Feeling You will try to become the first repeat winner in the brief history of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway, but it won't be easy.
The six-week series for pacing mares, which dates back to 2009, begins with four first-round divisions Friday night at the Hilltop. Defending champion Feeling You competes in the third division and 2012 champ Rocklamation races in the first. Anndrovette, the three-time defending Dan Patch Award winner for best older female pacer, is in the second division.
Former Dan Patch Award winners Economy Terror, who was named best 2-year-old filly pacer in 2011, and Somwherovrarainbow, who earned the same honor in 2012, also are racing in the first round. Million-dollar-earners Camille, Handsoffmycookie, Krispy Apple, and Royal Cee Cee N add depth in the field of 29 Matchmaker hopefuls entered Friday.
"This is one of the toughest Matchmakers that I can remember,” said Amber Buter, who trains Feeling You. "There are plenty of outstanding mares, and the newer mares like Charisma Hanover and Somwherovrarainbow can't be ignored either.
"It's going to come down to how we draw. Hopefully we can draw well and get enough points to reach the final.”
Feeling You, who is now 7, won 12 of 26 starts last year and earned $407,463 for owners Stephen Oldford, Oldford Farms and driver Tyler Buter. She has won 36 of 100 career races and needs $13,054 to become a millionaire.
"We were hoping she could reach that last year, but it's something to look forward to,” Amber Buter said. "I'm not one that likes to expect more, so if she could do just as well as last year, or a little bit better, I'll be happy. She feels good and is healthy, so hopefully we can keep it going.”
Feeling You will race a similar schedule to last season, with a few more stakes events--such as the Roses Are Red and Milton in Canada--sprinkled in.
"We're not looking to be world travelers, but she's staked to a few more things,” Buter said.
Feeling You, who had issues with tying up last season that contributed to several of her poorer showings, spent the offseason in North Carolina and freshened up for this year with a 1:57.1 qualifier win on March 7 at Yonkers. She made her seasonal debut last week, finishing sixth from post seven in the open handicap for fillies and mares, but gained four lengths in the stretch with a :26.4 final quarter-mile.
Royal Cee Cee N won the race in 1:53.4, with Cocoa Beach in second and Fashion Mystery third. All of the horses in that race are entered in Friday's Matchmaker divisions.
"She raced really well,” Buter said about Feeling You. "Unfortunately, she drew outside but it was a good start for her. I'm looking forward to a good Matchmaker Series, hopefully.”--By Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications