Smilin Eli continued on the road to the $1.2 million Hambletonian on Aug. 3 at the Meadowlands with a another impressive win in the New Jersey Sires Stakes final. The Big M hosted the four $150,000 NJSS Championship finals for 3-year-olds on the Saturday night (June 1) card.
With the NJSS championships, TVG Free-For-All Pace and two Golden Girls divisions, the total handle of $3,507,651 was an increase of $1,098,490 from the same Saturday in 2012, a 46-percent increase. Attendance was up 50 percent and the on-track handle showed an increase of 15 percent.
The quartet of NJSS finals turned into a showcase for the unbeaten Smilin Eli. The son of Muscles Yankee owned by Nicholas Cimino is now a perfect 3 for 3 following an impressive 1:52.1 win. The time equaled the stakes record set by Manofmanymissions in 2011.
As usual, Tim Tetrick was at the lines for trainer Deshawn Minor. As expected, the 1-10 shot never had an anxious moment. Smilin Eli took command entering the backstretch, and the contest was over.
"I wanted to be in charge,” Tetrick said. "He didn't really want to settle. I just let him go ahead and move. I thought I had the best horse. I didn't want to take any chances of making a mistake back there, so I just went ahead and put him on the front.”
Corky gave chase but could only trim the final margin to 2 1-4 lengths.
The latest win has Tetrick dreaming the Hambletonian dream. "You're always hoping to find that special one,” Tetrick said. "Everything right now is going in the right direction. He's pointing that way.”
Muscle Mountain was third to give trainer Jimmy Takter a 2-3 finish in the stakes.
Shared Past took the trotting filly title in 1:53.4 as the 4-5 favorite, seizing the moment with a three-wide sweep at the midpoint on the backstretch. Shared Past held off Miss Steele by three quarters of a length for her second win in as many starts this season.
"I don't think today was her best performance,” said driver Yannick Gingras. "She's a very nice filly and she came back strong as a 3-year-old but I think she was better in the eliminations. Maybe there's a little something there. That's scary to say after she just won but I don't think she was 100 percent.”
It will be up to Jonas Czernyson to resolve any issues. He trains the daughter of Chocolatier for W.J. Donovan. Vintage Oaks was third.
Rockin Amadeus weaved and bobbed through the lane but he kept moving forward with enough momentum to squeeze out the win by a neck in the Colt & Gelding Championship. The 1-2 favorite was timed in 1:49.3 as Gingras picked up another stakes win, this time for trainer Jimmy Takter. The Breeders Crown champion in a 17-1 upset last season, Rockin Amadeus is now 2 for 2 this year for Lothlorien. Johny Rock was second after a pocket trip, followed by Wake Up Peter, who was parked for the entire mile.
Ms Caila J Fra closed out the NJSS with a stakes record 1:49 performance in the Filly Pace with Simon Allard in the sulky for trainer Steve Elliott and the Fra Stable. Jerseylicious set the pace but fell a neck shy of a victory, followed by I Luv The Nitelife, who was one-half length back.
O Narutac Rockette went on a break and fell during the race, and driver Ron Pierce did a commendable job of holding onto the lines and under control until she got back up. (Meadowlands)