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Spotlight On The Grand Circuit

Published: July 8, 2021 3:10 pm ET

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

This Week: Arden Downs stakes, The Meadows, Washington, Pa.; MGM Springfield Stakes eliminations, Yonkers Raceway, Yonkers, N.Y.; and Graduate finals, Meadowlands Pace eliminations and W.N. Reynolds Memorial, The Meadowlands, East Rutherford, N.J.

Schedule of events: Grand Circuit action begins on Friday (July 9) at The Meadows, with the $38,345 Arden Downs for three-year-old filly trotters. On Saturday (July 10), The Meadows will host the $36,995 Arden Downs for three-year-old colt trotters.

Also on Friday, Yonkers will feature three $25,000 eliminations in the MGM Springfield Stakes for two-year-old colt pacers.

The Meadowlands Saturday program has multiple stakes, led by the $250,000 Graduate Series finals for four-year-old pacers and trotters. Also on the card will be a pair of $50,000 Meadowlands Pace eliminations for three-year-old male pacers; two divisions of the $98,600 W.N. Reynolds Memorial for three-year-old filly trotters; and two divisions of the $85,600 W.N. Reynolds Memorial for three-year-old colt trotters.

Last Time: Johan Palema and driver Yannick Gingras captured the $500,000 MGM Yonkers Trot, the first jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown for three-year-olds, on Friday night (July 2) with a virtuoso wire-to-wire performance, winning in 1:55 over a rain-soaked surface at Yonkers Raceway.

Johan Palema, one of three finalists from the Ake Svanstedt stable, worked his way to the top from stablemate Ambassador Hanover off the first turn, as second choice Ahundreddollarbill settled in third, with Mon Amour and In Range following the top three to the :28.2 opening quarter.

Gingras rated the pace nicely but shortly before the half of :58, Johan Palema took off from the pocket-sitter, as well as the rest of the field. Ahundreddollarbill was forced to pull from third and go without cover, but he found the sledding a bit too tough as Johan Palema blitzed the third quarter in :27.2. The third quarter sprint kept In Range from gaining second-over, but driver Tim Tetrick was able to get his horse to make up ground inside as Mon Amour made a miscue.

Gingras hardly moved a muscle through the final turn as the others battled for minor honours, and the son of Bar Hopping cruised across the wire with a :29.3 final quarter. In Range skimmed the pylons but fell a nose short of second, with Ambassador Hanover and Svanstedt holding the place spot. Ahundreddollarbill faded to fourth, with Ethan T Hanover the final cheque-getter.

“I got an easy front,” said Gingras following the race. “They let me steal a half in :58. At that point, come and get me.”

Seven tried but none were up to the task.

Owned by Bender Sweden Inc., Johan Palema, one of four horses in the field sired by first-cropper Bar Hopping, won for the third time in four starts in 2021, adding the win to his elimination score seven days earlier.

American Courage picked up the most significant win of his career to date by scoring a 1:51.4 decision in the $500,000 MGM Grand Messenger Stakes final, the first leg of the Triple Crown of Pacing for three-year-olds.

Starting from post six over a Yonkers Raceway surface left sloppy by persistent, steady rainfall, American Courage pressed on two-wide under the direction of Matt Kakaley and forged his way by early leader Charlie May (Brett Miller) past the :27 opening quarter. After working to get command, Kakaley was able to get American Courage a nice breather in the second quarter, as the half went on the board in :56.3.

As the colts and geldings passed the half-mile point, driver Brian Sears sent Chase H Hanover first-over from the fourth spot, and that would give a second-over trip to Abuckabett Hanover (Andrew McCarthy), who was able to tuck into fifth after floating away from post eight. Chase H Hanover was able to get into second on the rim racing to the 1:24.1 three-quarters, but that was as far as he could go as American Courage repelled his bid.

On the far turn, Abuckabett Hanover made a break, ending any chance he had, and then in the lane Chase H Hanover faded, giving Charlie May the path to the outside he was looking for. After getting clear, Charlie May did rally and gain, but it wasn’t enough as American Courage held sway to win by a half-length. Chase H Hanover did save third, with Simon Says Hanover (Scott Zeron) and I’ll Drink To That (Dexter Dunn) completing the top-five finishers.

“He’s a special colt. If they were going to duke it out a little bit, I would have just laid in there and waited, but Brett got a pretty easy lead, so I didn’t want him to get soft fractions,” remarked Kakaley. “I moved to the front, and he was so strong. I kicked the plugs at the top of the stretch, and he just exploded. That’s the first time I pulled the plugs all year. (Charlie May) was coming close, but I wasn’t that worried.”

An American Ideal colt trained by Travis Alexander for owner-breeder Fiddler’s Creek Stables, American Courage won for the 11th time in 12 career starts, and he has now put away $468,633.

Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website.

Grand Circuit Standings: In 2021, 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 2021 Grand Circuit awards.

Here are the leaders (through the races on July 3):

Drivers: 1. Yannick Gingras – 330; 2. Tim Tetrick – 182; 3. Dexter Dunn – 168; 4. Andrew McCarthy – 155.5; 5. David Miller – 130.

Trainers: 1. Ron Burke – 360; 2 (tie). Nancy Takter, Marcus Melander – 109; 4. Ake Svanstedt – 104; 5. Brett Pelling – 100.

Owners: 1. Brad Grant – 78; 2 (tie). Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi – 74.4; 4. Courant Inc. – 72; 5. Black Horse Racing – 56.7.

Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will take place next week at Yonkers Raceway and The Meadowlands. Yonkers will hold the MGM Springfield Stakes final for two-year-old colt pacers and The Meadowlands will feature the Meadowlands Pace final for three-year-olds, the William Haughton Memorial for older pacers, the Hambletonian Maturity for four-year-old trotters, the Stanley Dancer Memorial for three-year-old male trotters, the Delvin Miller Memorial for three-year-old filly trotters, the Mistletoe Shalee for three-year-old filly pacers, the Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older pacing mares, and the fourth leg of the Miss Versatility for older trotting mares.

(Grand Circuit)


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