Four returning Crown champs in Friday's elims
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Four previous champions will be in action Friday as the road to this year's Breeders Crown finals begins with eliminations for female trotters and pacers at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. Eliminations for male trotters and pacers will be contested Saturday. Racing begins at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) both nights.
A total of 166 horses entered this year's $6 million Breeders Crown, nearly equaling the 174 horses in 2016. The finals for the female trotters and pacers will be held Friday, Oct. 27, and the finals for the male trotters and pacers are Saturday, Oct. 28, at Hoosier Park.
All of the divisions for female trotters and pacers require eliminations with the exception of the $250,000 Mare Trot. That race attracted five horses, which are, in alphabetical order: Caprice Hill, Emoticon Hanover, Flowers N Songs, Pasithea Face S, and Pink Pistol. All five will advance directly to the Oct. 27 final. The draw for the Mare Trot will be held this weekend.
Hannelore Hanover, who won last year's Mare Trot, was entered in this year's Open Trot against the boys.
The $250,000 Mare Pace received 13 entrants, including past Breeders Crown winners Call Me Queen Be, Lady Shadow, and Pure Country. The top five finishers from two eliminations will advance to the final.
Lady Shadow won last year's Mare Pace and Call Me Queen Be was last season's 3-year-old champion. Pure Country won her Crown in 2015 as a 2-year-old. Shelliscape was the most recent horse to win consecutive Mare Pace titles, in 2013 and 2014. No 3-year-old filly pacing champion has ever returned to capture a Crown at 4.
Another returning champion, Ariana G, leads a group of 11 in the $500,000 Breeders Crown event for 3-year-old female trotters. Twelve horses are needed to split a division into two eliminations, so Ariana G and Thats All Moni received byes to the final based on seasonal earnings. The remaining nine horses will compete for eight spots in the final.
Ariana G, the No. 2-ranked horse in this week's Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll, has won 11 of 14 races this season and earned $873,690. She is trained by Jimmy Takter, who has won a record 30 Breeders Crown finals. Takter also trains Thats All Moni, who has won four of 12 races and earned $238,141.
The elimination field for the 3-year-old female trotters includes Kentucky Filly Futurity winner Ice Attraction, who defeated Ariana G by a neck in the Oct. 8 race. The three finishers to follow Ice Attraction and Ariana G --- Dream Together, Dream Baby Dream and Sunshine Delight --- also are in the elimination.
The $500,000 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old female pacers also got a field of 11. New York Sires Stakes champion Obvious Blue Chip and Lismore Pace winner Tequila Monday received byes to the final after the connections of the group's top money-earners, Caviart Ally and Agent Q, elected to race in the elimination.
Caviart Ally has won six of her last 10 races and finished no worse than second during that span. Her victories include the Jugette and Pennsylvania Sires Stakes championship. Agent Q, who lost to Someomensomewhere by a nose in last year's Breeders Crown, has finished off the board only twice in 23 career races, winning 11.
Agent Q has raced only once since Sept. 13, a win on Oct. 12 in the Circle City at Hoosier Park.
"This is the way we had it set up," Agent Q's trainer Aaron Lambert said. "It was the plan all along to race these three weeks. Plus if you win the elimination you can't draw outside. We skipped (the Red Mile meet) on purpose to try to get it done out here."
Two eliminations will be held for both the 2-year-old female pacers and 2-year-old female trotters. The top five finishers from each elimination advance to their respective finals.
Stakes-winners Percy Bluechip, Rainbow Room and Youaremycandygirl are among the 16 horses entered in the $600,000 Breeders Crown for 2-year-old female pacers. That trio has combined to win 16 of 24 races and $1.01 million.
In the $600,000 Breeders Crown for 2-year-old female trotters, Manchego leads a group of 17. Undefeated in 10 career races, Manchego has earned $563,948 and is ranked No. 3 in the sport's Top 10 poll.
Following are the fields for Friday's eliminations with named drivers and trainers.
$25,000 MARE PACE ELIMINATION 1