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McClure Among Meadowlands Qualifiers

Published: April 17, 2021 1:35 pm ET

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A star-studded group of Standardbreds qualifying at The Meadowlands on Saturday (April 17) was joined by Canada's reigning driver of the year, Bob McClure.

McClure told Dan Ralph of the Canadian Press that he was asked to drive stateside by Team Determination and trainer Luc Blais, and he'll be vaccinated for COVID-19 within five hours of entering the U.S.

“It wasn’t an option to just shut down because they have grand circuit horses that are going to compete with the American-breds all summer...and you can’t just let the American horses get a month head start,” said McClure. “They have to be race-ready and that takes racing."

McClure had three drives during the morning session, notably finishing second with Determination's Mycrownmykingdom and fourth with Paula Wellwood-trained Muscle Dynasty, in advance of a drive on Saturday night with Stueben Hanover. His comments in advance of his drives on Saturday stressed the need for the harness racing industry to safely resume activity while noting concerns for the Canadian stables unable to shift operations stateside.

“These are not stock cars, you don’t park them in the garage and they stop burning gas and oil. These need to be fed, trained and worked and one person can’t do it. You need staff, you need everything.

“(Determination Stable) is Canadian ... with many Canadian-breds but they have to keep the business running. I’ve been fortunate the last few years but I don’t know how the majority, and I’d say the majority, of the industry is going to fare through this.”

Among the stakes winners to impress on Saturday were sophomore trotter Love Muffin, a seven-time winner in Pennsylvania as a freshman. Purchased over the winter by the Andy Miller Stable, Love Muffin (Andover Hall - Pine Yankee) was a wire-to-wire winner in 1:55.4 for Team Orange Crush -- driver Andy and trainer Julie -- ahead of Presto (Sarah Svanstedt).

Multiple stakes winner Beads was also impressive on the trotting side, doing all the work in a 1:54.2 performance while pulling away from talented stakes winners in the stretch. Brian Sears guided the Per Engblom trainee to victory for owner Renee Spahr, more than four lengths to the good over Play Trix On Me (Scott Zeron) with debuting stars Crystal Fashion (Jordan Stratton) and O'Brien Award winner Sorella (Yannick Gingras) another two lengths back to finish third and fourth respectively.

Breeders Crown winner Peaky Sneaky, the only filly to knock off divisional champion Party Girl Hill in 2020, forged first up to lunge past pacesetter Podium Girl (Patrick Ryder) and hold off Thebeachiscalling (Andy McCarthy) to win in her older debut in 1:54.2. Nancy Takter trains Peaky Sneaky (Bettors Delight - World Of Rock) for Howard Taylor, Judith Taylor and Order By Stable.

The royally-bred Grace Hill (Always B Miki - Western Silk) made her sophomore debut in style, winning after an on-the-engine performance in 1:54.1 for driver Dexter Dunn, trainer Richard 'Nifty' Norman and owner Tom Hill. JK First Lady (A. McCarthy) was a neck back in second.

Stablemates Literl Lad Hanover (David Miller) and Southwind Gendry (Yannick Gingras) faced off in the eighth qualifier of the morning, featuring a number of sophomore pacers eligible to the 2021 Pepsi North America Cup. Literl Lad Hanover carved out panels of :28.1, :57.1 and 1:25.2, with Southwind Gendry first up from third approaching the third panel. The duo faced off the stretch, with Southwind Gendry sprinting home through a :27.1 final quarter to best his Burke Brigade buddy in 1:52.4.

Owned by Burke Racing Stable, Phil Collura, Knox Services Inc., and Jandt Silva Purnel & Libby, Southwind Gendry (Always B Miki - Gamblers Passion) went 10-for-13 during last year’s freshman campaign, finishing off a brilliant two-year-old season with a lifetime best 1:50 score in the $193,000 Matron Stake at Dover Downs.

A pair of Burke stablemates also factored prominently in the ninth qualifier, with Lous Pearlman (Gingras) besting Summa Cum Laude (Dunn) in a 1:53.3 mile. The son of Sweet Lou - Lucys Pearl was a five-time winner at two, banking nearly $200,000 and taking a mark of 1:49.1 for Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Elizabeth Novak and Howard Taylor.

The Burke stable's third winner of the morning session was Filibuster Hanover, quickest of the morning (along with Ruthless Hanover) courtesy a 1:51.4 mile for Gingras. Now seven, Filibuster Hanover is approaching double millionaire status for Burke Racing Stable, Joseph Di Scala Jr, LLC J And T Silva Stables and Weaver Bruscemi.

To view the results from the Saturday session of qualifiers, click the following link: Saturday Results - The Meadowlands (Qualifiers).

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