As the 2013 harness racing season came to an end, the most anticipated race of the year featured the sport's most recent Pacer of the Year Award winners - Captaintreacherous and Foiled Again.
On Saturday, the two stars will renew their acquaintance in the first of two eliminations for the $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace for older pacers at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.
Foiled Again, a 10-year-old who is the richest harness racing horse in North American history, won their first encounter in November's $512,000 TVG Free For All Series championship.
Captaintreacherous, who was trying to become the first 3-year-old to defeat older stakes rivals sincein 1980, finished sixth.
Now at the age of 4, Captaintreacherous will face older rivals on a regular basis. And it begins Saturday.
"I felt good with the way he ended up last year," trainersaid about Captaintreacherous. "He finished sixth, but he was only beaten two lengths by the best aged horses out there. That showed a lot, with as tough of a 3-year-old campaign that he had. I think he's definitely going to be a force in the open division."
Saturday's two Ben Franklin Pace eliminations are part of a card that also includes two eliminations for the $500,000Beal Jr. Memorial Stakes for 3-year-old trotters, three eliminations for the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old pacers, and three eliminations for the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old female pacers.
Captaintreacherous, who was named the Dan Patch Award-winning Pacer of the Year in 2012 and 2013, has won 22 of 27 career races and earned $3.02 million for the Captaintreacherous Racing ownership group.
He won his 2014 debut last Friday at the Meadowlands, beating a field of 4-year-olds in the $100,000 Meadowlands Maturity, which pushed him pastto No. 13 in purses among all pacers in history.
Captaintreacherous started the Maturity from post 10 and took the lead on the backstretch on his way to a 1:49.2 triumph.
"I was very happy with his first start," Alagna said. "There's always concern, first start coming back, drawing the 10 hole against horses that already had some starts under their belts, but off three qualifiers - especially the last one - we thought he was ready to go. He raced very well."
Captaintreacherous and driverused a :27 move during the Maturity's second quarter to take the lead. They settled into a :28.2 third quarter before coming home in :27.
"I liked the way he moved up the backside," Alagna said. "He really went to the backside strong, which is good because he's going to have to learn a little bit more maneuverability this year against those types of horses. Like always, he came right back to Timmy and was very quiet in the third quarter and when he called on him at the head of the lane he sprinted off.
"He was doing his best pacing at the wire, so I was very happy about that."
Captaintreacherous won five of six starts at Pocono Downs last year. He won the Breeders Crown in October, two months after suffering his only setback at the northeast Pennsylvania oval, losing the Battle of the Brandywine by a nose to Sunshine Beach in a world-record 1:47.4.
"We raced him at Pocono as a 3-year-old and he was very good over the track," Alagna said. "Of course, it's a different group of horses, but we think he's ready to go."
Foiled Again has won 80 of 207 races and earned $6.25 million. He has won four of nine races this year and only once finished worse than third. He comes into the Franklin elim off a second-place finish in last weekend's $92,000 Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational.
The top four finishers from each of the two Franklin eliminations advance to the final on June 28. Also advancing will be the fastest fifth-place finisher.
In the first elim, the field in post order is Domethatagain, Bettor's Edge, Sunfire Blue Chip, Captaintreacherous, Foiled Again, Sunshine Beach, and Beach Memories. The second elim is Captive Audience, Modern Legend, Sweet Lou, Allstar Legend, Clear Vision, Rockin Amadeus, and Bolt The Duer.
Saturday'sBeal Jr. Memorial elims feature Father Patrick, who was the 2013 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter. Father Patrick is 3-for-3 this season and has won 13 of 14 lifetime races.
Uffizi Hanover, who won last weekend's Fan Hanover Stakes, is among the 3-year-old filly hopefuls in the Lynch Memorial while Art Rooney Pace winner All Bets Off is among the 3-year-old male pacers in the Hempt.
Harness Racing Communications
U.S. Trotting Association