The final quarter was eventful, but that didn’t stop Opulent Yankee from winning the Friday night feature at the Meadowlands.
The seven-year-old gelded son of Muscles Yankee, who won the Preferred Handicap on March 9, made it two straight spotlighted Big M events, taking the $15,000 high-class conditioned trotting event in 1:54.
Opulent Yankee, coupled in the wagering with Double L Lindy, was sent to the gate as the 1-5 public choice and not surprisingly made his way to the top in :27.4. After backing down the half to :57.1, Buff popped out of the four-hole to go after the leader, towing Di Oggi and Iron Mine Johnny with him as Freehold shipper Dekeyser sat the pocket.
During the final quarter of a mile is when the judges earned their pay.
Coming out of the far turn, the leader raced inside of a pylon, but stayed on course from there. Dekeyser was erratic through the stretch as driver Brett Miller was desperate for racing room in the two-hole. Inside the eighth pole, Dekeyser went inside three pylons, and after he finished second, the judges took a long look at the stretch run.
They determined that there was no need to penalize Opulent Yankee, who did not gain an unfair advantage, but Dekeyser was disqualified and placed last in the seven-horse field for racing inside “two or more consecutive pylons” as the rules state. The official order of finish was Opulent Yankee, Di Oggi and Iron Mine Johnny.
Opulent Yankee hit the wire one and a half lengths to the good and paid $2.40 to win for “Team Orange Crush” -- trainer Julie and driver Andy Miller. He’s now taken four of five outings this year for Jeff Gural’s Little E LLC, Arthur Geiger and David Stolz.
A LITTLE MORE: Wagering was vigorous throughout the card, as a total of $2,442,065 was bet on the 11-race program, an average of $222,005 per race. … The Pick-5 took in $57,507 in wagers, the second biggest non-carryover pot during the month of March. … The track’s signature Pick-4 was popular as usual, as total play was a month-best $94,375. … Andy Miller, Brett Miller, Marcus Miller and Jim Marohn Jr. all recorded driving doubles. … The Late 20-Cent Jackpot Super High Five once again failed to result in a single-ticket winner, bloating the carryover to $152,982. … Racing resumes Saturday at 7:15 p.m. Western Joe is the early 8-5 choice to win his fifth Preferred Handicap for pacers in seven tries this year.
(With files from Meadowlands Racetrack)