Matchmaker eligibles set to take on Shartin N
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Dylan Davis knows his pacing mare Apple Bottom Jeans faces a difficult task competing against the likes of 2019 Horse of the Year Shartin N and Breeders Crown champion Caviart Ally, but he also believes his horse is pretty special, too.
“She’s almost the perfect horse,” Davis said. “She does everything you want her to do, she never disappoints you in any way; she’s just so professional about everything. She’s an absolute sweetheart to be around and when it’s time to do her job, she does it.”
Apple Bottom Jeans makes her 2020 debut in Wednesday’s $50,000 fillies-and-mares invitational at Dover Downs, where Shartin N also makes her seasonal bow. Shartin N, who won 15 of 19 races last year and was worse than second only once, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite.
The 7-year-old Apple Bottom Jeans won five of 24 races last season and hit the board a total of 20 times on her way to $314,505. Her earnings ranked fourth among pacing mares in 2019.
“I couldn’t have been any happier with her,” said Davis, who trains Apple Bottom Jeans for owners Howard Taylor, Robert Cooper Stables, and Ed Gold. “I’m very happy with the way she’s trained back; she’s really good. I expect her to do very well again this year.”
Apple Bottom Jeans’ wins last year included three preliminary divisions of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series. She finished second to Shartin N in the Clara Barton Pace and was third behind Shartin N and Caviart Ally in the Golden Girls and Betsy Ross Invitational as well as a preliminary round of the Great Northeast Series. She was second to Caviart Ally in the Rainbow Blue Series final.
“She never stopped trying,” Davis said. “She just was third best.”
Following Wednesday’s start, Apple Bottom Jeans will head to the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway. The six-week event begins March 13 and ends April 18. She finished third in last year’s final, which was won by Shartin N.
Another Matchmaker-eligible mare, Major Occasion A, is the 2-1 second choice in Wednesday’s race at Dover. Major Occasion A has won three of six races this year, her first in North America after a well-regarded career Down Under. The 6-year-old Australian-bred mare is trained by Richard “Nifty” Norman and owned by Norman’s Enzed Racing Stable.
Major Occasion A is 2-for-3 at Dover, including a 1:49.4 win on Feb. 5 in the fillies-and-mares open.
“She’s been a real pleasant surprise,” Norman said. “I knew she was a nice mare, but she’s nice in every respect. She’s a nice mare to be around. She’s a big really good-looking mare, she’s game, she can race either way; she’s just a pretty good horse.”
Norman has staked Major Occasion A to some other races on the Grand Circuit in addition to the Matchmaker.
“I wasn’t really sure if she was good enough, but she’s made a bit of money so I did put her in a few stakes races at The Meadowlands so far just to make sure she’s got somewhere to race,” Norman said. “I’ve been real happy with her. I didn’t think she was at this level, but I guess we’ll find out a lot more about her on Wednesday when she races against a really good field of mares.” (Ken Weingartner/USTA)