Stars Tune Up In New Jersey

While the Grand Circuit has taken residence at Woodbine Mohawk Park for its month-long September stay, a few of harness racing's brightest performers turned in impressive tune-up miles south of the border on Saturday morning's (Sept. 4) qualifying session at The Meadowlands.

Two-year-old pacing filly Niki Hill opened the proceedings with a decisive 1:52.3 score over five rookie rivals. The daughter of Always B Miki and Road Bet rated a :58.1 first half in line to Dexter Dunn before turning on :54.2 back-half speed to beat Gotthegreenlight by 14 lengths. Chris Ryder trains the undefeated filly, who has won one preliminary event in each of the Kindergarten and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes series, for Tom Hill, who purchased her last fall for $155,000.

Ramona Hill, who has been off since breaking stride in the July 17 Hambletonian Maturity, delivered a strong 1:53.3 qualifying mile. Andy McCarthy angled the 2020 Hambletonian winner off the pegs from fourth with three-eighths to go, and once she was fed racetrack, the daughter of Muscle Hill accelerated willingly. After working into the lead in mid-stretch, Ramona Hill levelled off briefly, but she found more in the final sixteenth to edge 1-1/2 lengths clear of stablemate Robert's Hanover. Tony Alagna trains the earner of over $1.4 million for Brad Grant, Crawford Farms Racing, Robert LeBlanc and In The Gym Partners.

The five-race session concluded with some on-track fireworks, as Nicholas Beach, who just finished second to Allywag Hanover in a Pocono invitational two weeks ago, drilled a :54.3 closing half mile to win his qualifier in 1:52.3, 10 lengths better than runner-up Da Delightful. Brian Sears brushed the five-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding from third to first with five-eighths to go, and the 16-time winner sprinted off willingly at first asking. Trainer Jenn Bongiorno co-owns Nicholas Beach with John Lengacher and Michael Cote Gagnon.

To view the complete results from Saturday's qualifiers at The Meadowlands, click the following links: Two-Year-Old Races | Qualifiers.

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