Donna Soprano and You Ato Dream strengthened their credentials as legitimate Hambletonian Oaks contenders with victories in their respective divisions of the $281,500 Delvin Miller Memorial for three-year-old trotting fillies at The Meadowlands on Saturday evening (July 17).
Donna Soprano, after going five-for-seven as a two-year-old, was three starts in 2021 before the $142,000 first split (Race 1), but she certainly looked like a top-level filly during the race. Heavy favourite Beltassima, off a strong score in the W.N. Reynolds Memorial, brushed to the lead after a :27 quarter and was in control by the :55.1 half, with Donna Soprano starting her uncovered move from fifth entering the far turn. The victorious Donato Hanover filly quickly reached the favorite by the 1:24 three-quarters, and a good battle down the stretch saw Donna Soprano, the 3-1 second choice, wear down Beltassima by a half length in 1:51.3, a lifetime best. May Karp, not quick to clear, was another half length back at 75-1.
Daniel Dubé, who drove Donna Soprano for trainer Luc Blais and owner Determination, noted that, “I saw others leaving, so I was in no hurry to go forward.” Asked about the difficulty of the first-over trip, Dubé continued, “I thought she was the best, and as soon as I kicked the earplugs, she responded and she went on by.”
In the $139,500 second division (Race 3), 2020 Breeders Crown winner Lady Chaos, the 6-5 favourite, went out to command and slowed the quarter to :28. You Ato Dream, the 5-2 second choice away third for trainer-driver Jeff Gregory, thought it an opportune time to move to the lead, and, after making the top, put up soft middle fractions of :56.4 and 1:25. “When I saw the three-quarters time,” said George Romanoff, who shares ownership with Jeff Gregory Inc., William Richardson and Martin Garey, “I was feeling very comfortable.”
Lady Chaos did her best to try to dissipate that comfort, but after clearing relatively late, she could only get within a diminishing half length of the winner at the end of the 1:52.2 mile — also a lifetime mark. Hot As Hill finished only another neck back in third after a troubled trip. You Ato Dream has now won four of seven starts this year after only winning once and finishing second seven times in 10 starts as a rookie.
The Del Miller Memorial was part of a massive night of stakes at The Meadowlands. Full coverage is available in the Meadowlands Pace news centre.