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The NJSS trotting finals are both full of exciting prospects, ten in each $125,000 race in fact.
The fillies come up in race 5 where sires Father Patrick and Trixton, who are represented by 19 of the 20 finalists, have the two logical favorites.
Whispering Oaks, by Father Patrick, was a leg #1 winner in 1:55.4 largely due to the talents of her driver Yannick Gingras as she raced greenly while Yannick kept her not only on stride but on course to get the win in the last step. Jimmy Takter trains Whispering Oaks for Brixton Medical, Herb Liverman and R A W Equine, Inc.
Mother Bonnie scored her win in leg two for Andy McCarthy trotting to a national season's best of 1:55. The Trixton lass is a Robert McNerney and Hauser Brothers Racing homebred from the Noel Daley stable.
The result of the colt final will largely depend on the state of mind that the enigmatic Greenshoe brings into the race. The son of Father Patrick has exhibited extreme talent, winning a baby race in 1:55 on June 2, but has also demonstrated a fractious side which led to going him off stride at the start in his leg one appearance, only to make a sensational recovery and win the race in 1:56.2 despite the ground given with the miscue. Brian Sears has the assignment to keep Greenshoe to task for trainer Marcus Melander and owner Courant, Inc.
On Saturday night the eight Grand Circuit stakes are led by the $701,800 Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace (race 8), clearly one of the most competitive in the 42 year history of the stake.
Last season's O'Brien freshman award winner Stay Hungry (Doug McNair), owned by Brad Grant and the late Irwin Samelman and Courtly Choice, racing for the interests of Hutt Racing, Mac & Heim Stable, Daniel Plouffe and Touch Stone Stable, supplemented to the race at a cost of more than $62,000, won last week's elimination races and have the favorite's target on their backs.
Trainer Tony Alagna sends out three for the final including the aforementioned Stay Hungry, the season's fastest sophomore in American History (Yannick Gingras drives for Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz and American History Racing) who was second in the Courtly Choice elim and Babe's Dig Me (Brett Miller for Grant, Joe Sbrocco, Robert LeBlanc and In The Gym).
Courtly Choice carries the hopes of trainer Blake Macintosh and partners who backed their talented colt with a large cheque to give him a shot at the title. He also offers Hall of Fame driver Dave Miller one of his best chances to win the Pace, something he has yet to do.
The supporting card is nothing short of amazing with the $405,000 Hambletonian Maturity for 4-year-olds bringing harness racing's newest diva Ariana G back to the track just one week removed from her brilliant world record 1:50.2 demolition of many of these same rivals in last Saturday's Graduate final. Gingras has the drive on her for Takter and owners Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld.
A dozen talented debutantes will contest the sophomore pacing filly Mistletoe Shalee stake (race 5) led by Kissin In The Sand (Scott Zeron), trained by Nancy Johansson for Marvin Katz and Bud Hatfield Stable, who turned heads with a gritty uncovered masterpiece in the Lynch Memorial final a fortnight past.
The WR Haughton Memorial (race 10) for older horses and Golden Girls (race 9) for their female counterparts also drew over flow fields of twelve with all of the stars of the division present.
Mcwicked (Brian Sears), as sharp as he's ever been at age 7 for Casie Coleman and owner SSG Stable, will be the choice in the Haughton off his bruising win in the Ben Franklin.
Shartin N (Tim Tetrick) has dominated the pacing mares in 2018, having won all of the major stakes thus far for owners Richard Poillucci and Jo Ann Looney King and she'll be the strong public choice in the Golden Girls. Jim King, Jr trains.
Note that all 12 horse fields will race at a distance of a mile and one eighth.
Also on the Pace card are the final preps for the upcoming Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks which are set to be raced on Saturday, August 4.
The top colts are all counted among the 16 entered for the $362,000 (divided) Stanley Dancer Memorial (races 4 & 6) with several among them rounding into Hambo form at the perfect time and others still looking for answers.
The $257,000 Del Miller Memorial split into a pair of sevens (race 3 & 11) with a few of those fillies holding hopes of the main event come Hambletonian Day, depending on their performance and that of the colts racing in the Dancer.
How might one begin a card such as this?
Well, here at The Meadowlands we'll kick the evening off with a pair of Miss Versatility divisions for the finest aged trotting mares around, among them 2018 Horse of the Year Hannelore Hanover (Gingras) who has been flawless thus far in the new season.
Off the track there's a ton going on with the always popular Pace T-shirt giveaway, the $500 win wager promotion and a BBQ contest along with various activities for the family.
For the horseplayer Pace night is one of the highlights each season with big pools and the horizontal guarantees have been increased accordingly. The Pick 5 is guaranteed at $40,000 and the Pick 4 hiked to $75,000 for the evening. Free program pages are available courtesy of Trackmaster.
Pace night is always a highlight of the racing season and this year the experience is one you'll want to be a part of.
Remember, post time is 6:35. (Meadowlands)