The Triple Crown for pacers and trotters kicks off on June 25 when Yonkers Raceway will play host to eliminations (if necessary) for the $500,000 MGM Yonkers Trot and MGM Grand Messenger Pace. The finals for both events takes place on Friday, July 2.
There is no shortage of equine star power eligible to the two marquee events, and with the schedule impacted by the shift of major stakes from June to September at Woodbine Mohawk Park, a strong showing is expected at the historic hilltop oval.
Two of the top three leading money-winning trotters as two-year-olds – On A Streak and In Range – are on the list of 44 colts and geldings eligible to the Yonkers Trot.
If the appearance by On A Streak over the track on June 10 is any indication, the Luc Blais trainee should be headed for the elimination next Friday. With Andrew McCarthy in the bike, the Breeders Crown winner from last year went wire-to-wire in 1:57 to win by just under a length.
In Range, owner of a 10-5-4-0 record as a two-year-old and already a 1:52.3 winner in 2021, will be among the entrants according to his trainer Marcus Melander. The son of Bar Hopping has never raced over a half-mile track and was only third in his last start at The Meadowlands, but the trainer isn’t concerned.
“I think he will handle [the track] very well,” said Melander, who also trains eligible Dancinginthedark M but won’t be sending him to the race. “He needed that race at The Meadowlands after the miscue at Pocono.”
Another confirmed starter according to trainer Chuck Sylvester is Arnold N Dicky. Another son of Bar Hopping, he won four of 10 races in 2020 and is coming off a career-best 1:52.3 win at Harrah’s Philadelphia on June 10.
Two more horses that seem likely to show up are racing against each other on Friday night at Vernon Downs in the Empire Breeders Classic. Ahundreddollarbill and In Communicado have been New York Sire Stakes regulars and both have won over a half-mile track.
The potential field of starters in the MGM Grand Messenger are just as impressive as the Yonkers Trot and includes new Scioto Downs track record holder Heart Of Chewbacca. The Ohio-bred with nine wins in 12 career starts stopped the clock in 1:48.4 at the Columbus-based track on June 12 and will be heading east for the Messenger according to trainer Ron Burke, who also said Indiana Sire Stakes winner Brookview Bullet will make the trip.
American Courage, who won the Reynolds at Yonkers on May 7 in 1:52 and won on June 12 at Pocono in 1:49.4, will be among the starters according to trainer Travis Alexander, as will fellow Reynolds winner (1:53) Whichwaytothebeach, who is undefeated in four 2021 starts for trainer Brett Pelling.
Trainer Tony Alagna has a number of horses eligible including the 3-for-3-in-2021 Abuckabett Hanover, 2020 Metro winner Exploit and Simon Says Hanover, a multi-race winner already this year. The latter pair appeared to be testing the waters for the Messenger as Exploit was used hard to make the lead and held on in 1:53.2 and Simon Says Hanover was a powerful first-over 1:52.3 winner over the track on Tuesday (June 15).
Alagna confirmed on Wednesday that Exploit and Simon Says Hanover are expected to enter the Messenger and that even Abuckabett Hanover could be in attendance.
“We are going to train Abuckabett Hanover before the races [at Yonkers] on Thursday. Depending on how he goes we’ll make a decision. If we aren’t happy, he won’t race,” said Alagna, who would be skipping a leg of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes by entering the Messenger. “He’s already won two legs and the final conflicts with the North America Cup.”
Billy Clyde and Crunch Hanover are two more who showed up on June 15 to take a stroll around the newly resurfaced Yonkers oval and found it very much to their liking. Billy Clyde went wire-to-wire in 1:52 4/5 for trainer Ray Schnittker and driver Mark MacDonald while Crunch Hanover took the same path with Scott Zeron in the bike for trainer Linda Toscano in 1:53.3.
Last year’s Governor’s Cup winner Always A Miki might be making his half-mile track debut in the Messenger after a solid 1:50.4 win at Philadelphia on June 13. Trainer Nancy Takter said “I think so” when asked if the colt by Always B Miki would be in attendance.
Both the Yonkers Trot and Messenger Pace offer the possibility of supplementing into the races for $30,000, just 12 percent of the winner’s share in the $500,000 finals.
Entries for the Yonkers Trot and Messenger Pace, along with the New York New York Mile and Park MGM Pace filly companion elimination are due by 3:00 PM on Monday, June 21.
Yonkers Raceway races Monday to Friday weekly with a first-race post-time of 7:15 p.m.