Few trainers have dominated the Hambletonian Oaks like Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter. The 55-year-old has won the filly classic five times including the past two editions with Wild Honey and Lifetime Pursuit.
Takter will have a contender in both divisions of the $56,486 Reynolds on Saturday night at the Meadowlands, which also features a pair of $250,000 Graduate Series Finals for four-year-olds and a single Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace elimination.
Takter’s Breeders Crown champion All The Time is the 7/5 morning line favourite in the first Reynolds division which goes as race two on the program. The daughter of Muscle Hill defeated aged horses last week in a conditioned race in a lifetime-best 1:52.3 over a sloppy track. It was a major bounce back effort after a defeat as the 1/5 favourite in the New Jersey Sire Stakes Final in early June.
“That was really something weird that happened in the Sire Stakes when she was off in her right hind leg,” explained Takter. “She basically raced on three legs that night and still finished second. But she has since come back very well and I think is a big contender on Saturday night and in the Oaks.”
Takter added that she compares very favourably to his two most recent Oaks winners.
As accomplished as All The Time is, Takter’s other Reynolds starter is a virtual unknown.
Unica Steed makes just her second North American start after compiling a perfect three-for-three record racing in Italy for top French trainer Fabrice Souloy. Unica Steed is by 1998 Hambletonian winner Muscles Yankee and the first foal out of the $1.6 million earning mare Premiere Steed, who set a world record on a five-eighths mile track of 1:52 when winning a race in Finland in 2009.
“She is a beautiful looking filly and I like her a lot,” said Takter. “I got her about six or seven weeks ago and she was really good in her second qualifier with Yannick driving. I thought she was handled too carefully last week in her first race at the Meadowlands. Time will tell how well she fits because it’s hard to tell off of her two-minute wins in Italy, but she shows ability.”
Unica Steed is a homebred owned by Ecurie Ab Trot. Takter explained that the filly really had nowhere to race in Italy and the owners decided to send her to North America to compete. After the Reynolds, she is also eligible to next weekend’s Del Miller Memorial ahead of the Hambletonian Oaks on August 6.
Saturday’s Graduate Pace features a highly-anticipated matchup between Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit and Indiana sensation Freaky Feet Pete who headline the full field of ten.
“Having these two superstars compete in the Graduate Final is exactly the reason I think it is so important to keep our stars racing on the track,” said Meadowlands chairman Jeffrey Gural. “Obviously, Wiggle It Jiggleit is a gelding, but both he and Freaky Feet Pete built tremendous fan followings last season and it would have been a major loss for the fans and our sport if they were retired. Now we are treated to matchups like this one and hopefully another showdown with Always B Miki next week in the Haughton.”
Post time for Saturday’s 13-race card is 7:15 p.m. For more information, visit www.playmeadowlands.com.