Aunt Mel breezed to victory in the $10,000 elimination race Friday afternoon, marking the 3-year-old trotting filly as the favorite in next week's $50,000 Helen Smith Final at Freehold Raceway.
Aunt Mel, a daughter of Yankee Glide, had the lead at every call and held on for a three-length tally in Friday's fourth race, the single elimination race that determined the eight finalists. The mile was clocked in 1:57.1.
Finishing second and third were Chilitodayhotamale (Muscles Yankee) and Riverfest (Windsong's Legacy), respectively.
Eight of the nine starters earned spots in the final on Sept. 7. The only filly eliminated was Ringside Nguyen, who finished ninth.
Driven by Brent Holland, Aunt Mel extended her winning streak to three, capturing five of her last six starts. The Erv Miller trainee, owned by Mary Jane Anderson of Long Grove, Ill., won a Review division and Zweig consolation in her prior two outings.
She has now finished in the money in 16 of 27 career starts for a bankroll of $225,845.
The stakes record of 1:56.3 was established in 2008 by Muscle Shirt, a daughter of Muscles Yankee, driven by Cat Manzi and trained by Chuck Sylvester.
The Helen Smith for three-year-old New Jersey-sired trotting fillies is sponsored by the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey.
The Lou Babic for 2-year-old New Jersey-sired pacers drew fields of eight in both the filly and colt divisions and will not need elimination races on Saturday. Two six-horse preps will be offered for the $106,700 Babic Open and $68,900 Babic Filly. Bypassing the preps are colts To Beach His Own and Troon, and fillies Gypsy Cards and Panera Hanover. (SBOANJ)