Sonnet Grace extended her career unbeaten streak to four when she blew away the field in 1:56.2--matching her own national season’s mark -- in Friday’s $60,800 Arden Downs Stake at The Meadows. The Grand Circuit event for freshman filly trotters, known as the Judge Joe McGraw, was contested over three divisions, with Scirocco Donnahill and Windy Corner taking the other splits.
Sonnet Grace quarter-poled to the top for trainer/driver Rod Allen, who bred the daughter of Muscle Massive-I Believe for Rod Allen Inc., and she was off to the races, scoring by 5 1/2 lengths over Nomo Volo. Fast Reaction earned show.
Allen said Sonnet Grace is eligible for most of the rich late-season stakes and might enjoy a leisurely workload until then.
"She drives like a 4-year-old, like she’s been doing it longer than she has," Allen said. "She’s staying fit and strong, and I’m trying to save her because she’s staked heavier later in the year. So I’ve been trying to protect her a little bit, not train her quite as hard."
Scirocco Donnahill also quarter-poled to the lead, where she faced -- and turned aside -- a serious challenge from Magical Beliefs. The daughter of Muscle Hill-UF Tady’s Donato held off Magical Beliefs by a length in 1:57.2, with Southwind Storm third.
"That’s a real smart filly," winning driver Dave Palone said. "She has all the tools. They’ll have a lot of fun with her this year. She picked me up in the bit (when challenged) -- that’s the sign of a good one right there."
John Butenschoen trains Scirocco Donnahill for Lewis Whitaker Jr. and Kathleen Whitaker.
Windy Corner broke her maiden in her fifth career outing by grabbing the lead near the half for Marcus Miller and thwarting the late bid of Navarone Hanover, defeating her by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:57.3. Giant Possession completed the ticket.
"Any time I chirped to her, she just dug in a little more," said Miller, who collected four wins on the 14-race card. "Last week, I took the wrong route; I think if I’d stayed out, she probably would have got up. Today, my main goal was, once she was off the car, just give her a clear path."
Erv Miller conditions the daughter of Yankee Glide-Wind Stroll for Tony Holmes and Walter Zent.
Friday’s Adios Eve card featured a second Arden Downs stake, an event for freshman colt and gelding trotters known as the Edward M. Ryan. The two divisions went to Ginger Tree Skyr and Kate’s Massive.
Ginger Tree Skyr was second down the backside when Mike Wilder abandoned the pocket and sent him forward. The son of Explosive Matter-Up Front Annika made the strategy pay off, triumphing in 1:57.4 for trainer Sam Beegle and owners Ginger Tree Ventures and Donald Marean. Keystone Storm shot the Lightning Lane for second, beaten three-quarters of a length, with Capt Chaps Hanover third.
"I didn’t want to take any chances," Wilder said. "He felt good in the pocket, and I thought if I pulled him and sat out there and rode, he’d get the job done. I was protecting my spot. I didn’t want to get jammed in and maybe have to go Lightning Lane. He was very green, but I kept his attention."
Kate’s Massive broke stride in his last outing, a mishap that contributed to his 16-1 odds Friday. But he rushed right to the point from post eight for trainer/driver Ray Paver and was an easy 3 1/2-length winner over Angus Hanover in 1:58.2. Cantab Ed finished third.
"He’s been messing up sitting in a hole, so I figured I’d put him on the front so he wouldn’t mess up," Paver said of the son of Muscle Massive-Sister Kate, a homered for Harry and Iris Horowitz. "He acts like he’ll learn to trot some." (The Meadows)