The two big stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the big Meadowlands Pace card, the Del Miller Memorial for trotters and the Mistletoe Shalee for pacers, were captured by Shake It Cerry and Sandbetweenurtoes, who both turned in victories which convinced they are the best in their division at this point in the season.
Shake It Cerry and driver Ron Pierce won the $213,500 Del Miller Memorial by 1-1/4 lengths over Heaven's Door in 1:53. Designed To Be was third.
Trained by JimmyTakter, Shake It Cerry won for the fifth time in six starts this year and pushed her career earnings to more than $1 million. She has banked $217,338 this season for owner Solveig's Racing Partners.
Shake It Cerry led from start to finish, hitting the halfway point in :57.4.
"When I saw we were getting our way going to the half, I figured I better try to get away from [Designed To Be] so we stepped on the gas the last half and came home in 55 [seconds] and a piece,” Pierce said.
"I think she's coming into [the Hambletonian Oaks] just perfect. We haven't stretched her out all year except for one start a couple weeks ago. Last week I wasn't sure if I went enough to tighten her up for today, but apparently I did. Today she got a good workout, so I would say she's coming into the Oaks in real good shape.”
Sandbetweenurtoes just would not yield, pressured on the right and left by speeding fillies, but still getting the win in 1:49.3 in the $212,150 Mistletoe Shalee.
Sandbetweenurtoes (Brett Miller) got away in third off the early pace set by Gallie Bythe Beach (John Campbell), who hit the quarter in :26.2, but quickly gave way to the winner overtaking the field at the three-eighths mile. Brett Miller sent Sandbetweenurtoes to the :54.3 half. Table Talk and Tim Tetrick advanced and at the five-eighths took over second on the outside, but she could not make up ground and Sandbetweenurtoes was still on the lead at the 1:22.1 three quarters.
As the field marched down the homestretch, Corey Callahan took a shot up the inside with Weeper, weaving through horses to get to the rail, as was Act Now (Brian Sears) on the far outside, and Table Talk, still at Sandbetweenurtoes' wheel, paced hard all the way to the wire.
None could catch Sandbetweenurtoes, though and she got the win by a length and a half for trainer Larry Remmen and owner Bradley Grant of Milton, Ont.
"This filly's been so awesome,” said Brett Miller. "She was doing it very easy, if I would have had to go to the whip or something, I would have turned her (Table Talk) loose, but she was doing it so easy in the handholds. My strategy: I did want to go right down the road. She's something else. For a filly that never raced as a 2-year-old, just one start, they've done some kind of job with her. And Tony Alagna (trainer until mid-May) did a great job with her. She feels like an old professional.”
"She's very special” said Ray Remmen, who trains with his brother, Larry. "Lots of heart. She came ready-made. We got a very game owner that stepped up. Paid good money for her, Brad's father (John) had a reputation for spending money, but this guy I think has outdone him a lot. She has Pennsylvania Sires next week and then hopefully the Jugette and Lexington.” (with files from Harness Racing Communications)