The Meadowlands' Championship Meet escalates quickly with several important stakes this weekend.
Friday features the first leg of the New Jersey Sires Stakes (NJSS) for the sophomore set. The first of three eight horse $25,000 divisions for colts and geldings kicks off the card and will serve as the stage for the Meadowlands debut of the intriguing Trixton colt Cuatro De Julio.
A homebred, owned by legendary French horseman Jean Pierre Dubois as D Farm, LLC, Cuatro De Julio comes from humble beginnings. He began his career on the dusty Kentucky fair circuit where local horseman Al Efferstein patiently instilled early lessons while guiding him to several victories for trainer Marie Ortolan Bar.
Next up were the Kentucky Sires Stakes at The Red Mile where Cuatro De Julio demanded respect with imposing victories in the legs where he didn't self destruct by going offstride, as he did in that $250,000 final. The next challenge came in the form of Red Mile Grand Circuit where he was second in the Bluegrass followed by with an International Stallion Stakes win in 1:51.3 which would have equalled Walner's world record had it come an hour earlier. In his final start as a freshman he went offstride as the favourite in a Breeders Crown elimination.
Cuatro De Julio will be driven on Friday by Louis Baudron who comes in from France.
Race three is an interesting mix of last year's stars versus a pair of obviously talented but lightly-raced colts.
Zenith Stride (Brian Sears) won the Peter Haughton for owners Emilio and Maria Rosati and has a few good preps under his belt for trainer Mark Harder. Homebred Bee Forever (Vic Kirby) did his mom Bee A Magician proud by winning the Valley Victory for Mel Hartman, Herb Liverman and David McDuffee. Trainer Nifty Norman gave the gelding three qualifiers in anticipation of the stake.
The unknowns are Lindysmusclemania (Dexter Dunn) who showed flashes of brilliance last season and caught a lot of eyes with a very powerful qualifier. Ake Svanstedt trains for Stall Droad. Really Fast (Yannick Gingras) was a really expensive yearling, commanding a final bid of $700,000 from Brixton Medical, Hatfield Stable, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld. He did not race at two but has demonstrated unusual ability in his early starts thus far for trainer Nancy Takter.
Fashion Farms' Cricket Fashion (Tim Tetrick) is the most accomplished of the colts in race 10, winning twice while earning $137,662. Jim Campbell trains.
NJSS trotting fillies populate two divisions of eleven, both remarkably even fields that will certainly serve to be pari-mutuel puzzlers for the horseplayers.
New Jersey-sired sophomore pacers are a very limited commodity resulting in two "off-the- card" divisions at 5:00 p.m. on Friday. Three populate the horse and gelding stake while a pair of fillies will match up for the other.
That championship feeling continues with a pair of important Grand Circuit stakes on Saturday, May 15.
The $141,250 Arthur J. Cutler Memorial FFA is the first stake of the season for older trotters and offers an exciting preview to what is in store for fans of the division.
A quick trip to The Meadowlands' YouTube channel provides a glimpse into the classic battles over the stake's history. None are more thrilling than last year's edition when it took Atlanta every stride of the 27 second final quarter to nail her rival Manchego in a epic, yet ladylike, fray.
Manchego, who ultimately had a Dan Patch Award winning season and played a key role in Nancy Takter's unanimous selection as Trainer of the Year, has career earnings of more than $2.7 million for owner Black Horse Racing. She's back without her main rival Atlanta to face on Saturday in an attempt to add the Cutler to her lengthy and impressive resume.
Ten of the best trotters in training with combined career earnings of more than $10 million will line up for the Cutler, the ninth race on the Saturday card.
Two very competitive $50,000 divisions of the Graduate Series for four-year-old pacers are sandwiched around the Cutler as races 8 and 10.
Among the field of nine in the first division are Little Brown Jug and Graduate Leg #1 division winner Captain Barbossa, Empire Breeders Classic champ Splash Brother, Ohio Sires Stakes final winner Ocean Rock, multiple Grand Circuit stakes winner Warrawee Vital and No Lou Zing who won the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes final last year.
Division two contains Breeders Crown winner Sandbetweenmytoes, Progress Pace winner Fortify, the co-fastest two-year-old pacer ever in Elver Hanover and this season's "now" horse and Graduate Leg #1 division winner Ruthless Hanover among the eight declared.
It's also Preakness Day so doors will open at 9:30 a.m. All pertinent details and free full-card programs may be found on The Meadowlands' website.