Karl completed his two-year-old season in high style on Saturday night, capturing the $432,000 Valley Victory final to become harness racing's newest millionaire and headline the Fall Four finals on Saturday, Nov. 25 at The Meadowlands. With Yannick Gingras in the bike, the Nancy Takter-trained son of Tactical Landing completed the mile in 1:52.1 and scored his ninth win in 10 career starts.
Daiquiri Hanover and Åke Svanstedt blasted from the gate to take control into the first turn as Gingras and Karl were more measured — leaving but not advancing hard — on the opening bend. Karl had a chance to drop in third on the first turn, but Gingras wanted no part and effortlessly secured the front just past the :27.4 opening fraction.
Sent off as the 1-20 favourite, Karl got the respect one would expect once in front and easily carved out fractions of :56 and 1:24.3 during the middle half with no pressure and even less urging from the pilot. There were no anxious moments at all for Gingras, although Svanstedt looked to tip Daiquiri Hanover out of the pocket in mid-stretch but found that effort futile in short order. With a :27.3 final quarter and Gingras motionless, Karl crossed the wire a dominant winner. Daiquiri Hanover was easily second, three lengths behind, with Winter Soldier rallying along the pylons for the third spot.
Owned by Christina and Nancy Takter, Black Horse Racing, Crawford Farms Racing and Bender Sweden, Karl became the second two-year-old trotter to go over the $1 million mark this season, joining T C I as rookie trotters with seven figure bankrolls. As the heaviest possible favourite, Karl paid $2.10 to win and keyed an $5.20 exacta with Daiquiri Hanover second and a $12.80 trifecta with Winter Soldier on the ticket.
“He’s got the kind of gears that not many horses have,” said Gingras about the enormous ability Karl possesses.
Trainer Takter’s dad, Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter, trained Karl’s sire, Tactical Landing, and Nancy trained a pair by that stallion this season.
“I only have two, but they’re very nice ones,” Takter said, referring to both Karl and Hambletonian champion Tactical Approach.
“He does his work easily. He’s very smart, a brilliant horse.”
The 1:52.1 effort shaved a fifth of a second off the previous Valley Victory mark, set a year ago by Volume Eight.
Captain Luke Stalks, Soars To Governor's Cup Score
Captain Luke and driver Todd McCarthy found room along the pylons at the top of the stretch and finished powerfully to capture the $454,000 Governor’s Cup, for two-year-old pacing colts and geldings on Saturday night at The Meadowlands. The son of Captaintreacherous completed the mile in 1:51, giving trainer Tony Alagna back-to-back Cup’s, following El Rey’s victory in 2022.
McCarthy got away quickly from post two and forced Newsroom into a hole into the first turn. Second choice Lou Vuitton and driver Tim Tetrick marched up and took control past the :27.3 opening quarter, leaving Captain Luke in the pocket.
The pace slowed in the second quarter as Newsroom headed to the outside but kept position as Tetrick and Lou Vuitton hit the half in a comfortable :56. The pace picked up as Newsroom and David Miller marched up strongly in the third quarter, followed by Maxim Hanover and Its Saturday Night in the second- and third-over positions.
Lou Vuitton was still on the lead through three-quarters in 1:24.1, but turning into the homestretch, he bore off the pylons, allowing McCarthy and Captain Luke full clearance. That opening was all Captain Luke needed as he quickly took advantage and opened significant ground on the closers, winning by 2-1/2 lengths. Its Saturday Night and Marcus Miller finished with the most pace, coming wide to secure the second spot, while Maxim Hanover was outkicked but settled for third.
Owned by Robert LeBlanc, Pryde Stables Inc., Brad Grant and Steven Head, Captain Luke was a winner for just the second time in 12 career starts with both coming after the addition of Lasix. He has earned $362,266 to date.
As the 7-5 betting favourite, Captain Luke returned $4.80 to win; the exacta, including Its Saturday Night, returned $73.20; and the trifecta, with Maxim Hanover, was worth $303.20.
“He was an immature colt that we had a lot of expectations for,” said Alagna of Captain Luke. “I’m expecting big things from this horse next year.”
“He’s a little green,” said McCarthy. “He’s got a great attitude and he’s starting to put it all together.”
Caviart Belle Staves Off Breeders Crown Champ, Wins Three Diamonds
Caviart Belle took the lead on the backstretch and held off 1-9 favourite My Girl EJ in the lane to win the $376,000 Three Diamonds, for two-year-old female pacers, by a neck in 1:50.3 at The Meadowlands.
Sarasota Hanover (Scott Zeron) and Miraculous Deo (Todd McCarthy) left quickly at the start, from posts eight and nine, respectively, while Caviart Belle and driver Yannick Gingras were third on the first turn from post three. Sarasota Hanover led to the opening quarter in :27.1, but Caviart Belle already was on the move to the front and took the field to the half in :55.4 and three-quarters in 1:23.
My Girl EJ (Dexter Dunn) had started a first-over move from fourth prior to the halfway point and was second entering the stretch, but she was unable to overtake Caviart Belle, who was racing for the first time since winning the Kindergarten Classic Series final on Nov. 4 at the Meadowlands.
“She didn’t feel quite as sharp in the post parade; three weeks ago, in the Kindergarten final, she was kind of dragging me around in the post parade and felt so sharp,” Gingras said. “Tonight, she wasn’t quite like that. But she’s a really tough filly and it seemed like the move to make at the time (to go to the front), but she needed the wire. All those fillies needed the wire.
“The last place I wanted to be was on the front. She can get it done on the front — she’s a good filly — but I don’t think it’s her best game. If she can have live cover like she did in the Kindergarten final, she can just smoke for a quarter; she is just so fast. But that’s just the way it worked out.”
Nancy Takter trains Caviart Belle for owner Caviart Farms. The daughter of Captaintreacherous-Eloquent Grace was bred by Hanover Shoe Farms. She has won seven of 13 races this year and earned more than $480,000.
Sent off as the 7-2 second choice, Caviart Belle paid $9.60 to win.
Pizzelle Shuts Down Division Foes In Goldsmith Maid
Ten top two-year-old filly trotters crowded the two-turn battle of the $428,000 Goldsmith Maid on Saturday night at The Meadowlands, with Pizzelle delivering a mild upset. Andrew McCarthy drove the daughter of Walner to victory in 1:54.
Pizzelle did not get a call most of the race, racing toward the back of the pack while Sambuca Hanover (David Miller) revved to the early lead over co-favourite R Melina (Dexter Dunn). Also in the forefront were French Champagne and co-favourite Soiree Hanover (Tim Tetrick) followed by Honey Sweet and Glamorous Hanover. The field trotted unhurried through a soft first quarter of :28 before R Melina opened the second panel with a rush to the top over Sambuca Hanover. The top three remained in those spots hitting the half in :57.2.
Sitting in third, Tetrick held tight as Sambuca Hanover took three gallops approaching three-quarters and was able to get her back on stride by three-quarters in 1:25.2. Sambuca Hanover’s recovery created a duel with her co-favourite as inside trotters stalled. Down the stretch, however, the farthest path to the wire proved to be the fastest lane as McCarthy flew freely with Pizzelle to pass the dueling duo and hit the wire in 1:54, winning by 1-1/4 lengths.
Sambuca Hanover, at 12-1, survived an inquiry for the missteps and held for second. R Melina captured the show spot.
“She’s been good all year,” McCarthy said when asked how he felt approaching the stretch while second to last in the big field. “I was going to try to catch cover because the middle half was good and I still wasn’t sure at the head of the stretch.”
“She was sick for a bit and took a few weeks off,” said Noel Daley, who trains Pizzelle for Chris Beaver and Donald Robinson. “We didn’t do anything with her.”
Was he worried she was second to last into the stretch?
“I saw we were in a bit of trouble there, but I know she can sprint,” as she did when it counted most.
It was Pizzelle’s third victory in 13 starts at two. She raised her earnings to $315,850, and she paid $14.40 to win.
For coverage of the FanDuel Championships, click here.