A pair of Hambletonian Oaks champions were the winners of the two $30,000 divisions of the third leg of the Miss Versatility Series for Open mare trotters at The Meadowlands Saturday night.
Manchego put a beating on seven overmatched foes in the first split, bringing back fond recollections for driver Yannick Gingras. “It was great getting to drive her again,” said Gingras, who last drove the Nancy Takter trainee in September of 2019 at Scioto Downs. “Winning the [2018 Hambletonian] Oaks with her was great. I have great memories with her.”
The six-year-old daughter of Muscle Hill-Secret Magic, whose usual pilot Dexter Dunn was on the sidelines serving a suspension, sat a five-hole trip in the early going as the overwhelming 1-9 favourite and did not get into things until just before the half, as she made her way uncovered toward leader A Fancy Face, who reached the half in :55.1.
Manchego was at the leader’s throat on the far turn, surged to the top as they straightened away for the stretch drive, and went on to an easy four-length score in 1:50.4 to stay perfect in three starts this year. Felicityshagwell S was second with No Mas Drama third.
Upping her lifetime stats to 36 wins from 59 starts and earnings of $2,855,276, Manchego, who has already won the Cutler and Maxie Lee this season, returned $2.20 to win.
“She has developed into a different horse and it was a pleasure to get to sit behind her,” said Gingras of the current top-ranked horse in the weekly Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown national Top 10 poll. “She really is two fingers to drive in the hole. She raced like a true professional.”
Division two was taken by 2019 Oaks winner When Dovescry, who, for a second-consecutive Miss Versatility start, was allowed to rate a modest middle half, which resulted in a hard-fought neck win over Next Level Stuff in 1:51.4.
“If there had been a hole early, I would have taken it,” said winning driver Dave Miller. “But I let her settle and she went on to the lead easily.”
The Brett Pelling trainee, a five-year-old daughter of Muscle Hill-Cedar Dove, sprinted the opening split in :26.4 to make the lead before being permitted to cut a middle half of :58, one week after a sleepy :59.4 clocking led to her first win of the season.
Next Level Stuff, the 7-5 second choice, came calling around the far turn, but could not pass the eventual winner after a stretch-long battle. Absattitudexpress was third.
“When Timmy [Tetrick, driving Next Level Stuff] came at me, I knew it would be a nice battle,” said Miller. “In the first leg she went by us [on May 8], but my horse was pretty game tonight.”
When Dovescry returned $4.20 as the even-money choice and now has 14 wins from 32 starts, good for earnings of $1,159,158.
I’LL HAVE A HOT TODDY: Todd McCarthy had the hot hand as the 28-year-old native Australian guided five winners on the card, which included a natural hat trick on races nine, 10 and 11.
A LITTLE MORE: Backstreet Shadow burst onto the scene late and prevailed by a neck after a heated deep stretch, head-to-head duel with 3-5 favourite Allywag Hanover to take the $35,000 Preferred for pacers in 1:48 at odds of 11-1 for driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Ron Burke.
Tetrick finished the night with three victories. Tony Alagna trained three to victory lane.
All-source betting totaled $3,044,175.
Racing resumes Friday (June 18) at 6:20 p.m. (EDT).