Big M Main Events To Nicholas Beach, Hillexotic

Hillexotic and Nicholas Beach may have used different tactics, but both came up winners in the co-featured events at The Meadowlands on Saturday night.

Hillexotic took the $31,500 Open 1 for trotters for the potent pair of trainer Ron Burke and driver Yannick Gingras. It was the first win of the year in five starts for the six-year-old gelded son of Muscle Hill-Exotic Destination.

“He’s had some physical issues,” said Gingras. “But when I raced him here a couple of weeks ago [when second, missing a nose to Inaminute Hanover], he was good. Now, he’s healthy and back to himself.”

Gingras asked Hillexotic for early speed from post six in the seven-horse field and led at the quarter while parked in :27.2. Lovedbythemasses, the 8-5 favourite, followed Hillexotic to the quarter and went past that one to grab the front before the three-eighths, and took the field past the half in :56 and three-quarters in 1:24.3.

Then, it was game on.

Gingras slid Hillexotic out of the pocket coming off the far turn before needing every inch of the final three-sixteenths of a mile to gun down Lovedbythemasses at the wire by head in 1:51.2. Inaminute Hanover finished a close-up third.

“The trip worked out alright,” said Gingras in a bit of an understatement. “I thought [Lovedbythemasses] was going to go out of there with me, and I was OK with it. I was worried about both horses in deep stretch. We were all trotting pretty good.”

Hillexotic returned $7.80 to his backers as the 5-2 second choice in the wagering while raising his lifetime earnings to $641,120.

Nicholas Beach returned to his speed-flashing ways in taking the $36,000 Open 2/Open 1 Handicap for pacers in 1:50, getting back on track after dropping his last four outings, three as the public choice.

“We raced him from the back a few starts and this week we knew he was ready to go,” said winning trainer Jenn Bongiorno, who has nicknamed her prized pupil ‘Baby Nicky.’ “He finished with tons of pace for a few starts, so tonight we gave him his chance [by racing on the front end]. We are proud of how hard he fought to win against such a super bunch of horses.”

A seven-year-old gelded son of Somebeachsomewhere-Michelle My Gal, Nicholas Beach, whose lifetime best 1:47 came at The Big M 11 months ago, took the lead away from Burnham Boy N just after the quarter before passing the half in :55.1 and three-quarters in 1:22.3.

A final quarter of :27.2 was just enough for Nicholas Beach to hold off Burnham Boy N by a neck. Lous Pearlman, the 3-2 favourite, was positively airborne through the stretch, closing from next to last with a quarter to go to finish a close third.

Nicholas Beach, who was driven by Jenn’s brother, Joe Bongiorno, paid $7.80 as the 5-2 third choice in the betting and lifted his lifetime stats to 21 wins from just 48 starts, good for earnings of $480,730.

“This horse is all heart,” said Jenn. “He wants to do his job and we couldn’t appreciate him more.”

All-source wagering totalled $3,098,801, keeping an impressive Big M betting streak alive. There have been 27 Friday and Saturday night programs contested at The Meadowlands during 2023, and each one has seen betting bust the $3-million barrier. During 2022, there were a total of 85 race cards contested at the mile oval, and betting went past the $3-million plateau 23 times.


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