After looking like a mere shadow of herself two weeks ago, Lady Shadow appears to be back in form entering the $250,000 Breeders Crown Mare Pace final Friday night at The Meadowlands.
Lady Shadow, an O’Brien Award winner in Canada at ages three and four, entered the Oct. 9 Allerage Mare Pace in Lexington with eight firsts and a second in her previous nine races before finishing eighth. After some tweaks by trainer Ron Adams, Lady Shadow rebounded last Friday to win her Breeders Crown Mare Pace elimination by 7-3/4 lengths in 1:48.4 over a track rated “good” because of rain.
“She raced huge, she’s back to her old self,” Adams said. “She looked very strong, the plugs were still in, and I was very happy with her.”
The five-year-old is one of the favourites heading into the final, where she will face a field that includes Frost Damage Blues, also an elimination winner, stakes-winning Solar Sister, and 2015 Breeders Crown three-year-old filly champion Divine Caroline. Lady Shadow finished fourth in last year’s Mare Pace.
According to the trainer, it didn’t take much to get Lady Shadow back on the right track for last week’s elimination.
“We made a few little changes to her daily routine,” Adams said. “She tied up on us in Lexington and she was just no good. We’ve made some changes to her routine and training schedule to try to prevent tie up and it seemed to bounce her right back to her old self.
“She’s been iron tough all year. I like her attitude and her willingness to race.”
Lady Shadow, driven by Yannick Gingras, feels right at home at the Meadowlands. She has won all three of her starts there this year, including the Lady Liberty and Golden Girls. Adams noted that she enjoys big tracks such as Mohawk and the Meadowlands.
“She gets to use her speed to her advantage,” he said. “On the smaller tracks she gets jammed up in the turns a little bit. Here she gets to stretch her legs and just kind of roll along. That’s what she likes.”
What she likes most of all is to compete. She has won nearly half of her 53 career starts, posting 26 victories to go with eight seconds and three thirds. Her career earnings are in excess of $1.5 million and this year she has won $724,121, which leads all older female pacers.
“When she shows up at the racetrack she’s all game, she’s here to race,” Adams said. “She brings it every week. She had a good year last year. She went some big trips and kind of had a little bit of bad racing luck in between, too.”
Co-owned by Howard Taylor & Richard Lombardo’s BFJ Stable, Ed Gold, Carl Atley and David Kryway, the group purchased the daughter of Shadow Play and Lady Camella in the summer of 2015.
Adams, who took over training Lady Shadow in June 2015, couldn’t have been happier.
“I followed her whole career,” he said. “I knew she was a nice mare. She just got better, bigger, stronger, and came back even better this year.”
In the first elimination race, Solar Sister won but was disqualified and placed fourth for interfering with Sassa Hanover, who went off stride nearing the wire. Thus, Frost Damage Blues, who finished second by a neck, was declared the winner after going 1:51.1. Divine Caroline was placed second and Sassa Hanover third. Katie Said got the last spot in the final by finishing fifth.
Frost Damage Blues, driven by Brett Miller, has won five of 10 starts with two seconds in winning $60,909. In her elimination, she was seventh with a quarter-mile to go and stormed home in :25.2.
“She raced great,” trainer Tom Fanning said. “She came from a bit of a tough spot, but that’s kind of how she likes to race. Every time we’ve taken her out of her game it’s been a little disappointing. We just do what she likes.”
Fanning is hoping Frost Damage Blues, a four-year-old daughter of Western Ideal-Art Matters, can buck a trend on Friday night.
“Her year has been good but she’s been a little unlucky,” he said. “She seems to get rough trips in the finals and it hasn’t worked out for her. Maybe here it will work out. It worked out (in her elimination) so that was good. She’s a nice mare. She tries hard. I think our mare can finish off a mile as good as any of them.”
Solar Sister has hit the board in 12 of 15 starts this season, with four firsts, four seconds and four thirds for $373,080. Trainer Gregg McNair hopes the four-year-old daughter of Mach Three-Cabrini Hanover is coming around after two thirds and a sixth in her previous three races before the elimination.
“She hasn’t raced that good her last three starts, but here I think she raced a little bit better,” McNair said. “She raced better than she had been racing. She came up real flat at Flamboro (finishing third in the Ellamony on Oct. 1). Two starts ago, the trip didn’t work out for her. But the race we were really disappointed in was Flamboro.”
For the most part, though, the trainer is happy.
“She’s been a good mare,” McNair said about Solar Sister, who was Canada’s 2015 O’Brien Award winner for best three-year-old filly pacer. “We really haven’t over-raced her. She’s raced pretty good down here; she seems to like the Meadowlands.”
Trainer Joe Holloway had Dave Miller drive two mares into the final with Divine Caroline and Bettor Be Steppin, who finished fifth in Lady Shadow’s division. Divine Caroline was the U.S.’s 2015 Dan Patch Award winner for best three-year-old filly pacer.
Both horses are familiar with the Breeders Crown, having been there at ages two, three and now four. Last season, Divine Caroline (Rock N Roll Heaven-Loving Caroline) and Bettor Be Steppin (Bettors Delight-Two Steppin Sally) combined to win 13 races and earn $1.13 million.
“This year has been a disappointment, but it’s a tough transition from three to four,” Holloway said. “Both made the final, so that part’s accomplished. I thought they raced good.
“Steppin had to back up and I knew I was just going for a cheque. Caroline, she’s improving each time a little bit; I’m a little bit optimistic with her and hope for a bigger cheque. Maybe Steppin can grab a cheque too. We’ll just have to see how the race goes.”
Finishing behind Lady Shadow in her elimination were Bedroomconfessions, Regil Elektra, and Skippin By.
Following is the field in post order for the $250,000 Breeders Crown Mare Pace.
PP – Horse – Elim Driver - Trainer
1 – Divine Caroline – David Miller – Joe Holloway
2 – Lady Shadow – Yannick Gingras – Ron Adams
3 – Katie Said – Scott Zeron – Jimmy Takter
4 – Frost Damage Blues – Brett Miller – Tom Fanning
5 – Solar Sister – Doug McNair – Gregg McNair
6 – Skippin By – Corey Callahan – Ron Burke
7 – Sassa Hanover – Yannick Gingras – Ron Burke
8 – Regil Elektra – Joe Bongiorno – Keith Armer
9 – Bettor Be Steppin – David Miller – Joe Holloway
10 – Bedroomconfessions – Scott Zeron – Tony Alagna
This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.