2023 Meadowlands Pace Contenders Weigh In

2023 Meadowlands Pace contenders Ammo, Confederate Fulton and Voukefalas
Published: July 14, 2023 06:36 pm EDT

Brett Pelling and Tim Tetrick will race morning-line favourite Confederate in Saturday’s $668,000 Meadowlands Pace, with Pelling looking to extend his record for training wins in the Meadowlands Racetrack’s signature event for three-year-old pacers to five and Tetrick looking to move within one victory of John Campbell’s driving record of seven.

Pelling’s previous Pace champs were Davids Pass (1995), Dream Away (1997), The Panderosa (1999) and Rocknroll Hanover (2005). Confederate will be Pelling’s fourth Pace finalist since he returned from an 11-year hiatus spent in Australia. His best finishes since then came in 2020, when Papi Rob Hanover was second and Allywag Hanover was third.

“I can’t remember the fourth one; a big gap in between,” Pelling said with a laugh about his Meadowlands Pace wins after Confederate won his elimination last week in 1:47.3. “So, (to win again) would be great.”

Tetrick’s past winners were Southwind Lynx (2007), One More Laugh (2010), Captaintreacherous (2013), He’s Watching (2014) and Huntsville (2017). Confederate has won three of four races this year, with only a second-place finish by a head in the million-dollar Pepsi North America Cup keeping him from being undefeated.

“He’s been perfect,” Tetrick said. “He’s very consistent. He’s just a good drive away from everybody being happy.”

Confederate will start the Meadowlands Pace final from post five and is the 6-5 morning-line choice. The colt has won eight of 11 career races, finished in the top-three on three more occasions, and earned $777,825. Five of his victories have come when racing from off the pace. In the remaining three, he either went wire-to-wire or was in front by the race’s midpoint.

“Timmy thinks he’s OK either way,” Pelling said. “He’s confident if he has to put him on the front, but his best runs that I’ve seen have been coming off a helmet. He’s got high speed, he can follow speed, speed is his thing. He loves to go quick.

“I think he’ll be the best he can possibly be (Saturday).”

New Jersey Sire Stakes champion Voukefalas is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line, followed by El Rey at 9-2. Both horses finished second in their respective eliminations. The top five from each elim qualified for Saturday’s final. Cannibal, who won the first of the two eliminations in 1:48.1, is 6-1.

“It’s going to come down to who shows up on that great day,” Tetrick said. “My horse can do it on the lead; I prefer him chasing. But it’s a horse race, and when you go for that much money, sometimes you have to take things by the horns.”

Confederate is a homebred son of Sweet Lou-Geothermal owned by Diamond Creek Racing. He is one of three horses in the Meadowlands Pace owned solely or in partnership by Diamond Creek, along with homebred Cannibal and Christchurch.

The Meadowlands Pace is race 11 with an approximate 10:40 p.m. post time. It will be part of a 10 p.m.-midnight broadcast of Big M races on Fox Sports 1 as part of NYRA’s “America’s Day at the Races.”

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Linda Toscano won the million-dollar Pepsi North America Cup in June with Its My Show. She will do something unprecedented Saturday if Fulton wins the Meadowlands Pace. No trainer has ever captured those two three-year-old classics in the same year with different horses.

Fulton missed a top-three finish for the first time in 15 career races when he was fifth in the first of last week’s two eliminations. He went to the front in a :53 opening half-mile and faced pressure from Voukefalas on the way to three-quarters in 1:21.2. Voukefalas took the lead in the stretch, but was unable to hold off Cannibal, who won in 1:48.1. Fulton was three lengths back.

“I thought he raced brave considering how hard he went to the half,” Toscano said. “I’m a little disappointed, but only because it’s the first time he was ever off the board. But all in all, I’m just happy to be in the final.”

Fulton’s luck might have turned for the better a couple hours after his elim. Fulton and Save America, who finished fifth in the second elimination, were left vying for the last two available posts — one and 10 — as the draw for the final neared completion. Fulton ended up with post one rather than the outermost spot on the starting gate.

“I was fully expecting the 10,” Toscano said. “When the rail came up, I went ‘whoa!’ So that was really good.”

Fulton, a homebred son of Heston Blue Chip-Bettor Be Steamin, has won nine times in his career and earned $461,678 for owners Let It Ride Stables and Bottom Line Racing. He won an elimination of the North America Cup and finished third in the final. Last year, he was a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion.

“He’s had a nice easy week,” Toscano said. “He’s doing good.”

Toscano won her first Meadowlands Pace in 2019 with Best In Show, a half-brother to Toscano’s North America Cup-winner Its My Show who was not eligible to the Meadowlands Pace.

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Voukefalas might feel at home at The Meadowlands, where he has won New Jersey Sire Stakes championships at ages two and three. Going back to last summer, the Mike Russo-trained colt has won five of his past seven starts at the Big M and was second in the remaining two races.

One of those runner-up finishes came last week in the first of the two Pace eliminations, when he was beaten by a half-length by Cannibal in 1:48.1. Voukefalas and driver Jordan Stratton made a first-over charge from fourth at the half, got the lead in the stretch, but were unable to hold off Cannibal at the wire.

“I’m satisfied with the race, but I think he should have won,” Russo said. “Jordan said he had a little trouble steering him, and he’s usually pretty straight. I know he was really sound, so I’m sure we’ll figure it out. He raced really good regardless. It’s still first-over, (1):48, but he’s better than what he showed.”

Voukefalas drew post two for the final and is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line behind 6-5 favourite Confederate. The colt, a homebred son of Lazarus N-Inittowinafortune owned by Michael Pagonas, has won six of 13 career races and earned $488,088.

“This is a dream,” Russo said. “It’s a race that everyone wants to win. Being overly confident isn’t an issue because I know there are nine other good horses in there. The trip is going to determine a lot. I know my horse is as good as anybody. He’ll do what he’s going to do.”

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Ammo will make his third lifetime appearance in a race worth at least $600,000 on Saturday when he competes in the Meadowlands Pace. And for the third time, he will not start from inside of post nine in a 10-horse field.

The Joe Holloway-trained Ammo, who was fourth in the second Pace elim last week, drew post nine for the final. This follows getting post 10 in the North America Cup and post nine in last year’s Breeders Crown, which were both at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

He was able to overcome the post disadvantage in the Breeders Crown, though, winning at odds of 52-1 with David Miller in the sulky. With a victory Saturday, he will become the third horse in seven years to win the Breeders Crown at two and add the Meadowlands Pace, joining Tall Dark Stranger (2020) and Huntsville (2017).

Ammo, a son of Sweet Lou-Beach Gal owned by Val D’Or Farms and Ted Gewertz, is 30-1 on the morning line. He has hit the board in 10 of 14 career races, winning four and earning $563,883.

Meadowlands Pace Night at the Big M begins at 6:20 p.m. (EDT). The card also includes the Hambletonian Maturity for four-year-old trotters, the William R. Haughton Memorial for older male pacers, Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older female pacers, Mistletoe Shalee for three-year-old female pacers, and two divisions each of the Stanley Dancer Memorial and Delvin Miller Memorial for three-year-old male and female trotters. The card will also be carried live on the SC website. A free full card program is available here.

(USTA)

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