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‘Pace’ Night Laden With Stars

Published: July 11, 2014 1:49 pm ET

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No fewer than seven major Grand Circuit stakes will populate the Saturday night card at the Meadowlands Racetrack, led by the track’s signature race, the Meadowlands Pace.

The all-star lineup begins with a pair of high-stakes preps for trotting’s top prizes, the August 2 Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks.

Race 4 is the $317,000 Stanley Dancer Memorial three-year-old colt trot, which will be the stage for last year’s top freshman Father Patrick to battle Trixton who has emerged as a worthy adversary this season. It is the first time these two have met, the occasion made even more intriguing by the fact that both are trained in the Jimmy Takter stable.

Oddsmaker Darin Zoccali has Father Patrick (to be driven by Yannick Gingras) listed as a strong morning line favorite at 4-5 from Post 9, while Trixton is at 3-1 from Post 12 in the second tier with trainer Takter aboard.

The $213,500 Delvin Miller Memorial for sophomore trotting fillies also pits last year’s finest against emerging talent. Shake It Cerry was clearly the best of a very talented crop last season, easily winning year end awards for the Takter stable and regular driver Ron Pierce. She has transitioned successfully to sophomore status winning four of five starts this season and is the 9-5 choice from Post 7.

Her only loss required a world record 1:51.3 effort by Designed To Be at Pocono last month. It was the second time Designed To Be has assaulted the record books, having taken the two-year-old title with her 1:52.2 mile last fall in Lexington. She will have Brian Sears aboard for trainer Julie Miller on Saturday.

The remarkably fast Cooler Schooner is the fastest freshman trotter ever, regardless of sex by virtue of her amazing 1:51.3 win last summer at Pocono. She is sometimes guilty of self-sabotage, but can never be dismissed. The Campbell brothers, John and Jim will conspire to manage that wicked speed toward its best use.

The new shooter in this division is Heavens Door, another that demonstrated great talent at two for Ross Croghan, but it took until this year for her mind to catch up to her speed. She was sold over the winter and moved into the Ake Svanstedt barn where she has flourished. She won last month’s NJSS final in a stakes record 1:52 with great ease and is facing the division’s best now for her new connections and adds another element of suspense.

Next up (Race 6) will be the $212,500 Mistletoe Shalee for sophomore pacing fillies, another contentious contest. Sandbetweenurtoes raced but once at two for Tony Alagna, but showed such promise in her first few starts at three that the brothers Remmen, Ray and Larry, bought her for John Grant and she hasn’t lost since. She was the winner of last week’s elimination in 1:49.1 with Brett Miller aboard and will likely be the post time fave off a 5-2 morning line.

Precocious Beauty was the divisional leader last year for the McNair barn and has yet to find that form thus far at three, though last week’s race was encouraging. Takter’s Uffizi Hanover won the 2013 Breeders Crown and the Fan Hanover this year for her regular pilot, newly minted Hall of Famer David Miller.

The older dames race on the pace for $178,450 in the cleverly named Golden Girls stakes event in the seventh race. Joe Holloway has always had a way with the ladies, training several distaff champions over the years and has a formidable pair in this one. Somwherovrarainbow has well over a million in career earnings and has been in deadly form for Joe since early spring with six wins from ten starts, among those the Bluechip Matchmaker final. Brian Sears drives.

Her stablemate, Shebestingin, is the fastest female Standardbred ever, having seared the Red Mile clay in an eye-popping 1:47 last fall. She has yet to beat the best of this division since graduating into the Open ranks, but her speed make her a danger for David Miller.

The early race favourite at 2-1 is the iron-tough race mare Anndrovette. Her story has been told many times, but never gets old, particularly for her connections. She will vault over $3 million in lifetime purse earnings with a win in this stakes event for trainer PJ Fraley and her constant racing companion Tim Tetrick.

Just when you think, “Well, this just can’t get any better,” you come to the meat of the card. Race 8 contains the finest Free For All pacers in the land racing for $463,300 in the WR Haughton Memorial, one of the biggest events of their season. The lifetime earnings for these 10 horses is just north of the $20-million mark.

Captaintreacherous is the two time defending Pacer of the Year and a winner of over $3 million in his racing career for trainer Tony Alagna. He’s developed into a fan favourite with his gritty, never-give-up style, and he’ll need every bit of that heart, a large dose of speed, and another clever steer from Tetrick on Saturday. He’s drawn a favourable post starting just inside the 8-5 early favourite, Sweet Lou.

Sweet Lou has flashed brilliance from the start for his connections and still holds the freshman pacing world speed record. Now five years of age, he’s in the best form of his career and has been invincible since paired with driver Ron Pierce in May. Together they are five for five, all in 1:48.3 or faster, culminating with a world record 1:47 the hard way at Pocono in the Franklin, the fastest mile in history over a five-eighths-mile track.

Sweet Lou is one of a formidable four-horse armada sent out in the Haughton by the Meadowlands’ and national-leading trainer Ron Burke. The four Burke horses alone have amassed a staggering $12 million in career earnings, led by the richest pacer in history, ageless wonder Foiled Again, at $6.3 million. ‘Foiled’ will have to overcome the extreme outside post for his regular driver, Yannick Gingras, in this battle.

The $776,000 Meadowlands Pace is Race 9 on Saturday’s star-studded extravaganza and has been well-covered in many arenas, so for our purposes let’s just say it shapes up to be a very exciting and contentious race, as is usually the case in the absence of a clear division leader.

Among the deepest and most contentious divisions this season is the older trotting mares. The returning Horse of the Year Bee A Magician, last year’s division leader Maven and pair of four-year-old mares that have blossomed into trotting divas, Perfect Alliance and Classic Martine will all meet among a field of eight in the $40,000 Miss Versatility in Race 10.

It’s one for the ages this Saturday night at The Meadowlands with over $2.5 million in purses offered over the 13-race card, including four $100,000 finals for state-bred freshmen.

First-race post time is 6:30 p.m. and it’s going to be well attended, so if you’re thinking of coming out, make your reservations now. If not, the Haughton and Pace will be carried live on the CBS Sports Network and the TVG Racing network.

(Meadowlands)

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