Long Tom second choice in NJSS final
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After opening his 2017 campaign with a 1:52.1 win in the first round of the New Jersey Sire Stakes series for 3-year-old male trotters, Long Tom is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line in Friday's $100,000 championship at the Meadowlands Racetrack, with Tim Tetrick in the sulky. The colt's win time is the fastest this season for a 3-year-old trotter.
"I couldn't be happier with him after the first race he did," said Melander, who trains Long Tom for owner AMG Stable Oy of Finland. "He's been training great. I was very happy he won because we didn't have to race the week after (in the second round of the Sire Stakes). It was perfect for him to have a week off and go into the final."
What The Hill, who won last year's New Jersey Sire Stakes final for 2-year-old male trotters and the Peter Haughton Memorial, is the 6-5 favorite in Friday's championship. The colt is undefeated in three races this season for driver David Miller and trainer Ron Burke.
Returning Dan Patch Award-winner Ariana G is the even-money favorite in the $100,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes championship for 3-year-old female trotters. She won her only start this season for trainer Jimmy Takter and driver Yannick Gingras in 1:52.2, which is tied for the second-fastest win time for a 3-year-old trotter behind only Long Tom.
Every Way Out, who is 2-for-2 this year, is the 1-5 morning line favorite for driver Tetrick and trainer Dylan Davis in the $100,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes final for 3-year-old male pacers. Colorful Jasmine, from the stable of trainer Tom Cancelliere, is the 3-5 choice in the $100,000 final for 3-year-old female pacers. Corey Callahan is the driver.
Long Tom, who arrived from Europe to Melander's stable in April 2016, won three of seven races last year and earned $60,950. He had three wins and a second in his first four starts, capped by a 1:55.2 victory in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes at Lexington's Red Mile. He was third in a division of the International Stallion before finishing off the board in his Breeders Crown elimination and the Matron Stakes.
"He raced very good before Lexington and he raced very good at Lexington, but then we had some bad luck in the Breeders Crown and Matron," Melander said. "He got a little sore, but he's a very good horse. We knew that when we shut him down last year.
"He came back very good. He grew a lot over the winter. He's a very big boy now. He put a lot of muscle on him over the winter. He looks really good. I can't be happier with him."
Following the New Jersey Sire Stakes, Long Tom is eligible to the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial, Stanley Dancer Memorial, and Hambletonian Stakes. The $1 million Hambletonian is Aug. 5 at the Meadowlands.
"That's the plan with him at least," said Melander, whose uncle Stefan won the 2001 Hambletonian with Scarlet Knight. "It's going to be tough to beat (returning Dan Patch Award winner) Walner, that's for sure, but behind Walner it's pretty open. I think Long Tom is one of those horses with the potential to race in the big races. It's horseracing, so you never know what might happen."
In addition to Long Tom, Melander has a Hambletonian hopeful in Enterprise. The colt raced only once last year after a late arrival from overseas, but is undefeated in four career starts for Melander. His most recent triumph was a 1:53.4 score in a division of the New York Sire Stakes at Vernon Downs.
"He's been very good too," Melander said. "I'm very happy with my 3-year-olds. The main thing is to keep them sound and healthy and we could have a good year for both of them."--By Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications