in a competitive statebred allowance. While Bernell & Mike have charges with experience at a route, Mac’s Coconino Slim tries a mile for the first time. He appears to be the classiest of the entrants, but questions still remain for this new member of the Robertson barn. Not So Fast Festus (Biehler) got the best of Leftyluke (Rhone) the last time they met, while Gold Country Cat (Biehler) also got his last win over Leftyluke last summer. All runners have chinks in their armor, but expect the favored runner between them all to be Coconino Slim. Good race!

Race 7 – Bernell Rhone tries to get Snugglin Jo Jo back on the turf….or does he? Our leading trainer used this tactic last time to wire a field of N2L claimers off the turf. Setting a crawling pace, he beat only 6 horses that day in modest time. Snugglin Jo Jo appears to be a type that needs to stay close if not on the lead, but the field he faces is not speed laden besides No Lip. He draws to that one’s outside, and may just be able to work out a similar trip. Well spotted, this appears to be a field he could very well beat.

It looks like a good weekend for all three of our top conditioners – Who do you think will come out ahead?

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