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Trainer: Star Was Off Form All Year

Published: April 21, 2016 4:18 pm ET

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“Honestly, I cannot recall a start last year where he did not have gait issues, was not on a line, or was not fighting through some sort of lameness issue.” That quote has come from a trainer whose horse won 16 of 21 starts last year and banked over $629,000. Imagine if the horse was 100 per cent sound.

In addition to the aforementioned wins and purse earnings, make sure to include trotting the fastest mile in the history of the Meadowlands Racetrack and earning a Dan Patch Award.

Those sorts of accolades would indicate that the horse in question almost had a perfect season. And yet trainer Eric Ell has said that JL Cruze probably could have been better.

“He has never really been all that smooth, but he is just incredible and as game a racehorse as you will find,” explained the mid-atlantic-based conditioner who has earned a reputation for his miracle work with troubled trotters.

According to Ell, JL Cruze has come back a lot better so far in three undefeated starts as a five-year-old. Ell credits a change in the horse’s feed that has allowed the son of Crazed to thrive.

“Last year, he was a really picky eater and frequently would go a few days without eating much after his races,” said Ell. “We raced him very hard through all of those series that he was winning and he was fighting lameness issues. This year we are really looking forward to being able to manage his season better and giving him really only two races per month.”

The next main goal for JL Cruze will be the inaugural Elitlopp Playoff on May 8 at the Meadowlands. The $150,000 Free For All Trot is shaping up as a must-see early-season showdown that will award the winner an invitation to The Elitlopp at Solvalla Racecourse in Sweden on May 29.

Ell is giving JL Cruze this week off following a stretch of three wins over a 15-day period at the beginning of April.

“My plan is to race him at the Meadowlands next week, assuming the race fills,” said Ell. “That would then give him nine days to the Playoff, which would be the perfect amount of spacing. And my God, what a great field of horses he will face. There would be no shame in losing to any of those horses.”

Fans that wish to follow along the road to the Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff may visit a special website ( that will provide the latest news and profiles of all nominated horses. Follow along on social media using #ElitloppPlayoff.

(With files from the Meadowlands)

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