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JL Cruze Turning Back The Clock

Published: January 30, 2020 1:45 pm ET

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Wherever he goes, JL Cruze is still the man.

“Everybody knows him, everybody loves him,” trainer Eric Ell said about the nine-year-old trotter, who was a Dan Patch Award winner in 2015. “He’s a household name around here. Everybody asks about him when he’s not racing to make sure he’s all right. They keep track of him. When people see him, they come up hugging on him. He’s been unbelievable.”

JL Cruze might not be the Grand Circuit warrior of old, but he remains a fighter. And with two wins in three races this season, including a 1:51.2 score that is as fast as any win time he’s posted since he was six, he could be looking to turn back the clock. In addition to his 1:51.2 victory at the Meadowlands Racetrack on January 11, JL Cruze won in 1:53.4 over a track rated ‘good’ because of inclement weather on January 18.

“He was incredible his last two starts,” Ell said. “Two starts ago, he did it the old-fashioned way, like his old self. He was parked to the half in :54.3 and he won by a length and a half, last quarter :27.3 on the end of it. The next week, that was a great mile that night and he did it easily.

“He’s probably as sound as he’s been since I’ve had him, and he loves doing what he does. He’s better this year, even with the turns. You used to almost have to grab into him a little bit because he could get rough going. (Driver) Dexter Dunn said he’s just whistling right around the turns now.”

Another throwback photo of JL Cruze victorious with John Campbell.

JL Cruze’s next start will come this Saturday at the Meadowlands in the preferred trot. JL Cruze will start from Post 10 in a field that includes Pappy Go Go, who will be bringing a three-race win streak to the event.

“If he’s as good as he was the last three starts up there, they’ll know he’s in there for sure,” Ell said about JL Cruze.

For his career, JL Cruze has won 37 of 104 races and $1.46 million. His most memorable victory came at the Meadowlands in 2015 when he captured the Graduate Series championship in 1:49.4 to become the first trotter to go faster than 1:50 in ‘Big M’ history.

He was limited to six races in 2018 because of surgery for a twisted intestine but returned last year to win six times and earn $100,720. He made all but one of his 26 starts at either the Meadowlands or Hoosier Park and Ell plans to keep JL Cruze on the big tracks again this season.

The gelding is owned by Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar Jr., and Steve Iaquinta.

“We didn’t stake him last year because we didn’t even know how he would be,” Ell said. “We just did the overnights and he ended up making a hundred (thousand dollars) that way. He’s getting pretty long in the tooth now. He’s still competing well, but I don’t know how well he would take all the shipping (on the Grand Circuit). But the time off might have helped him. He’s been really good.”

As for what JL Cruze has meant to Ell, well, he’s still the man.

“Words can’t say,” Ell said. “I’ve had a lot of open horses that I’ve trained in my life, but never a world champion like him. He’s just a tough rascal.”

Racing will begin at 7:15 p.m. (EST) on Saturday at the Meadowlands.


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