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Melissa Keith’s Rideau Carleton Selections: Sunday, February 21, 2021

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Melissa Keith’s Rideau Carleton Selections: Sunday, February 21, 2021

February 21, 2021
By Melissa Keith
Melissa Keith’s Rideau Carleton Selections: Sunday, February 21, 2021
Best Bet – (2) SOS JUSTIFIED – Race 11
Spot Play – (3) DRACHAN HANOVER – Race 7
20-cent Early Pick 4 – Race 2 – 4,5/1,3,6/3,4,7/1,4 = $7.20
20-cent Middle Pick 4 – Race 6 – 4,5,7/3,5/1,5,6/5,6,9 = $10.80
20-cent Late Pick 4 - Race 10 – 2,3,5/2/ALL/9 = $4.80

Race 1 – (6) CENTURY GAGA arrives from Western Fair after a deceptively bad performance line; she was among the mares who scattered behind a breaker who stepped on a wheel early in the mile-and-a-1/16 race; 7 of 11 Vic Puddy trainees hit the board in Rideau Carleton season opener, with 4 of the successful 7 driven by Marie Claude Auger; Auger drove #3 Shanghaigold to a 2p3 result in that rival's final start of 2020, but appears to have chosen this one tonight; hunch play. (5) BRONSON was a second-over winner Feb, 16, letting Wild River Coyotee (#7 tonight) soften up pacesetter Thunder Romps; Stephane Brosseau returns to the sulky as John MacMillan trainee faces mild class hike. (2)  TWO FOR TRIPPING closed strongly last week, threatening Wild River Coyotee in the stretch duel for show; Pascal Berube drives this week, as Auger takes the #6; Berube finished in the top three in the first 5 races last Tuesday night.
Race 2 – (4) E R RHONDA finished third as beaten fave in her seasonal debut last week; battled with Jans Legacy (#1 tonight) through most of distaff Op10000clm mile, only to get picked off by the now-absent Reys N A Rocket; Guy Gagnon drives 57-time winner again. Mandy Archer stablemate (5) KAHLUA MORNING went gate-to-wire at lower (7000clm) level at this track Tuesday, beating males; Pascal Berube handles catch drive tonight, as Gagnon is aboard the top selection. (2) SAGALI was a disappointing Best Bet pick back on Dec. 6; she was boxed badly in fourth and shuffled back that night; outperformed long odds on the last Rideau Carleton race night of 2020, closing for fourth in distaff Nw1250l3cd; has only missed board once here (from post #8) when Pascal Berube has been at the controls; he's opted for #7 Kahlua Morning here; this is her first catch drive by Jonathan Lachance.   
Race 3 – (1) SIR CHOPIN gains post advantage following a struggle from outside post #7 in Feb. 16 Rideau Carleton Preferred trot; forced wide and taken back by Carol Voyer shortly after the start, when Dr Spengler broke in front of them; going-away lifetime-best victory at this track's Nw3000l3cd classification Dec. 6. (6) CROSSFIT makes second start in a row with Lasix; advancing late but unable to hunt down gate-to-wire winner Seeyou Men (assigned #7 this race) last week; beaten fave. (3)  LMC MASS GEM is consistent at this level; steady-gaited veteran can find favoured position on/near front end from this post.
Race 4 – (7) UNDERCOVER STRIKE is a powerful closer who started 2021 as he ended 2020: winning in Rideau Carleton Op15000clm company for trainer/driver Guy Gagnon. (4) RICHSNORTHERNDREAM is up in class, but makes second start Lasix; Feb. 16 winner at this track's Op15000clm classification for Richard Simard, who drives tonight. (3)  DR SPENGLER gets class drop, but needs to mind manners better than he did last week; Pascal Berube returns to the sulky, seemingly choosing this trotter over #2 Batting Stats.
Race 5 – (1) REDDIT HANOVER led the way here Feb. 16, but the now-absent Santanna Tony edged him out at the wire; light on wins, he's nonetheless back at the track where he broke his maiden and took lifetime-best mark in 2020; Richard Simard stays loyal. (4)  SHRIMP AND GRITS was a good second to Kahlua Morning in Tuesday's return to racing; Pascal Berube went with #2 Playin for Keeps this week, so Tyler Jones catch drives. (5)  BLACK ELEKTRA finished a dull fifth on Feb. 16 in mares' Op10000clm; this is her second start for trainer/driver Marie Claude Auger.
Race 6 – (5) ASA IM READY finished third behind #4 Wildwild Men and a now-absent winner in last Tuesday's Rideau Carleton Nw2r30000lcd; Stephane Brosseau stays with mare who has more 2020 victories (7) than the rest of this field combined last year; beaten fave. (4)  WILDWILD MEN went 1 for 16 last year, but with Guy Gagnon at controls in this unpredictable field, his front-end-favouring style may hold up better; note that he finished second to Richsnortherndream here last week, and that rival has moved up in class tonight. (7) RAISING RUSTY goes from post #8 to post #7, without much to offset the unfortunate draw this week; note that he was far off the gate at the start Feb. 16, at a multi-length disadvantage that proved too much to overcome. (3) P C HEISENBERG is light on recent wins, yet rarely misses hitting board; closed for fourth behind this race's top two selections here last week, from post #7. (2) IFIHADABRAIN is this race's lone class-dropper; first start since Dec. 6, so approach with caution.
Race 7 – (3) DRACHAN HANOVER and Marcel Barrieau make a welcome appearance in a Rideau Carleton Preferred Handicap, instead of at Pompano Park; free-legged tonight should pose no problem--that winning Dec. 20 qualifier over this track was impressive; class drop for comeback. (5) NATIONAL DEBT makes seasonal debut here; strong last year in Rideau Preferred/Handicap, he's a legitimate threat despite the time off; no Vegas Rocks, no Vanilla Malted, and no post #8 makes his life easier; class relief. (4) RACEMUP finished second as beaten fave last week, cutting the fast fractions over snowy surface with 3-second variant, and offering little resistance when Luke and Duke came calling in the stretch; two dominant frontrunners this race change the landscape; has had late speed when asked by Marie Claude Auger, but tends to win on front end against weaker company than this. 
Race 8 – (5) CAMS LUCKY SAM was third last week in Rideau Carleton return to racing; chased Reddit Hanover through co-fastest opening quarter of the night, then ended up locked in pocket until deep stretch; back at Nw400pscd level where he last hit board (despite interference) Dec. 13; owner/trainer/driver Carol Voyer reined him to his first 2020 victory almost exactly a year ago at Rideau, with successful front-end trip. (1) MACHO POLO didn't catch the gate at the start last week; the winningest horse of this bunch in 2020 (seven wins) still managed to close for fourth on an evening when John MacMillan announced that track conditions should favour frontrunners; huge post position improvement. (6) THATS SOME PLAN is new to Ottawa for trainer/driver Guy Gagnon; didn't show much at half-mile Flamboro in late 2020, but prior to that, this former Brian Jones trainee had better results over Ohio 5/8-mile ovals.
Race 9 – (6) VANILLA MALTED's regular dance partner Clarke Steacy is back aboard for the class drop after a disappointing 2021 return to Preferred action last Tuesday; gate-to-wire romp Nov. 29, the last time they raced in Rideau Carleton Nw4000l3cd. (5) VEGAS ROCKS was parked out Feb. 16, when he was sent off as 2/5 fave but put away by front-end winner Stelios; that was on the class drop, so tonight he's teamed up with new catch driver Pascal Berube; despite consecutive losses to Stelios (#9 this race), expect better tonight. (9) STELIOS doesn't seem to mind outer posts, but he's got the second tier tonight; a stalking trip for owner/trainer/driver Guy Gagnon could deliver his fifth consecutive victory, but he won't be first off the gate the way he was from post #8 last week and Dec. 20.
Race 10 – (2) SOMEWHERE BETTOR gets the steepest class relief of this field tonight; a Preferred 1&2 winner last year at Hippodrome 3R, he also crushed Fraser Downs 6000clmcd company in going-away style March 3; overlooked at the Rideau Carleton windows Feb. 16, he closed for show at 17/1 odds; appears to be Pascal Berube's choice this race; for those who dare. (5)  BIG PETES STYLE makes debut for trainer Anne Marie Turenne and catch driver Richard Simard after being claimed from Guy Gagnon last week; started 2021 on a winning note; new connections teamed up to hit board in 3 out of 5 Rideau races Feb. 16; North America's winningest horse of 2020 looks strong again on class drop. (3) THE ROADIES is another class-dropper here; Guy Gagnon drives Mandy Archer trainee for first time since this gelding's Nov. 22 place finish behind Levis Day at Nw1400l3cd level; they were front-end winners Nov. 19 over weaker field.
Race 11 – (2) SOS JUSTIFIED wasn't far from Big Petes Style's record for victories last year; 14-time 2020 winner makes second consecutive start with Lasix tonight, looking to follow up on his powerful off-the-pace effort for latest catch driver Pascale Berube last Tuesday at same Rideau Carleton 10000clm level. (1) MATTS TUITION wasn't catching the breakaway top two in last week's match-up, but he and Guy Gagnon closed well for show; reliably hitting board at this track since September (9 of 11 starts, and finished fourth in the other two). (8) GENERAL LEE makes his seasonal return this race; Jason Gilchrist-owned/trained/driven class-climber has tough post, but he finished in the top three in 18 of 30 starts last year, all at this track; seems to prefer the cooler conditions: finished second last Feb. 23 at 10/1.
Race 12 – (4) XTERNAL was getting in gear when others were fading last Tuesday night in Rideau Carleton Op12000clm; big closing effort after being shuffled back to last from post #8 in his last race of 2020 made him our Spot Play Feb. 16; we'll try again.  (5) MORTGAGE MY VILLA was boxed in fifth and shuffled back after the half Feb. 16; navigated through traffic in deep stretch to grab fourth with a 30.4 closing quarter equal to the winner's; unsure that one-time 2020 winner can reach the wire first, but he turned in a game try last Tuesday. (1) WHATS INTHE ESKY A drops in from Rideau Carleton Preferred classification, where he raced as recently as Dec. 20; taken back to third at the start when making seasonal debut with Stephane Pouliot at Nw2750l3cd classification Feb. 16; seemingly locked in with pace on the last turn, he offered little when freed in the stretch.
Race 13 – (9) THE REGULATOR tested the Ottawa waters Feb. 16 for Vic Puddy and Ryan Guy; class relief and trailing post for Western Fair import who closed third-over from seventh with a co-field's-fastest 29.4 final quarter last start. (1) BROOKLETSJUSTIFIED and Robbie Robertson led the way Feb. 16, overtaken in the stretch by the now-absent Officer Jones after cutting the mile; if this field's winningest horse of 2020 (6 wins) can get a little separation from the others this week, he could replicate his Dec. 20 gate-to-wire Rideau Carleton victory. (6) WILDCAT CAM is down in class from Preferred; wired this track's Nw620pscd pacers Nov. 26 with Guy Gagnon in the bike; light on wins, so use caution. (2)  PRINCE GIOVANNI gets major post relief this week; hit board in half his 28 races last season; closing from eighth in the snow last week wasn't playing to his strengths. (5) WESTERN PHIL followed a pacesetting Big Petes Style last week, yet ultimately couldn't keep up from the pocket; every chance but gapped to end up fourth; minor shares only.


Melissa Keith is a lifelong harness handicapper/bettor, Hervey/O'Brien Media Excellence Award-winning writer, and occasional racecaller. She is a contributor to TROT, Hoof Beats, Atlantic Post Calls, and Harness Racing Update, often covering topics related to wagering. Her most memorable bets include taking down the Truro Raceway Pick-7 pool for a $36 investment (it has not been offered since) and collecting $1,287 for a Woodbine Harness Pick-4 which cost a whopping $1.60.

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