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Schnittker To Take Filly To Hambo?

Published: May 11, 2012 1:10 pm ET

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Trainer Ray Schnittker has gone on the record as stating that if one of his three-year-old fillies shows that she is up for it, there could be a distaffer taking a shot at the Hambletonian in 2012.

When the Meadows hosts a leg of the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes for three-year-old trotting fillies on Tuesday, May 15, it could be providing a showcase of two of the top contenders for divisional honours. Check Me Out, last season’s juvenile trotting filly of the year, and Sand Violent Blu, Pennsylvania’s 2011 divisional champion, will each make their seasonal debuts in the event.

Sand Violent Blu will leave from the rail in Race 4, the second division, with Brett Miller driving, while Check Me Out will race from post 4 in Race 9, the fourth and final division. Trainer Ray Schnittker will be in the bike. First-race post time is 12:55 p.m.

While the two star fillies won’t face each other Tuesday, they have a history, of sorts. Last September 10 at Pocono Downs, Sand Violent Blu established a World Record of 1:54.3 for freshman trotting fillies while capturing her PASS title. On November 5 at Dover Downs, Check Me Out obliterated that mark by capturing an elimination for the Matron Stakes in 1:53.2, thus matching the fastest mile ever trotted by a two-year-old — regardless of gender — on a five-eighths-mile track.

Check Me Out fashioned a remarkable year for owners Ray Schnittker and Charles Iannazzo, as she won 14 of 16 starts and finished second when she didn’t take the winner's share of the spoils. Among her major triumphs were the Breeders Crown championship, the finals of the Merrie Annabelle and the Matron and a division of the International Stallion Stakes. The daughter of Donato Hanover banked $898,343 and captured a Dan Patch and O'Brien Award.

Her most recent qualifier, a 1:55 tune-up at Pocono Downs on April 26, suggests she’s ready to launch her quest for a second straight divisional crown, and perhaps a spot in the Hambletonian.

“If she looks like she can handle the boys, we’ll probably take a run at them,” Schnittker said. “She’d have to look like she could really crush them. I don’t want to throw away money.”

He said he likely will race Check Me Out off the trot in the sires stake.

“I probably will take her off the gate and let her charge home,” he said. “I think she could have gone in 1:53 in her qualifier at Pocono. When you can go that kind of time on the back end, nobody will stay with you.

“She’s come back a little more relaxed, a little more focused. Both qualifiers were great. I’ll be very disappointed if she gets beat.”

Sand Violent Blu, bred and owned by Bill Sanders, earned $212,552 at two, most of it in Pennsylvania races. Her horizons should expand this year, as she’s eligible for such premier events as the Elegantimage, the Breeders Crown, the Hambletonian Oaks, the Moni Maker, the Kentucky Filly Futurity, the Circle City and the Matron. She’s qualified three times, most recently in 1:55.2 at the Meadows, to prep for her campaign.

Impressive as she was last year, the Tom Ridge filly provoked concern when she fought off sickness to eke out a victory in the Keystone Classic as the 1-9 favourite. Trainer Tye Loy shut her down after that squeaker.

“I knew she wasn’t right,” Loy said. “She bled that night, and her white count was off. She carries a higher white count, but it’s something I’ll have to watch all year. She’ll be making her first pari-mutuel start on lasix.”

She also was a handful off the track, kicking her walls so violently at times that Loy felt compelled to line her stall with protective padding. He recently added a padded strip to a spot that was blocked by feed tubs — or so Loy thought.

“She really didn’t like the new strip, but she is a little calmer in the stall,” he said. “She still has her days once in awhile.”

Loy said travel doesn’t appear to bother her, but that he’ll try to make her road trips as easy on her as possible.

“After five minutes on the road, she settles right down,” he said. “But I’ll be looking to stay over with her as much as we can.”

PASS action for 2012 kicks off at the Meadows on Monday, May 14, with five divisions of a $100,000 PA Stallion Series event for three-year-old trotting fillies. First-race post time is 12:55 p.m.

(With files from the Meadows)


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