Melander sends 4 to SOA Bonus Series opener
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Melander's stable is now 35 strong in total. She prides herself on showing continuous improvement in each of her six years since she went out on her own as a trainer, both in quality and in quantity. In 2017, her horses earned $1,266,587, a personal best.
"I'm very happy with the progress we've made over the last few years and where we're at now, I think we have better quality each year and I think this year with have a little better quality than last year," she said.
Melander commented on each of the four horses she will start in the $25,000 legs of the series' first leg:
Race 2 – Division One
#1 Frankie Mullins 5-2 (Jason Bartlett)
Belmar Racing's 4-year-old son of Muscle Massive is 4-for-27 with $94,092 earned. The gelding earned multiple placings in the Pennsylvania Stallion Series last year before ending the season with a string of off-the-board finishes at Yonkers and Philadelphia. After a winter break, Frankie Mullins qualified back March 6 and finished third and fifth in two starts at Pocono Downs March 17 and 23, respectively.
"We've had him since halfway through his 2-year-old year. He's a good horse, he tries, he always gives it what he can, he gets around the half good. Not a top-of-the-line horse, but he's a grinder and he always does well, he always tries. He's improved a bit, he's filled out a bit, gotten a little bigger. I give pretty much all my horses a winter break, I think they deserve it. He's come back good. He had a good first start at Pocono when he finished third and then last week he got locked in on the rail, but he should be ready on Tuesday."
Race 6 – Division Four
#3 Meadowbrook Glider 9-5 (Jason Bartlett) A $25,000 buy for John Devito from the Ohio Blooded Horse Sale last May, Meadowbrook Glider has proved a challenge for Melander. Although he's shown talent, trotting to a 1:54.4 victory at Pocono Downs last season, the 5-year-old son of Justice Hall makes frequent breaks in stride. After change in equipment following his latest break March 9 led to two strong races – a third from post seven at Yonkers March 18 and a win at Pocono March 24 – Melander feels more confident in the gelding coming into the series.
"He's a little bit trickier. He's really fast, he showed his speed last year. He's had a little tougher time coming back this year and getting gaited. He still sits on a ton of speed, it's just a matter of keeping him sound and focused enough. He's switched to the pace a couple times and his mind wanders off and you have to get him focused. We just put the racer pads on him up front. That's what he had last year and I think he just needs them. He loves the racer pads and they seem to work for him.
"You have to drive him up in the bit, keep his attention. I was very happy with his last start at Pocono where he showed he's still got it. The talent is there, but you have to drive him and hold him together at the same time. He raced good at Yonkers when he finished third and he came flying late from the back of the pack and was four-wide on the last turn, so that was a good effort as well. He's had two solid races now after a few miscues early on."
Race 7 – Division Five
#5 Chapter Too 2-1 (Andy Miller)
Belmar Racing paid $70,000 at Harrisburg last fall to acquire New York Sire Stakes finalist Chapter Too, a daughter of Chapter Seven out of the Kadabra mare Wood Blue Chip. She won her debut for Melander off the winter layoff at the Meadowlands March 9 before finishing second by a nose after sustaining a long first-over charge in her next outing March 17. In her most recent start, Chapter Too earned her fifth career win and pushed her earnings to $159,908 when she won a Meadowlands overnight in 1:54.1.
"From the second she came into our barn, I really liked her. She is a lovely, lovely horse. The owner is planning to breed her eventually, she's pretty well-bred and we're hoping to make some money with her during her 4-year-old year. She sits on a ton of speed, she's a very classy mare. We already know she can get around a half-mile track, we just wanted to get a few starts into her before going to Yonkers.
"She's an all-around mare. She can leave, she can sit back, she can pretty much do whatever you want her to do. The first week, obviously after just one qualifier, she needed to be raced following something. She got a beautiful trip and everything was good. The following week, she had to race a little tougher than what we initially hoped for, but she's a tough mare, it didn't do anything bad to her. I thought she fought it out all the way and after a tough race, only lost by a small bit. Then, just showing how good a mare she is, she just got better after that. In her last start at the Meadowlands, (Andy Miller) never even pulled the plugs. She kind of has a little funky way of going at times, her action isn't 100 percent clear, but I think that's just the way she goes."
Race 9 – Division Six
#6 Ontheroad De Vie 5-1 (Jim Marohn Jr.) Immediately after Ontheroad De Vie finished second in a series consolation last year, it was obvious something was amiss. Melander soon discovered the gelded son of Holiday Road fractured a bone in his hoof and spent the rest of the year nurturing him back to health. The 6-year-old won for the first time since his injury when he captured a $3,100 overnight from post eight at Monticello March 26.
"We wanted to sell him in the January sale last year. He was racing really well for us in the fall and into the winter, but nobody really wanted to pay any money for him, so we ended up buying him back. From the sale until the end of the series, he had a great time and was making great money every start and really consistent. He's not a top-of-the-line horse, but he's shows up and he tries and he's consistent. He makes good money doing that.
"Then unfortunately he broke his coffin bone in the consolation. When he came off the track, he was limping and before we left the paddock, he was crippled. We spent all summer just getting him back. It was a pretty bad break, so we didn't know how good of a horse he was going to be coming back, but he's come back sound and good and I think he's just about the same horse he was when he broke down. He's been good to us and I'm glad we could be good to him and get him back to where he's doing good. We're lucky that we can stay eligible to the series again." (SOANY(