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Will 'Crown' Cap Brainard's Breakout Season?

If-I-Can-Dream.jpg

Published: November 28, 2008 1:50 pm ET

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A Breeders Crown trophy would be the gravy on top of what has already been a breakthrough season for trainer Tracy Brainard.

The 32-year-old conditioner will send out her first 'Crown' starters, two-year-old pacers Hawaiian Drink and If I Can Dream, on Saturday night at the Meadowlands. The Breeders Crown Night card features eight championships worth a combined $4.9 million (U.S.) for freshman and sophomore standardbreds. First race post time is 7:00 p.m.

Brainard ships into the Meadowlands after setting the record for most wins in a season (101) at the recently concluded Vernon Downs meet. She also ranked among the top trainers at Tioga Downs this season. Through November 27, she has started 431 horses that have won 151 races -- a 35 per cent clip -- and over $1.6 million. The native of Binghampton, New York grew up in a harness racing family and obtained a trainer's license in 1997. She brought a modest number of racehorses to post before taking time off to have a daughter in 2002. Since returning to work full-time in 2006, she has quickly built one of the most successful stables on the New York circuit in partnership with her boyfriend, driver Josh Marks.

"I am very excited to be making my debut in the Breeders Crown," Brainard said. "My stable has always consisted mostly of raceway horses. It's been a departure for me to have these young horses to train, but it's been good. I haven't really changed my ways of doing business and they seem to have responded well. I train them like the others and it seems to be working."

Crown contenders Hawaiian Drink and If I Can Dream entered Brainard's barn in September and have improved in each of their five starts since.

Hawaiian Drink is the 2-1 morning line favourite in the $700,000 Breeders Crown Two-Year-Old Filly Pace. She carries a four-race win streak that includes the Three Diamonds at Woodbine and a career best 1:51.3 in the Matron at Dover. Hawaiian Drink cruised to victory on the front-end in her Crown elimination last week.

"Hawaiian Drink raced super last week and came out of the race really well," Brainard said. "She has been racing great since the Matron at Dover. I expect her to be just fine on Saturday."

If I Can Dream, rated at 8-1 in the $700,000 Two-Year-Old Colt Pace, also enters Saturday's race off a victory in the Matron at Dover, where he took a mark of 1.50.4 and pocketed $189,362 for his efforts. After taking some air, the colt kicked home in a swift :26.4 to finished fourth in his Crown elim, beaten only a length by Major In Art.

"If I Can Dream got parked and came home in a fast last quarter, but he was not all out," Brainard noted. "Our main concern was to make the final and he did that. We'll see what happens this week. He is feeling good and I like his chances."

Click here to view a printable program page for the Meadowlands' Breeders Crown card.


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