Dr J Hanover: "getting better, getting stronger"
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Even horses can use a pal, or in this case, a palomino. Dr J Hanover recently started enjoying daily paddock time with a palomino quarter horse named Zippy, who is the mascot at trainer Tony Alagna's stable, and the buddy system seems to have produced favorable results when it comes time to race. Dr J Hanover has won two of his last three starts, including a world-record 1:46.4 effort in a preliminary round of the Graduate Series on June 3 in Canada.
"They go out together every day," Alagna said. "When we first put them out together they played really hard. I think it just kind of woke (Dr J Hanover) up a little and piqued his attention. Since then he's really gotten better. I don't know if that's all of the reason why he's gotten better, but I'm not going to find out by taking him away."
Dr J Hanover, who is a gelding, is the 5-2 morning line favorite in Saturday's $240,000 Graduate Series final at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey. The Graduate Series, which featured preliminary rounds at the Meadowlands, Mohawk and Tioga Downs, is reserved for 4-year-olds.
First race post time is 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The card also includes the $240,000 final of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old trotters, the $41,880 Reynolds for 3-year-old female trotters, a single elimination for the Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-old pacers, and the seasonal debut of Hambletonian contender Walner in a conditioned race.
Dr J Hanover, a son of stallion Somebeachsomewhere out of the mare So Perfect, was in Alagna's stable at ages 2 and 3, winning eight of 19 races and earning $326,773. The majority of his success last year came at Yonkers Raceway, where he won six times. On the Grand Circuit, he finished third in the Messenger Stakes, Little Brown Jug, and a division of the Tattersalls Pace.
The horse sold at the Tattersalls January Select Mixed Sale, where Alagna had the top bid of $280,000 for new owners Brad Grant, Robert Leblanc, Steven Wienick and Irwin Samelman.
"That horse came so good last year at midseason; he just got better and better and better," Alagna said. "I think he was showing us that he was going to continue to improve. That's why I bought him out of the sale for a new partnership, because I felt like he was going to continue to improve. He's a gelding so he can hopefully race a long time."
Dr J Hanover started slowly this season, in part to drawing outside posts (seven or eight) at Yonkers in three of his first four races. He was fifth in the first round of the Graduate Series at the Meadowlands, but won at Mohawk with his 1:46.4 mile, which established a world record for a 4-year-old in addition to being the fastest mile in Canadian history.
He followed that victory with a 1:48.3 score in the Graduate Series at Tioga Downs. He then finished fifth in the Gold Cup Invitational at Mohawk, where he got parked from post eight in an opening quarter-mile of :25.4.
"He's definitely getting better and getting stronger," Alagna said. "His last couple races have been phenomenal. Even in the Mohawk Gold Cup he got hung pretty hard and still hung in there tough to be fifth. I'm really happy with how he's been racing."
Dr J Hanover heads to the Graduate Series final off a 1:50.3 win in a qualifier on July 1 at the Meadowlands. The Graduate final also includes Sintra, who has won five of seven races this year and is the 3-1 second choice, and Boston Red Rocks, who is 5-1. A group of horses – Lyons Snyder, Check Six and Western Fame – are 8-1.
"I was happy with the way he qualified and these are horses he's been racing against, so as long as he's sharp and on his game there's no reason he can't be there on the wire," Alagna said. "It just depends on how the trip works out. Doug (McNair) is coming down to drive him and he knows the horse and has gotten along with him well. Hopefully everything works out."
Alagna on Saturday also will send out two horses in the $50,000 Meadowlands Pace elimination, Mr Varsity and Western Hill. The top seven finishers will advance to the $700,000 final on July 15. They will be joined in the final by three bye recipients based on seasonal earnings: Downbytheseaside, Classic Pro, and Miso Fast.
Dan Patch Award winner Huntsville, last season's top male 2-year-old, is the 9-5 morning line favorite in the Meadowlands Pace elimination. Filibuster Hanover is the 4-1 second choice, followed by Blood Line at 5-1.
The elimination winner will draw from post one through six for the final.
Western Hill was second to Downbytheseaside in their North America Cup elimination and then finished fifth in the final from post nine. He heads to the Pace elim off a 1:50.1 win in a conditioned race. For his career, the son of Western Ideal-Cosmo Blue Chip has won six of 15 races and earned $134,507 for breeder/owner Tom Hill.
Mr Varsity, a son of Roll With Joe-Bronzer Babe, has won three of seven career races and earned $21,024 for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Robert Leblanc, Joe Sbrocco and In The Gym Partners. He is 1-for-2 this season, with a 1:50 win in a conditioned race. He is scheduled to be sold at the Tattersalls Summer Mixed Sale on July 16 at the Meadowlands.
"Western Hill has been fantastic coming back," Alagna said. "He was really good the other night. He ended up first over a long time against aged horses and had a nice colt, R J P, following him and he fought him off down by the wire. He was fifth in the (North America Cup) final from an impossible spot, but he raced his heart out. We definitely wanted to give him a shot in the Pace. The post position (nine) isn't ideal, but he's a strong closer and maybe Doug can work something out."
"Mr Varsity was really good in his first start. His next start there were big fractions up front and he was kind of stuck in an impossible spot. He was just too far back with poor cover, but I thought he raced well to even be fourth. I figured we'd take a shot and put him in there. We'll see how it works out."--By Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications