There really is nothing quite like the Championship Meet at the Meadowlands when the top horses start to show up for the stakes and tonight's card was the stage for some of harness racing best.
Swedish champion Sebastian K made his debut on American soil in the $40,000 Arthur Cutler Memorial eliminations for his expatriate trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt Saturady night at the Meadowlands and the result was a devastating world and track record 1:50.1. The mile also equaled the fastest trotting mile ever on the mile track and was accomplished with remarkable ease.
Prepped with a single qualifier after being away from racing for eight months, Sebastian K got away third for Svanstedt through the early fractions of :26.4 and :55.1 then was edged out to challenge early leader Modern Family around the final turn. As they straightened up, Sebastian K forged past that one and moved clear with nary a nudge from his driver to reduce the former record of 1:51 set by Misterizi back in 2008.
Modern Family held well for the place while Intimidate actually closed into that mile nicely for third. Archangel and DW's NY Yank finished fourth and fifth respectively to advance to next week's $175,000 final.
Svanstedt left his native Sweden to begin operations in the U.S. and brought his stable star along to take on the best western trotting has to offer. He has stated his belief that Sebastian K can be the first trotter to break the 1:50 barrier on the mile track and tonight's effort indicate that he may very well be right. The owners are known as Knutsson Trotting Inc., using a Vero Beach, Fla. address.
Sebastian K projects an imposing presence on the racetrack with a very pure gait. So pure, in fact, that assistant trainer Bernie Noren tweeted post-race that he raced without shoes in the record effort.
Market Share won the second elimination in a career best equaling and what a few hours earlier would have been a world and track record 1:50.3. Settled in fourth early by Tim Tetrick, Market Share wound up third-over, fanning off the cover of Arch Madness and edging past that rival in the shadow of the wire to win by a length. It was the first start of Market Share's season after a pair of useful qualifiers.
Undercover Strike rallied from well back to take third with Sevruga and Possessed Fashion occupying the other two positions in next week's final.
Trainer Linda Toscano and owners Richard Gutnick, TLP Stable and Bill Augustine must now grapple with the decision of whether to send their stable star to Sweden for the Elitlopp or remain home for next week's $175,000 Cutler final and beyond. The decision is imminent.
Also on the card was the first TVG Free For All Championship Open Pace of the season for a purse of $50,000 which drew a strong 10-horse field of fast horses.
The fastest on this night was clearly Sweet Lou who easily defeated this accomplished group by open lengths in an eased-up 1:48.3.
Ron Pierce had the call for trainer Ronnie Burke and noted in a post-race interview that it was his first time behind the winner of over $2 million, they paired up very nicely. After settling in behind Bolt The Duer through the :26.2 opener, Pierce tipped Sweet Lou back around to the front and that, for all intents and purposes, was that. He widened to a clear lead into the stretch and the :26 flat final quarter made him a three-plus-length winner. Stablemate Foiled Again was second after an overland, uncovered trip which he endured nobly to save the place and Bolt The Duer held for third.
Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Larry Carr and Phil Collura share ownership of the winner.
On the driving front, Tim Tetrick won four races on the night, while Yannick Gingras took home three. (Meadowlands)