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Can Zweig Fave Dance Back Into Spotlight?

Published: August 26, 2021 2:12 pm ET

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Dancinginthedark M will try to return to his winning ways on Saturday (August 28) when he meets eight foes in the $325,000 Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial for three-year-old trotters at Vernon Downs.

The colt, who posted impressive victories in the weeks prior to the Hambletonian, went off stride in his Hambletonian elimination last month and failed to advance to the final.

The week following his Hambletonian elimination, Dancinginthedark M made a break near the finish line and was second in the Muscle Hill. He heads to the Zweig off a second-place finish in the second round of the Kentucky Championship Series at Lexington’s Red Mile, where he remained trotting throughout the mile.

“I wasn’t really happy with him making breaks two weeks in a row, so it was nice for him to get a good confidence race in Kentucky, even if he was second,” said trainer Marcus Melander. “He was very strong crossing the wire. I think he’s as ready as he can be.”

Melander believes Dancinginthedark M’s break in the Hambletonian elimination was the result of the colt hitting a knee. In the Muscle Hill, the horse raced without shoes up front and got pacey at the end of the race. Jujubee won the Muscle Hill in a Meadowlands track record 1:49.4. Dancinginthedark M was timed in 1:50.

“It was a huge disappointment he didn’t make the final in the Hambletonian,” said Melander. “He can lean in a little bit in the turns and probably hit his knee because the speed was picking up in the last turn.

“Of course, the Hambletonian is the (sport’s) biggest race, and we all want to win it. Sadly, it wasn’t our year with him. We just try to forget it and move on.”

Prior to the Hambletonian elimination, Dancinginthedark M won a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial in 1:50.1 over a Meadowlands track labeled “good” and a division of the W.N. Reynolds Memorial in 1:51.4 over a sloppy surface.

Dancinginthedark M will start the Zweig from post four with driver Tim Tetrick and is the 5-2 morning line favourite. For the year, the son of Readly Express-Leila has won four of eight races and $128,847 for breeder/owner Menhammar Stuteri AB. Lifetime, the colt has seven victories and three second-place finishes in 15 starts, good for $220,808.

“I’m confident in my horse,” Melander said. “He was the favourite leading up to the Hambletonian and he’s beaten these horses before. If he stays flat, I think he has a good shot. I think he’s the best horse in the field and we’ve got a good post. That’s very important too.”

Paul Kelley-trained Balenciaga, coming off a win over Ahundreddollarbill and Ambassador Hanover in a division of the New York Sire Stakes, is the 7-2 second choice. Ake Svanstedt’s Ambassador Hanover, who was third in the Hambletonian, is 4-1.

Prior to the Zweig’s open division, Melander will send out Iteration in the $140,000 Zweig Memorial for three-year-old filly trotters. She is the 7-2 second choice behind 5-2 Darlene Hanover, who won the Delmonica Hanover Stakes last weekend.

Iteration, by Chapter Seven out of Steamy Windows, has won nine of 18 career races and $633,292 for owner Courant Inc. Her wins include last season’s New York Sire Stakes championship for two-year-old filly trotters and this year’s New York New York Mile and a division of the Empire Breeders Classic.

She was second in both her elimination and the final of the Hambletonian Oaks. She started the Oaks from post 10 at The Meadowlands.

“From the 10-hole, it almost felt like a win from our perspective,” said Melander. “She was ready that day. We pulled all her shoes; that might have helped a little bit.”

Prior to the Oaks elimination, Iteration suffered her only finishes worse than second this year. She was fourth in a New York Sire Stakes event at Tioga Downs and went off stride behind the gate in a division of the Delvin Miller Memorial and was seventh.

“At Tioga, we hoped it was the track that day,” said Melander. “I don’t think she got enough grip and she got tired because of that. We couldn’t find any sickness. In the Delvin Miller, we closed her up a little (with her bridle) and she got too aggressive behind the gate, so we put an open bridle back on her.”

Iteration enters the Zweig off a New York Sire Stakes victory at Saratoga.

“There are some nice fillies in this race, but she is one of the contenders, for sure,” said Melander. “She’s a very nice filly. You don’t make over $600,000 if you’re not a nice filly. She’s a real sweetheart, nice to drive and everything. We’ve got a good post. It will be exciting. She’s done everything we’ve asked of her.”

Racing begins at 6:10 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at Vernon Downs. For complete entries, click here.


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