Tony Alagna knows colt pacer Mel Mara is fast. Beyond that?
"The horse could be anything,” Alagna said. "He could be a top colt, or he could be middle of the road. But he's got the speed to be a top horse if everything works his way.”
Mel Mara opened eyes last year at age two when he won a qualifier at the Meadowlands Racetrack by 18 1/4 lengths with a 25-second final quarter mile. A week later in his official debut at the Big M, he drew off by six lengths thanks to a :26.3 final panel.
He finished second in his next two starts--losing by a neck and a head--before a fourth-place finish in the Woodrow Wilson, going off stride briefly on the final turn, and an eighth-place finish in his elimination for the Metro Pace. He finished the season with $37,424 in purses.
"When we raced him in the Metro elimination, he wasn't himself,” Alagna said. "We sent him to Rood and Riddle (Equine Hospital in Lexington) and did the nuclear scan and he showed normal 2 year old changes in back ankles, which is something a lot of 2 year olds go through. We decided to put him away. They said it was something he'd mature out of at three and he has.”
Bred by John Carver, who owns the colt with Brittany Farms and Riverview Farms, Mel Mara is a son of Lis Mara out of the mare M L Revrac. Mel Mara won a qualifier on Friday (April 20) at the Meadowlands in 1:52.1 with regular driver Yannick Gingras in the sulky. He was fourth in a qualifier a week earlier despite a :26.1 final quarter.
"He still has that same high speed, we just hope with the transition from (age) two to three that he's going to be able to carry that speed farther,” Alagna said. "He had raw talent last year, but he didn't have all the tools to put it all together for the whole year.”
Alagna has Mel Mara pointed to the Simpson Stakes at the Meadowlands on May 5 for his 3-year-old debut. He thinks the colt's limited workload in 2011 will be a benefit.
"I think it's a great advantage for a horse like him,” Alagna said. "He raced enough that he has experience, but he doesn't have the hard miles in him that a lot of those horses had last year. I think that can only help him coming back at three.
"He was a very mature horse last year, so I don't think his maturity level changed a whole lot. He has everything going for him that he did last year; he's just a little healthier and another year older. He handles everything a lot easier. I'm very happy with where he's at right now.” (HRC)