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'Major' Speed Saturday In Lexington

Published: October 5, 2019 2:20 pm ET

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After one of his horses posted a double-digit upset on Friday and posted the fastest divisional time of the day, trainer Mark Harder sent out another speedy stakes winner while two unblemished freshmen -- Tall Dark Stranger and Elver Hanover -- stayed perfect during Saturday's Grand Circuit card at The Red Mile.

Harder's Major Betts put forth a major effort and just missed getting a share of the world record in Interational Stallion Stakes action, winning the second of four divisions.

Moneyman Hill (Scott Zeron) fronted the field into the first turn but yielded to a determined Genius Man (Marcus Miller) in a sharp :26.2 opening panel. With favourites Cattlewash and Put To Right off the speed near the back of the field of seven, driver Dexter Dunn right-lined Major Betts from fourth and cleared after a brisk :53.4 half. Sandbetweenmytoes (David Miller) was flushed out to provide cover but didn't advance as Major Betts powered past the third quarter in 1:21.2 and opened up lengths on the field. Cattlewash (Yannick Gingras) and Put To Right (Andy McCarthy) fanned off cover and tried to collar the leader but Major Betts would not be denied, winning by three in 1:49.1 over Put To Right with Cattlewash third.

The time of the mile was just one-fifth of a second off the world record for freshman pacing colts, co-held by Sweet Lou, Huntsville and Downbytheseaside.

"Last week was just an aberration, he just had a bad day for whatever reason," said Harder after the win. "I just told Dexter 'forget about last week, he had a bad day. Race the colt.' He's always liked him, I said 'race him like you still like him.'"

Harder co-owns Major Betts (Art Major - Southwind Johanne) along with Joseph Jannuzzelli of Manalapan, N.J. and Deena Rachel Frost of Delray Beach, Fl. In seven starts, Major Betts has a record of 3-1-1 and banked $86,460 thus far with the Breeders Crown still on his horizon.

Capt Midnight rebounded from his loss as the favourite in the 2019 Metro with a decisive victory in the first International Stallion division.

Driver Andrew McCarthy settled Capt Midnight into third off the gate as Roll With JR (Doug McNair) fronted teh field in front of second choice Catch The Fire (Mike Wilder). Roll WIth JR paced through the first fraction in :27.2 and slowed the pace enough for McCarthy to right-line before the half and clear to the lead after a :55.2 midway point. Looking strong on top to hit the three-quarter mark in 1:23, McCarthy popped the plugs in the stretch and let Capt Midnight sprint home. A :26.4 closing panel helped the colt hit the wire in 1:49.4 to match his lifetime best. Four colts were across the track in second, with Fortify (Scott Zeron) emerging over Roll With JR and Catch The Fire.

"Once he got up to Canada there, he figured it out," said McCarthy. "He's come a long way. I think he's going to be a top three-year-old for sure.

"Tall Dark Stranger is a very good colt, I definitely don't think we left there red-faced that night, he raced terrific," said McCarthy of Capt Midnight's Metro Pace effort. "I used him pretty hard that second quarter and it caught up to us mid-stretch...I knew what I had today."

A $350,000 yearling, Capt Midnight (Captaintreacherous - It Was Fascination) is trained by Tony Alagna for Brad Grant of Milton, Ont. Marvin Katz of Toronto, Ont., Ken Jacobs of Baldwinsville, N.Y. and Capt Midnight Racing of Boynton Beach, Fl. He's now won six of his nine lifetime starts and banked $326,694 along the way.

The 2019 Metro Pace champ Tall Dark Stranger kept his perfect record intact, winning his seventh career start with a easy and impressive mile in his International Stallion division.

Driver Yannick Gingras settled 1/9 choice Tall Dark Stranger away in fifth as Tell Them Lou (Dexter Dunn) and Captain Barbossa (Andy McCarthy) took turns on the lead through a :28.1 opening quarter before Gingras moved and cleared to the lead before a :55.1 half. It was lights out from there as Tall Dark Stranger faced no anxious moments, hitting the third station in 1:23.1 before sprinting home in a sharp :26.4 to trip the timer in 1:50 with Gingras still with a fairly snug hold on his colt. Captain Barbossa and Father Nuno (Brian Sears) completed the triactor.

"He was strong across the wire," trainer Nancy Johansson noted after the race. "Yannick said he had plenty of pace left."

The colt was a $330,000 yearling, with Johansson noting the one attribute of Tall Dark Stranger that really stood out was something that can't come from a pedigree page.

"Charisma. He just had great presence when he was brought out for us to look at and I think charisma is one of the most important attributes for a racehorse to have."

Johansson trains Tall Dark Stranger (Bettors Delight - Precocious Beauty) for Marvin Katz of Toronto, Ont., Crawford Farms Racing of Syracuse, N.Y., Caviart Farms of Vienna, Vi., and Howard Taylor of Philadelphia, Penn.

“I think people here are knowledgeable and understanding this horse is doing this very easily, it’s spectacular,” co-owner Marvin Katz said after the race. “I listened to Jimmy Takter [last year when] he said ‘This is the best horse [at the Lexington Sale and] you got to be in’ and I said I was in. That was it. It didn’t take much thinking; when Jimmy said you got to be in, that was it.”

Another colt with a perfect record that stayed perfect was harness racing's fastest freshman male pacer Elver Hanover, and he delivered on his 1/9 odds to capture the fourth and final International Stallion division.

Captain Groovy (Matt Kakaley) cleared to the lead from post six early before being cleared by Seeyou At Thebeach (Tim Tetrick), who hit the first station in :27.3. Chris Page shifted gears with Elver Hanover and advanced first-up, landing on the lead before a :55.3 half. Page stole a soft third panel, hitting three-quarters in 1:24 before asking for more speed in the stretch. Page kept Elver Hanover on task through the lane and Elver Hanover sprinted home in :26.3 to hit the wire in 1:50.3, more than a length to the good over Seeyou At Thebeach with Captain Groovy third.

"I'd like to thank all the owners, Ronnie and the staff for having the faith in me to guide these nice horses that are high-priced investments," said Page in the winner's circle. "I was joking with the groom coming out here and our little joke was that if every horse was like this it would make our job easy. The horse is a complete professional."

Now nine-for-nine as a freshman, Elver Hanover (Yankee Cruiser - Edra Hanover) is trained by Ron Burke for Burke Racing Stable LLC of Fredericktown, Penn., Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky of Hanover, Penn., Jason Melillo of Powell, Oh., and J&T Silva Purnel & Libby of Delray Beach, Fl. The winner's share of the purse pushes his earnings to $363,450.

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