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Favs win Dancer elims

July 08, 2006

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Harness racing returned to the Meadowlands early Saturday evening with three eliminations for next week’s $375,000 Stanley Dancer Memorial 3-year-old colt and gelding trot. There were no surprises as Here Comes Herbie, Mr. Pine Chip and Chocolatier scored convincing victories.

The elims were originally scheduled for Friday, but because of the New Jersey budget impasse which closed the Meadowlands from last Saturday until today, they were part of a five-race non-wagering card that began at 5 p.m. The first three from each elim and the fastet fourth-place finisher advanced to the final next Friday night.

In the first elimination Here Comes Herbie and trainer-driver Trond Smedshammer sat fifth trough early fractions of :28.1, :55.4 and 1:24.4 before pulling, sweeping three wide at the top of the stretch and then taking command in deep stretch for a 1 1/2-length victory over Capetown Hall and David Miller. Early leader Ira K and Yanick Gingras were third. Johnny Muscles, with Jan Johnson up, was fourth and also advanced to the final as the fastest fourth-place finisher.

Smedshammer said he he raced Here Comes Herbie differently in this start.

“I put him on the front end up in Canada (when he won the Goodtimes consolation) and now he was racing from behind,” Smedshammer said. “I think he’s a little better coming from off the pace. It was a good effort.”

The Credit Winner colt won his second race of the year in three starts and took a lifetime mark for owner, the Cutting Edge Stable.

Smedshammer was back in the winner’s circle after the second elim after virtually going wire to wire with Mr. Pine Chip. From post four Smedshammer floated the SJ’s Caviar colt to the front, taking the lead just after the :29.3 quarter. From there he cruised past the half in :58.4 and the three quarters in 1:27.3. He was more than three lengths ahead of the field at the wire in 1:53.2, his career-best mile. Race Fan and Stephen Smith were second followed by Global Glide and Ron Pierce.

Smedshammer said he has been changing this colt’s racing style as well.

“Looking on paper there wasn’t much early speed there, that’s why I decided to maybe go forward with him,” Smedshammer said. “This horse has been a dead closer, but I put him on the front end the last start at Pocono, and he was a little bit inexperienced up front there at Pocono, but he was better today. He’s getting more and more racy. This horse is just a tremendous horse.”

This was the fourth straight score in as many starts this year for the colt owned by breeder Joe Sbrocco and Southwind Farm.

It was all Chocolatier in the third elim. From post seven D.R. Ackerman let the Credit Winner colt float on the outside of Boardwalk Hall and Mike Lanchance before going on to the lead as he passed the quarter in :28.1. A :27.3 second quarter had Chocolatier drawing away from the field, but Ackerman backed the third quarter down, reaching that station in 1:24.4.

Blue Mac Lad and Brian Sears took a run at Chocolatier in the final turn, but last year’s Dan Patch Award winner pulled away in the stretch for a career-best and national season’s best 1:53.1 mile. Blue Mac Lad was nearly three lengths back in second with Macdeen Star and John Campbell third.

“We kind of got started up going there when I made the lead,” said Ackerman, explaining the wide lead Chocolatier took in the second quarter of the race. “He was just going along so I just let him have what he wanted there.”

Chocolatier scored his second straight victory in four starts this year for the doug Ackerman Stable and Southwind Farm.
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