David Miller flashed a wide smile as he guided Courtly Choice to the winner’s circle after winning the $701,830 Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace. The monkey was off the Hall of Famer’s back. After 19 failed efforts, Miller finally owned a victory in the Meadowlands Racetrack’s signature event for 3-year-olds. Courtly Choice rallied to win the Pace by 1 1/4 lengths on Saturday night.
"That was sweet," Miller said. "Really sweet."
The Pace was an obvious omission on Miller’s glittering resume. "The Buckeye" is second on the sport’s all-time money list with $222 million in the bank. His best previous Pace finish was a second with Always B Miki in 2014.
The sweetness of the moment spread in many directions, including trainer Blake MacIntosh, who also savored the victory in his Pace debut.
"I believed in this horse," said MacIntosh, the former assistant to Casie Coleman. "He just had some back luck earlier in the year."
And it was a winning gamble for the ownership group that ponied up $61,690 to enter last week’s eliminations. The faith of Hutt Racing Stable, Mac And Heim Stables, Daniel Plouffe and Touch Stone Farms was rewarded with the $350,915 first-place check.
Most importantly, it was a moment of redemption for Courtly Choice, who failed to make the finals in the North America Cup and the Max Hempt Memorial.
The colt served notice his moment was at hand with a sharp first-up victory in last week’s Pace elimination. And then he finally put it all together for the richest victory of his career.
The race seemed primed for a 57-1 upset when a dead-game Dorsoduro Hanover, handled by Matt Kakaley, battled his way to the front at the top of the lane. But Courtly Choice was tracking his every move and angled wide under Miller’s urging to score the victory.
"The trip worked out good," Miller said. "The couple of horses I thought would leave from the outside left. I was able to get Matt in front of me and nobody else moved. On the last turn, I was real happy with my spot."
The time was 1:47.1 on the warm evening.
Courtly Choice paid $4.40, $3.20 and $2.80 as the 6-5 favorite. Dorsoduro Hanover returned $28.20 and $8.80. Stay Hungry paid $3.20 to show as the best finisher among trainer Tony Alagna’s trio in the race. Jimmy Freight, the other supplement, was fourth followed by Thinkbig Dreambig, Nutcracker Sweet, This Is The Plan, Babes Dig Me, Hayden Hanover and American History.
All-source wagering on the 14-race program totaled $4,083,390, an increase over Pace Night 2017 of $259,761. Yannick Gingras drove four winners on the card. … Favorites scored eight times during the course of the night, including seven straight from race two through race eight. One simulcast player wagering in Chicago was the only bettor to survive all 10 legs of the 20-Cent Survivor Pick-10 bet and walked away with $21,473. (Meadowlands)