A total of 25 Hambletonian eligible 3-year-old male trotters will be in action on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania sires stakes circuits this week.
Pennsylvania kicks it off Thursday with three divisions of sires stakes at Harrah's Philadelphia. The Hambletonian eligible trotters entered are, in alphabetical order: Auspicious Hanover, Datsyuk, Don Dorado, Exodus Hanover, Fashion Tagman, JJ Alex, Journey, Keystone Wasabi, Kumbaya De Vie, Nuncio, Outburst, Raise The Curtain, and Sarcastic Man.
Nuncio is making his debut for trainer Jimmy Takter after spending most of last year with Jim Oscarsson. He won five of 10 races last season and never finished worse than second on his way to $461,074. His earnings were third most among 2-year-old trotters, behind Takter-trained colt Father Patrick and Takter-trained filly Shake It Cerry.
Four of Nuncio's second-place efforts were against Father Patrick, in the eliminations and final of the Peter Haughton Memorial and elims and final of the Breeders Crown. Nuncio won the Matron Stakes and a division of the Reynolds; he also was runner-up to Muscle Network in the Valley Victory.
Nuncio led at the half-mile point in eight of his 10 races last year. In two qualifiers this season, he was never put on the lead by driver John Campbell. In his most recent qualifier, a third-place effort in 1:55.1, he trotted :26.2 for the final quarter-mile.
"He has got that speed like (Father) Patrick,” Takter said about Nuncio earlier this year. "I thought he raced really good last year. He's definitely a horse I'm very happy to have in my barn. He's a serious contender.
"But he cannot continue like he did last year as a 3-year-old. It takes too much out of you going :26, :27 (early) quarters to expect horses like Patrick not to pass you. That will happen. If he learns to manage himself a little bit, I'm sure he's going to be a good contender to have in the barn.”
Don Dorado, Auspicious Hanover, and Exodus Hanover finished 1-2-3 in last year's Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship. Outburst, making his seasonal debut for trainer Noel Daley, trotted a world-record 1:53.1 in winning his division of the Bluegrass Stakes in 2013.
"He's a nice horse,” Daley said earlier this year. "I don't think he's a top three or four horse, but I think he's a top 10 horse if he comes back as good as he was. If you can be a top 10 horse you can make a lot of money if you pick your spots and get lucky now and then. There's so much money out there and the good ones can't be in all of them. If you can win one decent one, you can do alright there.”
New Jersey has two divisions of sire stakes Friday at the Meadowlands. The Hambletonian eligibles entered are, in alphabetical order: Dave Briggs, Great Society, King City, Lightning Force, Martiniwithmuscle, Odds On Amethyst, Royal Ice, Skates N Plates, Southwind Poseidon, Sumatra, Trixton, and Well Built.
Trixton, another horse from the Takter Stable, is coming off a 1:51.2 win in the Simpson Memorial Stakes at the Meadowlands on May 9. The time was faster than any recorded by a 3-year-old male trotter in 2013. Trixton is a son of 2009 Horse of the Year Muscle Hill out of the mare Emilie Cas El, who was Canada's Horse of the Year in 1994. His family also includes past stars Andover Hall, Conway Hall and Angus Hall.
Odds On Amethyst and Well Built are from the stable of trainer Chris Ryder. Odds On Amethyst, who trotted 1:53.2 in winning his seasonal debut on May 2, is a son of Muscle Hill out of the standout mare Mystical Sunshine, who was trained by Ryder during her racing career.
"I'm really looking at the Hambletonian with that horse,” Ryder said recently. "I'm not going to say he's a top one, but he's got a shot. I think he's going to improve on his (1):53. I know he's going to have to, but I think he will. If he gets much better he's right there.
"He's been a bit of a problem child. He's his own worst enemy,” Ryder added. "The last two or three weeks he's improved. He's starting to realize he's a racehorse.”
Sumatra is returning to action for trainer Tom Fanning for the first time since winning the Dexter Cup on May 3 at Freehold Raceway.
Lightly raced Martiniwithmuscle, trained by Joe King, is 2-for-2 this year and coming off a 1:53.4 win in a conditioned race May 9 at the Meadowlands against a field that included Lightning Force, Great Society and Southwind Poseidon.
Valley Victory winner Muscle Network also makes his seasonal debut Friday in the NJSS, but he is not eligible to the Hambletonian. (HRC)