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Graduate Series keeping stars in sight

May 09, 2019

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Finding a way to keep harness racing’s marquee performers on the track has always been a puzzle that if solved would allow the sport’s fan base to follow equine standouts not only through the end of their 3-year-old seasons, but beyond.

Last Saturday (May 4) at the Meadowlands, the sport’s traveling road show for 4 year olds–the Graduate Series–made its first stop of 2019, and many of the top sophomore pacing performers from 2018 were behind the gate in the two divisions of the series’ opening leg.

Lather Up, the North America Cup winner from a year ago in a season that saw him earn just under $900,000, displayed explosive late pace to take the Graduate’s first division, defeating 3-year-old standouts from last year This Is The Plan and Dorsoduro Hanover.

Courtly Choice, the 2018 Little Brown Jug and Meadowlands Pace winner who earned just over $900,000, went parked the final five-eighths in taking the second Graduate division, besting horses such as Thinkbig Dreambig and American History, another pair of top performers from a year ago.

“Time will only tell if the Graduate can provide a dramatic rivalry with Lather Up and Courtly Choice,” said Big M chief operating officer and general manager Jason Settlemoir. “We are fortunate to have the Graduate, which is a great series that keeps our stars in the spotlight racing, and not taking the fast track to the breeding shed. For that, we thank the owners of these horses for helping to grow the game.

“Think back to 2016 when Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit battled all year for the ‘Heavyweight Championship’ of the sport. Whenever and wherever those two met, that was the featured race on the continent. Those two older horses grew the game immeasurably that year. Hopefully, the Graduate can provide that level of excitement. Could the Lather Up-Courtly Choice pairing possibly be a similar rivalry? Or will other top older horses have something to say? Either way, the sport is a big winner.”

Leg Two of the Graduate for pacers is June 1 at Woodbine Mohawk Park, followed by Legs Three (June 9) and Four (June 28) at Tioga Downs and the Meadowlands, respectively. The final is July 6 at the Big M.


The Graduate for trotters gets underway at the Meadowlands on May 18.


After a slow beginning due in all probability to the delay of the start of the card as the inquiry in the Kentucky Derby moved at a snail’s pace, wagering on the Big M’s live program picked up in a big way.

Saturday’s seventh race, the Graduate division won by Lather Up, served as the catalyst for another $3-million handle night at the Big M, the ninth time that magic figure has been reached this year at the mile oval.

In that 12-horse field, the Big M faithful plunked down $363,400 in bets, with the straight ($103,034) and exacta ($116,101) pools pushing past the six-figure plateau. (Meadowlands)

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