Darlinonthebeach rounding into form for Crown
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She's a lot like her mom, Darlin's Delight, according to Johansson.
"Her momma was tough too," she said. "Her mom never won a Breeders Crown, so hopefully she can do it. She won a lot of races, but she never won a Breeders Crown."
Darlin's Delight raced in five Breeders Crown finals in her career, posting three second-place finishes, one third and one fifth.
Sired by Somebeachsomewhere, the 4-year-old Darlinonthebeach has $61,205 in earnings this year and sprinted past Lady Shadow around the turn and into the stretch to win her Breeders Crown elimination with Brett Miller in the sulky.
"Brett drove her perfectly, he drove her with confidence," Johansson said. "He left with her and let her do her thing the last part of the race. He never pulled the earplugs on her so I think we're in good shape.
"She (had) been around this track once (prior to her elimination). I don't know if that helped her, but she saw this long stretch once before."
Darlinonthebeach hopes to challenge favorite Nike Franco N, who was driven to an easy elimination win in 1:51.2 by Tim Tetrick.
"It was everything we expected," trainer Jim King Jr. said after the victory. "She was much sharper tonight than she was even at Lexington. Maybe it's because it wasn't raining here.
"She acts like she feels pretty good. As of today, we're looking forward to (the final)."
The 7-year-old has hit the board 12 times in 15 starts this year, including seven victories. Out of Nearea Franco and sired by McArdle, Nike Franco N has won $357,337 in 2017 for owner Richard Poillucci.
"She's had a really good year," King said. "I don't think we've seen the end of her. She really likes what she does. We've kind of got her figured out as far as what kind of schedule she likes to keep. She doesn't need to get as many starts a year as a lot of horses. She just appreciates things getting done her way. We're just really pleased with her."
Another horse to watch is Blue Moon Stride, who is 8-1 after finishing fifth in her elimination.
"I think I'm initially disappointed (with the elimination)," trainer Mark Harder said. "But it's probably not her game to go back to last and then sprint home. She's a good, tough mare and she's probably better off being involved a little bit. She can do a bit of work on both ends. She's not one that's going to sprint home in 25 seconds."
The 4-year-old has four wins, four places and two shows in 16 starts, having won $265,754. David Miller will drive her in the final.
"The last couple of months have been really good," Harder said. "The transition from (age) 3 to 4 is tough and her, Pure Country, Darlinonthebeach, they all struggled a little early. And it looks like they're all getting a little bit better later."
Other horses of interest are Lady Shadow, who won last year's Breeders Crown Mare Pace, and Pure Country, who won a Breeders Crown as a 2 year old in 2015. (USTA)