Grand Circuit action begins on Friday, July 20 at Meadowlands Racetrack with the second leg of the Kindergarten Series for two-year-olds of both sexes and gaits. There will be three $10,000 divisions of the Kindergarten for 2-year-old trotting fillies, two $10,000 divisions of the Kindergarten for 2-year-old pacing colts and trotting colts and a single $10,000 division of the Kindergarten for 2-year-old pacing fillies.
On Saturday, July 21, the Meadowlands card will offer the $68,600 Tompkins-Geers for three-year-old trotting fillies and the $61,900 Tompkins-Geers for three-year-old trotting colts.
Also on Saturday Saratoga will host their marquee event, the $260,000 Joe Gerrity Memorial for older pacers.
Finally, The Meadows on Saturday will offer a pair of $25,000 eliminations for the Devlin Miller Adios for three-year-old colt pacers. The $400,000 (est.) Adios final the following Saturday afternoon anchors a blockbuster card that features six Grand Circuit stakes.
Last time: David Miller flashed a wide smile as he guided Courtly Choice to the winner’s circle after winning the $701,830 Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace. The monkey was off the Hall of Famer’s back. After 18 failed efforts, Miller finally owned a victory in the Meadowlands Racetrack’s signature event for 3-year-olds. Courtly Choice rallied to win the Pace by 1-1/4 lengths on Saturday night (July 14).
“That was sweet,” Miller said. “Really sweet.”
The Pace was an obvious omission on Miller’s glittering resume. “The Buckeye” is second on the sport’s all-time money list with $222 million in the bank. His best previous Pace finish was a second with Always B Miki in 2014.
The sweetness of the moment spread in many directions, including trainer Blake MacIntosh, who also savored the victory in his Pace debut.
“I believed in this horse,” said MacIntosh, the former assistant to Casie Coleman. “He just had some back luck earlier in the year.”
And it was a winning gamble for the ownership group that ponied up $61,690 to enter the eliminations. The faith of Hutt Racing Stable, Mac And Heim Stables, Daniel Plouffe and Touch Stone Farms was rewarded with the $333,370 first-place check.
Most importantly, it was a moment of redemption for Courtly Choice, who failed to make the finals in the North America Cup and the Max Hempt Memorial.
The colt served notice his moment was at hand with a sharp first-up victory in his Pace elimination. And then he finally put it all together for the richest victory of his career.
The race seemed primed for a 57-1 upset when a dead-game Dorsoduro Hanover, handled by Matt Kakaley, battled his way to the front at the top of the lane. But Courtly Choice was tracking his every move and angled wide under Miller’s urging to score the victory.
“The trip worked out good,” Miller said. “The couple of horses I thought would leave from the outside left. I was able to get Matt in front of me and nobody else moved. On the last turn, I was real happy with my spot.”
The time was 1:47.1 on the warm evening.
Courtly Choice paid $4.40 as the 6-5 favourite.
Grand Circuit Standings: In 2018, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2018 Grand Circuit awards.
Here are the leaders following the past weekend:
Drivers: 1. Tim Tetrick – 452; 2. Yannick Gingras – 430; 3. Jordan Stratton – 256; 4. David Miller – 226.5; 5. Scott Zeron – 178.
Trainers: 1. Ron Burke – 428.5; 2. Jimmy Takter – 280; 3. Jim King Jr. – 171; 4. Tony Alagna – 142; 5. Peter Tritton – 122.
Owners: 1. Vonknoblauch Stable - 107; 2t. Burke Racing Stable – 100.2; 2t. Weaver Bruscemi – 100.2; 4. Crawford Farms Racing – 80; 5. Fashion Farms – 72.
Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will be taking place next weekend at The Meadows and Meadowlands Racetrack. The Meadows will host eight Grand Circuit events, led by the final of the Delvin Miller Adios for three-year-old pacing colts. Meadowlands Racetrack will host eliminations for three lucrative stakes, led by the Hambletonian Oaks for three-year-old filly trotters, as well as the Reynolds Memorial for three-year-old colt trotters.
(With files from the Grand Circuit)