Day At The Track

'Seaside' and 'Dragon' meet for final time

03:34 AM 30 Nov 2017 NZDT
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Downbytheseaside, Harness Racing Fear The Dragon, Harness racing
Dean Gillette Photography
Fear The Dragon
Chris Gooden Photo

Harness racing's two richest horses this year, Downbytheseaside and Fear The Dragon, will meet for the final time in Thursday's $308,060 Hap Hansen Progress Pace for 3-year-old male pacers at Dover Downs.

Downbytheseaside, who has earned $1.44 million this season, will start from post No. 2 with Chris Page in the sulky and is the 8-5 morning-line favorite. Fear The Dragon, with $1.27 million in the bank, leaves from post five with David Miller at the lines and is 9-5. Both horses are trained by Brian Brown.

Thursday's 13-race card, which also includes four $100,000 Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund championships for 2-year-olds, begins at 4:30 p.m. EST. The Progress Pace is race 10 with a 7:30 p.m. estimated post time.

Downbytheseaside won last week's Progress Pace elimination by three lengths over Fear The Dragon in 1:50.1. "Seaside" and "Dragon" have met six times this year, with Dragon winning three races (North America Cup, Hempt Memorial, Little Brown Jug elimination) and Seaside winning two (Milstein Memorial and Progress elim).

Both horses have battled health and foot issues during their campaigns, but have combined to win 25 races.

Downbytheseaside enters the Progress final with a three-race win streak and four victories in his last five starts. His only loss during that span was a second-place finish in the Breeders Crown.

For the year, Downbytheseaside has won 13 of 21 races. He has finished off the board only three times, with two of the occurrences on the same day at the Little Brown Jug. In addition to his previously mentioned victories, his triumphs include the Messenger Stakes, Art Rooney Pace, Monument Circle, Matron, and Jug Preview.

"The horse right now, according to Brian, is as good now as he's ever been," said Jim Koehler, whose Country Club Acres owns Downbytheseaside with Joe Sbrocco, Richard Lombardo, and Diamond Creek Racing. "You just wonder how this race will go. Every horse race seems to be different; a different situation as far as who is going to leave, who is not going to leave, where you're going to end up.

"He's a funny horse. He evidently likes the long trip on the outside. If he's in a bunch and can't get out like he likes to, it seems to be when he gets in trouble. When he leaves at about the three-eighths or so he seems to just keep on wearing them down."

Downbytheseaside will retire at the completion of the season and stand at Sugar Valley Farm in 2018 in partnership with Diamond Creek Farm.

"The horse has worked hard and it would be nice for him to finish (with a win). Am I disappointed in the Jug? Yes, no question. I'm disappointed in the Breeders Crown. But you can't complain. The horse has won more than $2 million in his career. There must be a lot of people that are more disappointed than I am."

Fear The Dragon has won 12 of 17 races this year for owner Bruce Trogdon's Emerald Highlands Farm. The colt's appearance in the Progress elimination was his first start since finishing eighth in his Breeders Crown elimination Oct. 21. He was scratched from an Oct. 28 race because of health issues.

Trogdon paid $25,000 to enter Fear The Dragon in the Progress Pace because the horse was not staked to the event. The decision was made following a sharp training mile and consultation with Brown and Miller.

"It was a tough call, but I hated to end the year on a bad note," Trogdon said. "We decided to put him in and let the chips fall where they may.

"He raced pretty good (in the Progress elimination) but he definitely got beat by Seaside. But he needed the race. As far as this week, I don't know if Dragon is the Dragon we saw during the summer, but we'll see what happens. He might have just needed that race last week."

In addition to his previously mentioned wins, Fear The Dragon's victories this year include the Adios and a division of the Tattersalls Pace. He has finished off the board only twice, with both occurring in the past three-and-a-half months while he was limited to five races because of his health woes.

"I wish all that didn't happen, but it did," Trogdon said. "Before he got sick, we didn't duck any races. We went to them all. You can't take away all the things he already did."

Following is the field for the Hap Hansen Progress Pace. The race is named in honor of former Dover Downs and Brandywine Raceway executive Wilmer E. "Hap" Hansen, who passed away in 2014.

PP-Horse-Sire-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line

1. Western Joe - Western Ideal - Yannick Gingras-Christopher Choate-5/1

2. Downbytheseaside - Somebeachsomewhere-Chris Page-Brian Brown-8/5

3. Geez Joe - Roll With Joe - Andy Miller-Erv Miller-4/1

4. Music Is Art - Art Major - Corey Callahan-Jake Leamon-8/1

5. Fear The Dragon - Dragon Again - David Miller-Brian Brown-9/5

6. Normandy Beach - Somebeachsomewhere - Tim Tetrick-Scott DiDomenico-8/1

7. Mac's Jackpot - Somebeachsomewhere - Brett Miller-Jeffrey Smith-9/2

8. Blood Line - Somebeachsomewhere - Mark MacDonald-Jimmy Takter-6/1

Ken Weingartner

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