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Spotlight On The Grand Circuit

Published: August 8, 2018 2:54 pm ET

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The publicity department for the Grand Circuit has sent out its weekly recap and preview of Grand Circuit races.

This Week: Dan Patch Invitational, Hoosier Park, Anderson, Ind.; Carl Milstein Memorial, Northfield Park, Northfield, Ohio; Fox Stake, the Ralph Wilfong, the Horseman Stakes and the Hoosier Stakes, Indiana State Fair, Indianapolis, Ind.; Crawford Farm Trot, Joie De Vie and Tompkins-Geers Stakes, Tioga Downs, Nichols, N.Y.; and Gold Cup and Saucer trials, Red Shores Racetrack & Casino, Charlottetown, PEI.

Schedule of events: An extremely busy week of Grand Circuit action will kick off this Wednesday (Aug. 8) as the Indiana State Fair will host one day of Grand Circuit racing with the feature being the $44,868 Fox Stake for two-year-old colt pacers. The co-featured event is the $28,032 Ralph Wilfong for two-year-old colt trotters. The Hoosier Stakes for two-year-olds will see two divisions each in the $23,492 two-year-old filly pace, the $22,908 two-year-old colt pace, the $21,698 two-year-old colt trot and the $21,126 two-year-old filly trot. The Horseman Stakes for three-year-olds features two divisions in the $31,704 three-year-old filly pace and single divisions in the $37,333 three-year-old colt trot, the $35,574 three-year-old filly trot, and the $28,120 three-year-old colt pace.

Friday night (Aug. 10) at Hoosier Park will feature the $325,000 Dan Patch for older pacing horses. Also on Friday, Tioga Downs will host four sets of Tompkins-Geers stakes for two-year-old pacers and trotters. There will be two divisions each in the $59,500 two-year-old filly pace, $58,000 two-year-old filly trot, $57,800 two-year-old colt trot and $50,400 two-year-old colt pace.

On Saturday (Aug. 11), Northfield Park will host the $400,000 Carl Milstein Memorial for three-year-old pacers. Also on Saturday, Red Shores Racetrack & Casino will host one of two trials for the Gold Cup and Saucer for older pacers. The second trial will be held on Monday (Aug. 13).

The week’s action will continue on Sunday (Aug. 12) at Tioga Downs with the $175,000 (est.) Crawford Farm Trot for older open trotters and the $175,000 (est.) Joie De Vie for older trotting mares.

Last time: Meadowlands Racetrack closed out its Championship Meet this past Saturday with several lucrative Grand Circuit races led by the $1.2 million Hambletonian, the first leg of the Trotting Triple Crown for three-year-olds. Rick Zeron, an admitted crier, had reason to well up Saturday after the 93rd Hambletonian. Not only had the veteran horseman won the trotting classic in his first try, but his son, Scott, was in the sulky to make it a family affair, and the high point of his 43-year career.

And he got the job done with a filly, the very determined Atlanta.

“This is a dream come true,” said Rick Zeron. “That’s my specialty, trotters. I live and breathe to train a trotter, especially a filly. It’s more satisfying for me to train a filly to get where I am today, to win what I did today, than with a colt. It’s a bigger challenge.”

Atlanta won the $1 million Hambletonian final on Saturday, becoming the 14th filly to capture the famed trotting race for three-year-olds.

It was an emotional victory for the father-son team from Oakville, Ont.

The filly won the Hambletonian the hard way, setting the pace and holding on gamely in the lane. Scott Zeron employed those tactics earlier in the day in the first of two eliminations, and got Atlanta beat after setting a wicked pace. Remarkably, Atlanta regrouped quickly after the punishing mile.

“I spoke to my assistant trainer Ernie Henry who has looked after her since she was 18 months old,” said Rick Zeron. “He said it took her about seven to 10 minutes longer than usual to get her wind back. After that, she was absolutely perfect. He said we were good to go.”

That was an understatement.

In the final, Atlanta was again on the lead. This time, Zeron did a better job of rationing her speed. Atlanta responded by kicking away from challenger Tactical Landing at the top of the stretch to open a three length advantage. She trotted strongly to the wire and won by one length over 29-1 shot Mets Hall.

“I’ve said it to a few people close to me,” said Scott Zeron. “She’s the best horse I ever drove. Everything is so fluid and effortless. The mile (in the elimination) just got away from me. I was mad at myself. That’s not how I wanted to head into the final. If she was a champion, she would bounce back and she did.”

The time was 1:50.4 for the mile.

It was the second Hambletonian victory for Scott Zeron. He was at the lines when Marion Marauder won in 2016.

The win in the final was worth $500,000 for the ownership team of Rick Zeron, Crawford Farms, Holland Racing, Howard Taylor and Brad Grant.

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. Yannick Gingras – 648.5; 2. Tim Tetrick – 624; 3. David Miller – 294.5; 4. Scott Zeron – 270; 5. Jordan Stratton – 268.

Trainers: 1. Ron Burke – 625.5; 2. Jimmy Takter – 444; 3. Tony Alagna – 246; 4. Jim Campbell – 196; 5. Jim King Jr. – 191.

Owners: 1. Burke Racing Stable – 136.1; 2. Weaver Bruscemi – 131.1; 3. Fashion Farms – 129; 4. Vonknoblauch Stable - 117; 5. Bill Donovan – 93.8.

Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will be taking place next week at Vernon Downs, Tioga Downs, Red Shores Racetrack & Casino and Hippodrome 3R. Vernon will kick off the week as host of the Zweig Memorial races for three-year-old colt and filly trotters. Tioga Downs will feature the Roll With Joe for open pacers, Artiscape for older pacing mares, and a leg of the Miss Versatilty for trotting mares. Red Shores Racetrack & Casino has the Gold Cup and Saucer final and Hippodrome 3R will contest the Prix d’Ete for four-year-old pacers.

(Grand Circuit)

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