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Dittmar Wants Another Series Win

Published: February 3, 2015 2:29 pm ET

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Some people win the Super Bowl and go to Disney World, or in the case of this year, Disneyland. Bill Dittmar Jr. is going back to the Meadowlands.

Dittmar is the co-owner of four-year-old trotter JL Cruze, who on January 24 won the $50,000 final of the Super Bowl Series at the ‘Big M.’ On Thursday, the horse will begin a second winter series at the Meadowlands, the Charles Singer Memorial for three and four-year-old trotters.

JL Cruze will compete in the first of two opening-round divisions Thursday. The gelding will start from Post 4, with driver John Campbell at the lines for trainer Eric Ell, in the seven-horse field.

The second leg of the Singer is scheduled for February 12 and the $50,000 (estimated) final will be contested on February 21.

Dittmar, who lives in Langhorne, Pa., and his partners, Stephen Iaquinta of Havertown, Pa., and Ken Wood of Denton, Md., bought JL Cruze for $37,000 at November’s Standardbred Horse Sale. The horse has won five of seven starts for his new owners, including three of four this year.

The group purchased JL Cruze because he fit favourable non-winners conditions at Dover Downs, where the owners race frequently, and it was an added bonus that the horse met the conditions for the Super Bowl, Singer Memorial, and Shiaway St Pat winter events at the Meadowlands. The Shiaway St Pat Series is in March.

“He’s in real good shape right now,” Dittmar said about JL Cruze, who won the Super Bowl title by two lengths over Opulent Yankee in 1:54.4. “We had about 10 horses earmarked at the sale. As long as he fit into our price range, he was one of the ones we were looking for because he fit the (conditions) at Dover Downs, where we were looking for him to fit in.

“It’s worked out very well. We made him eligible to all three series (at the Meadowlands). We thought he would be very competitive in the Super Bowl, and we’re hoping for the best in the next two.”

For his career, JL Cruze has won eight of 21 races and $73,847. In his five starts prior to November’s sale, all at Vernon Downs, the son of Crazed-Topcat Hall posted one win, two seconds and two thirds.

“He was coming on right before we got him, and John Campbell liked him,” Dittmar said. “Once Eric got ahold of him, he thought he had potential.”

Dittmar, who works as an insurance inspector, grew up near Liberty Bell Park and started owning harness racing horses in the 1980s.

“I used to go over to Liberty Bell a couple nights a week,” Dittmar said. “That’s how I got into it. I bought a horse with a couple guys and we had some success. It got in our blood real quick.”

One of Dittmar’s top recent horses was Anders Bluestone, who won the final of the 2011 Maxie Lee Memorial over Buck I St Pat and Corleone Kosmos at Harrah’s Philadelphia. Dittmar and Wood still own the horse, who now stands as a stallion in Delaware.

Dittmar hopes JL Cruze can follow in Anders Bluestone’s footsteps on the racetrack. JL Cruze is the 6-5 morning line favourite in his Singer division, which also includes Opulent Yankee, who is 8-5.

Blocking The Way, who finished third in the Super Bowl final, is the 5-2 favourite in the second division. That split also includes Super Bowl fourth-place finisher Propulsion (3-1) and fifth-place finisher Two Hip Dip (4-1). Walk The Walk, who did not compete in the Super Bowl, is 7-2.

In the Super Bowl final, JL Cruze raced on the outside through an opening quarter of :28.4 and half of :56.1 before getting the lead from Two Hip Dip. Opulent Yankee, who handed JL Cruze his only loss this year in the second round of the series, got into second place on the last turn but was unable to make up ground in the stretch.

“We thought (JL Cruze) would be better racing from behind, but his last two starts it hasn’t worked out,” Dittmar said. “The first quarter in the final went real slow and we kind of got stuck out there, so he had to push on. We still think he would probably be better off chasing horses, but we’ve got to take what they give us.”

While the connections are focused on the Singer and Shiaway St Pat series, they will have to decide by February 17 whether to nominate JL Cruze to the Graduate Series for 4-year-old trotters. The three-leg series concludes with a $250,000 final on July 11 at the Meadowlands.

“We’ve got a couple weeks to look at that,” Dittmar said. “You’re going to have better horses there. That’s a tough call. Now you’re investing a little more money. Other than that, we haven’t looked that far yet because we didn’t really expect him to be where he is. You just never know sometimes.”


This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.


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