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Artspeak Wows Crowd In Stakes

Published: May 30, 2015 10:59 pm ET

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The 13-race Saturday program at The Meadowlands featured four $100,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes Championships for three-year-olds, with big names making big headlines.

There are certain performances in any sport that warrant somebody standing up and saying “wow, did you see that?” That is the best way to explain the turn of foot shown by Artspeak in the New Jersey Sire Stakes Final for three-year-old pacing colts on Saturday night at The Meadowlands.

Sent off as the 3-5 favourite, Artspeak was allowed to settle well off the speed off the gate and into the first turn as the 8-5 second choice, Hurrikane Ali, sprinted to the lead past the opening quarter in :26.3.

As the field turned down the backstretch, Artspeak appeared to be nearly 10 lengths off his main competition, a margin that Scott Zeron acknowledged in a post-race interview “seemed to be too far back.” But, that didn’t last long.

As soon as Zeron showed his champion colt racetrack, Artspeak grabbed the bit and “took off all on his own,” showing a turn of foot that you don’t see every day, to say the least. In just an eighth of a mile, Artspeak made up all the ground on Hurrikane Ali and blew past him, taking the lead past the half in :54.3, while settling into a high-cruising speed.

At this point, Hurrikane Ali was asked to keep up with the favourite, but Artspeak was well within himself as ripped through three-quarters in 1:21.3 while opening up on the field.

The lead continued to expand through the stretch and Artspeak reached the wire in a lifetime-best 1:48.4. Gokudo Hanover finished well to be second with Revenge Shark third.

Winning trainer Tony Alagna spoke to how well his champion wintered.

“When he came off the truck from Brittany Farms, he looked like a million bucks,” said Alagna. “When I saw him, I knew we made the right move skipping the Breeders Crown. Those extra 30 days really helped him.”

Artspeak’s driver was very impressed with his effort tonight.

“That move was vicious,” claimed Zeron. “He did it all on his own. He was always professional, but now as a three-year-old, he is bigger and stronger.”

In addition to being trained by Alagna and driven by Zeron, Artspeak is owned by Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Joe Sbrocco and In The Gym Partners. With the win, his career earnings have surpassed $865,000. Two weeks from the North America Cup eliminations, Artspeak is the presumptive favourite.

The other star on the program was Mission Brief, who was making her second start of her three-year-old campaign. Ron Burke reported to Harness Racing Update that Mission Brief is “not perfect right now,” but that did not prevent the betting public from sending her to the post as the 1-5 favourite.

Yannick Gingras allowed his world champion to float away to the gate and ease her way on the outside of horses as Marion Millionair established a tepid :28.4 opening quarter.

As the field straightened up on the backstretch, Mission Brief assumed command and led past the half-mile in just :58.2.

A challenge would soon follow as Tim Tetrick launched Model Behavior after the favourite as the field reached three-quarters in 1:27.1. Model Behavior put a head in front under strong urging, while Gingras remained motionless behind Mission Brief, not asking her for any more speed than he had to.

Mission Brief fought back to win by a measured length in 1:54.3. Model Behavior was a very good second with Rileys Dream third.

Gingras was happy to win, but recognized there is room for improvement for his filly.

“She warmed up really good,” said Gingras. “But honestly, I was going as fast as I could with her on the turn. She wasn’t having it. Time is on our side, but there is work to do.”

Mission Brief is trained by Ron Burke for Burke Racing Stable, Our Horse Cents Stables, J & T Silva Stables and Weaver Bruscemi. With the victory, her earnings have now eclipsed $657,000.

While the favourites did what was expected in the first two Sire Stakes finals, there was an upset by a familiar name in the three-year-old filly pace.

At post time, the bettors had a difficult time separating Stacia Hanover and Happiness, with less than $6,00 separating them in the win pool. Happiness would get the first call as she led the field past the quarter in :27.2, but she relinquished that lead to Lindys Old Lady down the backstretch, who reached the half-mile in :56.1.

At that point, Stacia Hanover committed first over and she launched a move around the far turn, challenged for and assumed the lead past three-quarters in 1:23.4.

From there, Stacia Hanover opened up a lead in the stretch, but an upset was looming as The Show Returns, who was well back early, hit her best stride and showed the kind of speed we saw from her at times last year and she rolled through the stretch to nail Stacia Hanover on the wire to spring the 40-1 upset for John Campbell. Stacia Hanover was second with Wicked Little Mix third.

After the race, Campbell spoke about the acceleration his filly showed.

“Chris [Ryder] made some changes to her bridle and some shoeing changes tonight and it definitely worked,” said Campbell. “Obviously that’s the best finish she has shown this year.”

The Show Returns is a sister to world champion Put On A Show, who also raced for trainer Chris Ryder and owners Richard and Joanne Young.

The 1:51 clocking was a new lifetime mark.

The New Jersey Sire Stakes for the trotting colts looked like a bit of a Hambletonian preview with the big three, Guess Whos Back, French Laundry and Canepa Hanover, taking center stage.

However, one of the three, Guess Whos Back, wouldn’t survive the first turn as he made a break while pressing the pace nearing the first quarter. That pace was established by Canepa Hanover, who reached the lead in a :28-second opening panel, with French Laundry four lengths off the speed in third.

Canepa Hanover would hit the half-mile in :56.2 before stretching his legs around the far turn and trotting a back half-mile in :54.4 to dominate the Sire Stakes Final, hitting the wire in 1:51.1, a lifetime mark, for Yannick Gingras, who replaced Jimmy Takter in the bike as Takter conditions Maven for her Elitlopp attempt in Sweden. French Laundry was second with Aldebaran Eagle third.

Gingras was very impressed with his colt.

“Last year training down he [Canepa Hanover] looked like the best one. Everyone liked him,” said Gingras. “Before Jimmy left for Sweden he told me he had this horse as good as he could be. He got a little playful in the stretch, so I popped the plugs just to give him a reminder and he found another gear.”

It will be interesting to see if Gingras continues to drive Canepa Hanover, or if Takter will get back in the sulky upon his return from Sweden. Gingras also drives Mission Brief, who is being pointed to the Hambletonian as well, but while speaking about Canepa Hanover, he stated that with Mission Brief “there are concerns for sure, but she’s got trot and she wants to do it.” It could be an interesting 10 weeks leading up to the Hambletonian.

Handle for the Saturday program was $3,053,853 with over 15,000 people attending the Jerseyfest Foodtruck Mash-up event.

Both Jackpots in the Super Hi-5 went unclaimed. The fifth race Jackpot carryover grew to $141,175 while the last race carryover will be $115,348 into the Friday program, when racing resumes at 7:15 p.m.

(With files from Meadowlands Racetrack)

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