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Check Me Out & Maven Renew Rivalry

Published: August 1, 2012 8:29 pm ET

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The connections of filly trotter Check Me Out decided against facing the boys in Saturday’s Hambletonian, but that does not mean the road to victory is any easier in the Hambletonian Oaks.

In Saturday’s $714,050 Hambletonian Oaks, Check Me Out will face a field that features five of this season’s fastest three-year-old filly trotters, including the only one to hand her a loss this year – Maven.

“It’s not going to be easy,” said Charles Iannazzo, who owns Check Me Out with trainer Ray Schnittker. “It’s going to be a race. When you race for that kind of money they don’t give it to you. But she’ll be ready. We’ll be here.”

Check Me Out, who is the No. 1-ranked horse in harness racing’s weekly Top 10 poll, and Maven enter the Hambletonian Oaks final off impressive wins in their respective elimination races last weekend. Check Me Out, driven by Tim Tetrick, won by two and three-quarter lengths in 1:53.4 while Maven, with Yannick Gingras at the lines, was victorious by three lengths in a career-best 1:52.4.

Maven handed Check Me Out a one and a quarter length setback in 1:53.4 in a $68,778 division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at The Meadows on May 15 in the first race of the season for both fillies. Check Me Out turned the tables in the $519,400 Elegantimage Stakes on June 16 at Mohawk Racetrack, edging Maven by a nose in 1:52.1.

Now, they meet again. Check Me Out will start the Hambletonian Oaks from post two and is the 4-5 morning line favourite. Maven will start from post three and is the 5-2 second choice.

“[Maven] is peaking at the right time,” said the filly’s trainer, Jonas Czernyson, who won the 2005 Hambletonian Oaks with Jalopy. “She’s been good all year and hopefully we can hang on for another week. Check Me Out raced very good, so it’s going to be a horse race, that’s for sure.”

In addition to Check Me Out and Maven, the Hambletonian Oaks field includes Win Missy B, Holier Than Thou (another Czernyson trainee), Superstar Hanover, and Personal Style. Those are six of the seven fastest three-year-old fillies this year based on their best win time.

“It’s a very good field,” said Schnittker, who won the 2008 Hambletonian with Deweycheatumnhowe and is looking for his first Oaks trophy. “[Maven] is a very good filly. Hopefully we’ll get the job done. We look real good in there.”

Check Me Out was voted unanimously last season’s Dan Patch Award winner for best two-year-old filly trotter and picked up an O'Brien Award in Canada as well. She has won 20 of 23 career races, including last year’s Breeders Crown and Merrie Annabelle, and finished second in her three losses.

In last year’s Peaceful Way Stakes, Check Me Out was runner-up to Win Missy B from post 10, so Iannazzo was happy to win the Hambletonian Oaks elimination and earn the right to select her post position for the final.

“These eliminations are very important; winning this was really important,” Iannazzo said. “It was what we expected. Timmy took her off the gate, found a spot, and when he felt she was ready he tipped her out. It was nothing that we didn’t expect. She raced great.”

The decision to race Check Me Out in the Hambletonian Oaks rather than the Hambletonian was made more difficult after she won the $245,500 Delvin Miller Memorial for three-year-old filly trotters on July 14 at the Meadowlands in a world-record 1:51.3.

Continentalvictory, in 1996, was the last filly to win the Hambletonian. The most recent filly starter was Pampered Princess, who in 2007 won her elimination and finished sixth in the final.

“I let Ray make that decision; he’s the professional,” Iannazzo said. “After she had that world record here in the Del Miller, he was hedging a little bit. But we talked a little bit and he said we had to put our egos aside and do what’s right for the filly. I agree 100 per cent. It’s a long season and there’s plenty of racing to go.”

Check Me Out has earned $1.49 million in her career and with a win in the Hambletonian Oaks will become the richest filly trotter in history (based on combined earnings at ages two and three). Passionate Glide holds the record for highest earnings by a filly trotter, having won a total of $1.72 million in her two and three-year-old campaigns.

Maven enters the Hambletonian Oaks final with 12 wins in 18 career starts and $421,649 in purses. She was staked lightly as a two-year-old, when she won seven of 11 races, and during the winter gave Czernyson indications she might be ready to step up.

“I was hoping for a good season with her, but that she was going to trot in [1]:52, I did not know that,” Czernyson said. “She grew up a lot between her two- and three-year-old years, so I thought we were going to have a pretty good season with her.

“She calmed down a lot; she wasn’t fighting on everything anymore. Now it’s just little fights instead of big fights. She’s OK sitting in a hole and when [the driver] pulls her she knows it’s time to go. She can kick home pretty good; I think that’s one of her biggest assets.”

As for the Hambletonian Oaks final, Czernyson expects an entertaining event.

“I think there will be plenty of speed in there,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a very good horse race.”

Here is the field in post position order for the Hambletonian Oaks, with listed drivers, trainers and morning line odds:

1. Superstar Hanover, Jimmy Takter, Takter, 15-1
2. Check Me Out, Tim Tetrick, Ray Schnittker, 4-5
3. Maven, Yannick Gingras, Jonas Czernyson, 5-2
4. Personal Style, David Miller, R. Nifty Norman, 12-1
5. Uncommon Night, George Brennan, Dewayne Minor, 15-1
6. Real Babe, Schnittker, Schnittker, 20-1
7. Win Missy B, Brian Sears, Charlie Norris, 8-1
8. Dream On Hanover, Brennan, Staffan Lind, 30-1
9. Holier Than Thou, Ron Pierce, Czernyson, 20-1
10. Sassy Syrinx, Jim Morrill Jr., David Smith, 30-1

(Photos courtesy Lisa Photo)


This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.

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