The Saturday qualifying races at The Meadowlands got underway at 10 a.m. under overcast skies with the sun threatening to peek through. Temperatures were in the low 60s and there was no wind of consequence.
Being the top dog at anything has its privileges, as driver Yannick Gingras can attest to. His talents have enabled him to be first call for two of the very best trainers in the game, Ron Burke and Jimmy Takter, resulting in him being the driver of many top stakes performers. Those include trotting mares 2017 Horse of the Year Hannelore Hanover and runner-up Ariana G.
There is, however, a downside to that lofty perch and that occurs when those types are from the same division and must face each other. They both raced in qualifiers this morning, though not against one and other. At some point, Gingras will have to make a difficult choice.
Ariana G was up first in race six and making her first appearance of the new season; she looked fantastic. Gingras put her on the lead and she strolled along comfortably right through the end of the 1:53.3. At the end of the mile she was five in front with an effortless :27.1 final quarter. Celebrity Ruth (Trond Smedshammer), certainly no slouch on her own, was a willing second. Jimmy Takter trains Ariana G for Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld.
Hannelore Hanover came up next in her second qualifying race of the season and made a very strong case to keep her driver. Gingras moved the champion mare to the front after Yes Mickey (Svanstedt) took the field by the first quarter in :28.1. The mare then cut comfortable middle fractions to trot home in :27.1 She ended the mile in 1:52.2 on her own, looking fabulous. Broadway Donna (Dave Miller) actually closed ground into that fast final stanza to get up for second, though she was no threat to the winner. Lagerfeld (Jim Marohn, Jr) rallied for third while Yes Mickey gave way to fourth.
The day began with Ken Jacobs’ talented sophomore Chapter Seven filly Seven Karats (Scott Zeron) winning again, this time leading all the way through even fractions for the 1:54.3 mile. She paced her last quarter in :29.1. Linda Toscano is the trainer. I’mwhygodmadegirls (Yannick Gingras) was a solid second.
Zeron employed similar tactics in race 2 with another good Chapter Seven filly, his father Rick’s charge, Atlanta. Zeron had them in line behind him through even numbers then drew off through a :27.1 end to the 1:54 mile in very impressive fashion. Rick Zeron trains for his own interest along with partners Holland Racing, HA Taylor and Brad Grant. Vivacious Allie (Ake Svanstedt) and Sevenbuyeleven (Tim Tetrick) held their respective spots in second and third in a race where there was no passing.
Six Pack took a measured 1:54 win, closing out with a :26 and change final quarter for Svanstedt. He tracked Seven Iron (Tetrick) all the way then forged by with something in reserve. Seven Iron held grudgingly and Fashionwoodchopper (Dave Miller) flew home into the fast last quarter with no urging and no trotting hopples. Svanstedt trains and owns the winner, a son of Muscle Mass, with Little E, LLC, Stall Kalmar and Lars Berg.
Top WEG driver Doug McNair was in to drive the morning and he nudged Missle Hill past Brothers In Arms (Jimmy Takter) right on the wire to get a 1:54.3 with a :28.2 final quarter mile. Dawson Springs (David Miller) was an even third in his first qualifier of the year. Sonofamillionaire (Svandstedt) finished fourth after cutting the mile. Brad Grant owns and Tony Alagna trains the winner.
The fifth qualifying winner Helpisontheway (Tetrick) was originally programmed as leaving from post position one in race four but moved and left from post nine in the next race. He landed in third as Godspell Hall (Gingras) led through unhurried fractions then was moving and drew clear when that rival went off stride at the three-quarter pole. Helpisontheway was well in hand to Tetrick through a :27 flat end to a 1:54.2 mile. Zephyr Kronos (Takter), the enigmatic son of European star Ready Cash, looked comfortable and closed considerable ground into the fast last quarter to get up for second. Toscano trains the winner, another by the 2012 Horse of the Year sire Chapter Seven whom she also trained. Toscano owns the colt as Camelot Stable in partnership with The Bays Stable.
The eighth qualifying race began the pacing races and 2017 O’Brien Award-winning freshman, Stay Hungry, made his 2018 debut from the rail with McNair driving for Tony Alagna. McNair sat a pocket as Pedro Hanover (D. Miller) set an honest pace, emerged as they turned into the stretch and rolled right by the leader to win in 1:50.4 with a last quarter panel in :27.1 under no urging. Babes Dig Me (Brett Miller) rallied well late and Pedro hung in there for minor spoils. Brad Grant and Irwin Samelman own the winner, who is a son of Somebeachsomewhere.
There were a bunch of top sophomores competing in the ninth qualifying race and Hayden Hanover (Andy Miller) came away the winner in 1:52.2 with a :26.1 final quarter-mile. Miller put the Somebeachsomewhere colt on the lead early with fractions of :29 and :58, when American History (Gingras) came calling. That one led into the stretch and gave way grudgingly as Hayden Hanover rallied by. Sporting Chance (McNair) was a solid third while the Dan Patch Award-winning top freshman pacer of 2017, Lost In Time (Zeron), was fourth after a conservative trip. Julie Miller trains the winner for Pinske Stables and Jim Simpson.
Another of trainer Alagna’s seemingly endless group of sophomore pacing colts, Captain Deo, is emerging as a top talent. He won again this morning in 1:51.2 closing into a :26.2 final quarter for Brett Miller. He fought past a stubborn No Easy Day (Gingras) and Twin B Tuffenuff for the score. He is by Somebeachsomewhere from the great race mare Worldly Beauty and races for Alagna Racing, Joe Sbrocco, In The Gym Partners and Captain Deo Partners.
Python Blue Chip (Gingras) was a winner in the 11th qualifying race, as he converted a perfect trip into a 1:53.3 score. Hurrikane Shorty (Jim Marohn, Jr) cut the mile and held second over closers inside and out. Burke trains the winner, the owners listed are Svanstedt, Blue Chip Bloodstock and Stable 45.
Kissin In The Sand took the exciting 12th qualifying contest. The filly sat a pocket trip behind Rainbow Room (D. Miller) then found a seam up the inside to edge by the leader and hold off the closing Youaremycandygirl (Gingras) in a :26.3 end to the 1:52.1 mile. This match-up of the three top freshman pacing fillies of last season resulted in them finishing right across the track.
Filibuster Hanover was absolutely vicious in the last qualifying race. He followed stablemate Rock N Tony through swift fractions then ripped from the pocket to drive off into the sunset with a :25.3 end to a 1:49.3 mile. It was his second qualifying race of the season and he looks like trouble for potential foes in next week’s Graduate Series opener. Rock N Tony held up for second while the great mare Pure Country (Mark MacDonald) was a solid third in her seasonal debut.
Charts from today’s qualifying races can be accessed by clicking here. While replays can also be viewed by clicking here. (Meadowlands)