Trot Insider has provided live updates and recaps from East Rutherford, N.J. as harness racing's top talent converged on the one-mile oval. Early reports of inclement weather for the stellar card of harness racing have improved, with the forecast showing a high of 84 degrees Fahrenheit (or 28 degrees Celsius) and a 20 per cent change of rain.
$102,750 Oliver Wendell Holmes - Second division for three-year-old pacing colts
Big Bad John delivered on his pari-mutuel promise crushing his rivals with an open length triumph in a career-best time of 1:49 as the rain started to fall over the East Rutherford oval.
With the inside advantage, High Noon (Ron Pierce) fired to command and posted a :27-second opening quarter while a hard leaving Mystic Desire (Tim Tetrick) settled into the pocket from the outside position ahead of favourite Big Bad John (Dave Miller) and Lookinforadventure (Yannick Gingras).
Miller rolled Big Bad John to the top down the backstretch and cleared at the half-mile mark in :54.1. He was then faced with pressure as Lookinforadventure came looking for the lead.
Lookinforadventure moved up alongside the leader as they raced to three-quarters in 1:21.4, but Big Bad John gave that rival the cold shoulder and cruised home to an open length victory in 1:49. High Noon finished second with Mystic Desire third.
Big Bad John paid $4.20 to win. The colt lifted his bankroll over the $500,000 mark with the triumph for the Winchester Baye Acres Inc. of Ocala, Florida.
“He raced very well,” said Miller in the winner's circle. “He’s been racing really good all along. He was a little sick here and there and little things were bothering him, but they gave him a couple of weeks off and he’s real good off the rest.”
After winning his first four start of the season, the Western Hanover-Trulyawork Of Art colt finished fifth in the North America Cup and the Hoosier Cup. Following a three week layoff, he returned to the track to win his Pennsylvania Sires Stakes division at the Meadows on July 16.
“Our scheduling just hasn’t really worked out but hopefully it will for the rest of the year,” said trainer Ron Potter. “I think he was back when he raced at the Meadows a couple of weeks ago. We just kind of had to pick and choose where we wanted to go and we’ve got a lot going on the rest of the year and we want to be good for the big ones.”
Potter indicated that Big Bad John’s next big test will be the Battle of Brandywine.
$245,000 Lady Liberty for Older Pacing Mares
With driver Brian Sears aboard, Canada's 2010 Horse of the Year Dreamfair Eternal won her 50th lifetime start in the 2011 Lady Liberty in her trademark grinding style, first over and dead game.
Rock N Soul (Yannick Gingras) and Chancey Lady (George Brennan) showed early interest in fronting the field, and Chancey Lady won that battle to hit the first station in :26.4 with Rock N Soul, Ticket To Rock (Jody Jamieson) and Dreamfair Eternal comprising the top four.
Sears was the first to start a bid off the rail with Dreamfair Eternal as the field passed the half in :54 and the mare made gains through the 1:21 third panel with Rock N Soul looming large in the pocket. When the leaders hit the lane, Chancey Lady packed her bags as she'd had enough and that left a two-horse race: Dreamfair Eternal and Rock N Soul. Despite the overland journey, Dreamfair Eternal was able to hold off the pocket sitter by a length to hit the wire in 1:49.2. Ticket To Rock completed the triactor.
"I watched her race quite a bit and she didn't let me down," commented Brian Sears after the milestone win. "She's a fantastic mare; she doesn't mind first up at all, she just keeps digging."
"You always hope for horses like this and breed them to do this but it doesn't always come into play," stated breeder and owner John Lamers. "I was a bit concerned with her start to the year because she did have six months off and started slow. Karan and Pat, they look after her like she's their own child. She just kept getting better and better."
Lamers told Bob "Hollywood" Heyden that plans are to bring Dreamfair Eternal (Camluck - JCs Nathalie) back to the races until she says no. "She'll tell us when she's had enough."
$174,250 U.S. Pacing Championship – 2nd Division for Free For All Pacers
Brian Sears made a quarter-pole move to the lead with Bettor Sweet and the gritty gelding manufactured his 11th sub-1:50 victory in the process.
The six-year-old son of Bettors Delight-Sweet Future, who stalked Alexie Mattosie to the quarter pole in :27.1 before brushing to the top, came up with fractions of :54.2 and 1:21.2 before uncorking a :27-second closing panel to win in an impressive clocking of 1:48.2. Alexie Mattosie shot up the rail to grab the bridesmaid award, while Foiled Again took home the bronze medal.
"He's a sweetheart to drive," said driver Brian Sears. "These are top horses, he's sharp and has handy speed."
Tom Cancelliere trains the 21-time winner for John Cancelliere of Clark, NJ. The victory was the pacer’s seventh of the season, and the $87,125 payday lifted his overall cash stash to $1,931,542.
"I hope this roll never ends, God blessed us with him," added wwner John Cancelliere.
The connections of runner-up Alexie Mattosie were very pleased with the pacer's runner-up performance.
"I was expecting a good race, said trainer Nikolas Drennan. "He likes it here. Dave [Miller] said if he would have got room he would have won. I'm very pleased with the race, I just wish he would have got some room. The plan is to go in the Haughton next Saturday."
$272,500 Mistletoe Shalee for three-year-old pacing fillies
Drop The Ball picked a great time to win her first race of the year, closing from out of the clouds to win the 2011 Mistletoe Shalee.
Rocklamation (Andy Miller) and Pretty Katherine (Ron Pierce) were most eager off the gate along with Swinging Beauty (Doug McNair). Pretty Katherine was on top to the :26.3 opener but then faced stablemate Idyllic (David Miller), who challenged but couldn't quite clear before favoured Krispy Apple (Tim Tetrick) brushed to the front with gusto and tripped the half-mile marker in :53.2.
Idyllic did settle into the pocket and allowed Krispy Apple to front the field through a swift 1:20.2 third station before pulling the pocket in the stretch. Tetrick asked Krispy Apple for another gear but she came up empty and it appeared that Idyllic was home free. That was until Gingras unleashed Drop The Ball, who dropped the pedal to the floor coming from second last to storm down the lane and hit the wire three-quarters of a length ahead of Idyllic in a lifetime 1:49.1. Swinging Beauty finished third.
"The main thing is that I wanted to chase down horses this week," said Gingras after the win. "Ross changed the bridle on her this week and she was better. Everyone knows how fast she is, I'm glad these guys stuck with me."
Drop The Ball (Western Terror-Mattcheck Girl) is owned by Let It Ride Stables Inc., Dana Parham and Robert Cooper Stables LLC of Florida, and trained by Ross Croghan.
"It's been a strange situation with this filly," said Croghan. "Some decisions didn't work out and she's tried our patience but it's a bit of vindication today."
$750,000 Hambletonian Oaks for three-year-old trotting fillies
Bold And Fresh played giant killer when she found the chink in the armour of the 2-5 favourite, Crys Dream, en route to posting a 24-1 shocker for driver George Brennan and trainer Doug Miller.
Brennan was able to sit off the speed with the daughter of SJs Caviar-Odre Coucou while Sashay was on the hook for early fractions of :27.1 and :55 before self-destructing while feeling final turn pressure from Jezzy. The three-quarter pole was reached in 1:23.3 as Jezzy, who was the new leader, came under attack from O’Brien Award winner Crys Dream. The lead changed hands in the stretch when Crys Dream worked her way to the top, but Brennan kicked off a helmet with Bold And Fresh and the filly did the rest. She drew clear to win in a career-best clocking of 1:53.1 over the hard-charging Ontario-sired lass, Lady Rainbow. Crys Dream faded to finish third.
"The trip worked out perfect, left out of there and I was able to sit forever then get out behind Crys Dream," said driver George Brennan. "When I tipped out I thought I might have a shot, my filly felt good."
"She's a really versatile filly, and she loves to rally," said trainer Doug Miller. "It was a dream trip today, I knew that she'd be tough if she got loose in the stretch. We liked her last year [at two] but she was hard to train. All along, we thought she was a quality filly."
Donald Bartling of Timonium, MD owns the six-time winner, who improved her 2011 record to 5-2-0 in nine tries. The lion’s share of the purse bumped her lifetime earnings to $513,129. She was a $40,000 bargain buy from the 2009 Harrisburg Yearling Sale.
"I owned part of her sire, SJs Caviar, so I knew
if she was anything like he was she'd be fine,
said owner Donald Bartling. "It's special given that SJs Caviar wasn't Hambletonian eligible."
Lady Rainbow, who staged a huge rally in the lane en route to finishing second, overcame a nightmarish journey for her Canadian connections.
"The trip sucked," said trainer/driver Rick Zeron. "I was loaded. Loaded. Mike Lachance was outside of me. I kinda gave him a little bit of a bump down the backside. Mike hit it into the hole. I was jammed back in there sitting ninth or tenth. I got jammed up in there and I couldn't get out. If my mare got out a little earlier I would be talking in the winner's circle."
$300,000 Nat Ray Invitational - Older Trotters
Any thoughts of San Pail needing a home field advantage should be forever refuted after a convincing 1:50.4 score in the $300,000 Nat Ray Invitational for older trotters.
Driver Randy Waples left for position with San Pail, as did favoured Arch Madness (Brian Sears) to his inside. Ron Pierce had In Focus fired up from the outside of the gate along with Winning Mister (Yannick Gingras). Winning Mister made the front, with In Focus behind, followed by Lucky Jim, Arch Madness and San Pail.
After the :55.1 half-mile station, Sears pulled Arch Madness from third Lucky Jim and San Pail each had tipped off the wood to start outer flow. Arch Madness cleared to the lead with authority but faced pressure from Lucky Jim, towing San Pail into the second over spot through the 1:23.1 third panel.
Down the stretch, Waples tipped San Pail off the helmet of Andy Miller and San Pail unleashed a powerful brush as Sears started to work on Arch Madness. That effort would be futile as San Pail powered to the lead and hit the wire one length to the good in a lifetime best 1:50.4. Arch Madness just held off Lucky Jim for second.
"Early in the year we thought we'd like to come down if he was good and show everybody here just how good this horse is," stated trainer and co-owner Rod Hughes after the win. "Thanks to Randy, he's taught the horse to race and not just be one-dimensional. I have to thank Glenn [Van Camp] and Randy, none of this would happen without him in the seat. This is just awesome."
Hughes noted after the win that the situation was a bit more stressful than he wanted.
"You're always a little worried how he's going to truck, how he's going to eat down here. He got here, he trucked well, ate well, warmed up well," Hughes told Trot Insider after the win. "The only thing probably nobody knows here is that he threw a shoe warming up and I had to put it back on two minutes before we had to come to this outside paddock - it added stress to the situation. I think I'll wait a week until I tell Randy."
"He brings a tear to my eye, it's been an honour to sit behind him and see how he's progressed," stated Waples after the win. "Rod's done such a tremendous job. He gives the credit, but he has to take the credit. He's with the horse 24/7, 365 days a year. I'm justa warm body that sits behind him once a week. It was a huge opportunity that came my way.
"It's just a tremendous story, he was the horse that nobody wanted. You talk about Seabiscuit, there should be a movie about San Pail."
San Pail, the seven-year-old San Pellegrino-Village Beauty gelding that was named Canada’s 2009 and 2010 Older Trotting Horse of the Year, is owned by trainer Rod Hughes of Dunsford, Ont. and breeder Glenn Van Camp of Port Perry, Ont. He now has nine wins in 11 starts this year with $733,750 banked.
$174,250 U.S. Pacing Championship – 1st Division for Free For All Pacers
The trip was pretty and end result was a thing of beauty for We Will See, who turned a two-hole trip into a World Record-equaling performance of 1:47.2 for a four-year-old pacing horse. The son of Western Hanover-Aberdakara matched the mark established by Hypnotic Blue Chip in a division of the U.S. Pacing Championship in 2010 at the Meadowlands.
Ron Pierce plugged We Will See into the garden spot behind Aracache Hanover, who whacked out panels of :26.4, :54 and 1:20.2. Pierce angled the Sam 'Cosmo' De Pinto trainee off the rail half-way down the lane and had more than enough to gun down Aracache Hanover en route to the career-best performance. Aracache Hanover was a determined runner-up, with Delmarvalous grabbed the third-place cheque.
"He's tough, he can go," said driver Ron Pierce. "[Off a trip like that] you never know, the horse he had to get by he's tough, too."
"He's a real nice horse to be around, easy to take care of - the kind of horse everybody would want, he's got no issues at all," said trainer Sam 'Cosmo' De Pinto. "Next, he's here next week for the Haughton and then the Canadian Pacing Derby. Pretty sure he'll race at five."
Shannon De Pinto and Earl Smith of New Jersey share ownership on the 15-time winner with Jerry Silva of New York. Collectively, the partners have watched the pacer haul in $1,460,034 in lifetime earnings. He has put together a 7-3-0 record in 15 starts this season.
“He's got a little gate speed,” said trainer Gregg McNair when asked about Aracache Hanover muscling to the lead. “So that's one of the things he can do. I like the way he raced. He's been racing real good. We thought he'd go a big trip here. Ron [Pierce] took out on him in the last turn there. It kind of made him go a big third quarter. I don’t know if Ron would have caught him if he didn't push him along so much, but we had a good trip"
$400,000 Peter Haughton Memorial for two-year-old trotting colts
Stories in harness racing are usually written by Weingartner - Harness Racing Communications' Ken Weingartner. Today, his equine namesake makes the headline for brothers Jimmy and Johnny Takter with a 28-1 upset in the $400,000 Peter Haughton Memorial.
Driver Johnny Takter left alertly from Post 8 with Weingartner as did Trond Smedshammer with Trojan Horse. Takter was able to get to the lead in :28.4. Favoured Power Play (Andy Miller) surged to the lead and cleared but faced immediate pressure from Lightning Storm (Gingras), who made a break and took himself out of contention.
As the field trotted past the :56.2 half, Homer Hochstetler made his bid with Big Chocolate and the two favourites battled stride for stride through three-quarters in 1:25.3. Big Chocolate drifted around the turn, allowing Takter to pull pocket with Weingartner. In the stretch, Power Play ceded to a fresh Weingartner, who pulled away to a three-length 1:55.2 lifetime best performance. Power Play held off Big Chocolate for third.
Takter spoke through translator Perry Soderberg after the win, nothing that "he had watched him on video before the race, thought in the warm-up he had what it took to win and the trip worked out perfect."
A $170,000 yearling, Weingartner (Donato Hanover - Inspired Society) is owned by Toronto's John Fielding, Toronto, Louie Camara of Puslinch, Brixton Medical Ab, of Sweden and Christina Takter of New Jersey.
Interesting to note that Weingartner only made it into the final of the Haughton after the scratch of Nothing But Class.
$333,200 Merrie Annabelle Final for two-year-old trotting fillies
Heavily favoured Check Me Out, a filly from the first crop of 2007 Hambletonian winner Donato Hanover, unleashed a wicked mile when she toured the oval in a stakes record clocking of 1:54.2 for the team of driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Ray Schnittker.
The undefeated trotting lass, who is out of the mare Illusion Bi, got away in mid-pack while Bluff threw down the first fraction of :28.1. Upside Hanover muscled her way to the lead in the second quarter, and she supplied the field with a half-mile clocking of :57.1. Tetrick went first-over heading towards the final with Check Me Out, and they pressed Upside Hanover to the three-quarter pole in 1:26.2. Check Me Out found another gear turning for home and drew clear to win by open lengths in 1:54.2. Love Walked In came on late to grab the runner-up spot, with Upside Hanover holding on for third prize.
"She's very, very special," said driver Tim Tetrick. "She does everything right, she's smart and she likes to win. I was used pretty hard last week, pretty much right to the half. When I called her she still had more gears. The Donato Hanovers seem very smart so far."
He gave the filly's trainer, Ray Schnittker, a ringing endorsement, as well.
"Ray does a great job, he always has them ready. He's great to drive for."
Schnittker shares ownership on the freshman, who is now 6-for-6, with Charles Iannazzo of Tappan, NY. Today’s victory lifted her lifetime earnings to $218,528.
$102,750 Oliver Wendell Holmes for three-year-old pacing colts - First Division
In a rematch of the one-two finishers from this year's Meadowlands Pace, Roll With Joe and Big Jim engaged in an early speed duel. But neither colt could hold off the late surge of Shadyshark Hanover, who reunited with the returning Jim Morrill, Jr. and exploded from the back of the pack for a stakes record upset performance.
As the gates folded in front of the field of six sophomore pacers, favourites Roll With Joe (Ron Pierce) and Big Jim (Phil Hudon) both showed early speed along with Hugadragon (Yannick Gingras). Big Jim was three-deep into the first turn as Roll With Joe made the front and Pierce kept Big Jim to the outside and made him work from the lead through a :26.1 opening quarter. The speed continued through a :52.2 half as the field tightened up. Pierce made his move, pulling pocket before the 1:19.4 three-quarter station as Shadyshark Hanover started his move from the back into contention.
Into the stretch, Big Jim gave way to Roll With Joe but the backfield wasn't put away just yet. Morrill tipped three-wide and took dead aim at Roll With Joe, while Gingras tipped Hugadragon to the inside. Shadyshark Hanover was able to power past the leader and hold off Hugadragon for a dazzling 1:47.4 lifetime best and stakes record win. Roll with Joe held on for third while Big Jim faded to sixth.
"It was a torturous trip," said Big Jim's pilot, Phil Hudon. "I thought [Ron] Pierce was going to go a little cheap and let me come back, but that obviously wasn't in the game plan. This was a tough journey."
"They were mixing it up enough on the front," said Morrill after the race. "He felt great the whole way. This colt got good late last year, and Erv said he trained better this week. He might be returning to his form from last year."
Trainer Erv Miller noted that the Cams Card Shark son got a bit sick while in Canada and the expectations have been high for him.
"The expectations take their toll as you try a bit harder with him and he likes to come a little easier," said Miller. "Jim did a great job with him today."
Owned by the Shadyshark Stable of Illinois, Shadyshark Hanover (Cams Card Shark - Shady Past) now has two wins in eight starts this season.
$100,000 Perretti Farms Matchmaker – Free For All Mares
One of the hottest trainers on the planet, Anette Lorentzon, added to her impressive stats thanks to an off-the-pace upset with Jersey AS in a career-best of 1:51.4. The five-year-old daughter of Muscles Yankee-Superlou AS got up in the final strides to for the 7-1 surprise for driver George Brennan.
Mystical Starlight was hustled to the lead and supplied the field with a :28.1 opening panel before Autumn Escapade sprinted out of the three-hole and brushed to the top before the half. She hit the half in :55.4 and then zipped by the three-quarter pole in 1:24 while feeling first-over pressure from Action Broadway. Race favourite Buck I St Pat was perfectly poised on second-over cover. Buck I St Pat flipped off cover and gained a short lead in the lane before being hauled down in the final strides by Jersey AS. Buck I St Pat held on for the runner-up award, with the show dough going to Autumn Escapade.
"I've raced this mare a lot and I'll follow Buck I St Pat any day of the week," said driver George Brennan. "My mare had a ton of trot today. The track is super today. It's firm and I think you'll see some good miles today."
The homebred, owned by ACL Stuteri AB of Paris, KY, is now a four-time winner this season from eight tries. The 12-time winner upped her lifetime earnings to $259,157 with the win. The victory also earned the mare’s connections a free breeding to the Perretti Farms’ stallion of their choice.
$50,000 Townsend Ackerman – 1st division for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings
Orlando laid down all the speed in the opener, but he weakened late and left the door wide open for a host of backfield challengers. Whatever It Takes vaulted off cover for driver Andy Miller and drew clear to win in a career-best clocking of 1:52.4.
Fractions of :28.1, :56 and 1:24.1 were thrown down by Orlando, but he was swarmed by a number of foes at the head of the stretch. Miller, who was positioned third over with Whatever It Takes fed the three-year-old son of Credit Winner-Caper Caillie racetrack and the gelding did the rest. The even-money favourite drew off to win comfortably over Evil Urges, with The Evictor finishing third.
Julie Miller trains the sophomore, who was a $125,000 purchase from the 2009 Lexington Select Yearling Sale, for the partnership of Brittany Farms, Blue Chip Bloodstock Inc, Little E LLC and Credit Caper Partners. After going winless in two starts as a rookie, Whatever It Takes now boasts a 4-3-1 record in 10 starts this season. The lion’s share of the purse lifted his bankroll to $192,437.