The Big Three ready for Sunday action at Red Mile
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The “Big Three” in harness racing’s Top 10 poll — Tall Dark Stranger, Ramona Hill, and Party Girl Hill — will be in action Sunday at Red Mile, with each looking to add a big win to their résumé.
Tall Dark Stranger and Party Girl Hill will compete in separate $239,500 divisions of the Tattersalls Pace for 3-year-olds, with Party Girl Hill attempting to become only the second female pacer in 30 years to beat male foes in a race worth more than $100,000. Ramona Hill, who earlier this season bested the trotting boys in the Hambletonian, faces 11 rivals in the $255,000 Kentucky Filly Futurity for 3-year-old filly trotters.
Sunday’s card also includes the $444,000 Kentucky Futurity, with a field of a dozen 3-year-old male trotters led by morning-line favorite Ready For Moni, two divisions of the Glen Garnsey for 3-year-old filly pacers, and Allerage Farm stakes for older pacers and trotters.
Tall Dark Stranger is the 9-5 favorite in the first of the two Tattersalls divisions and will have Yannick Gingras in the sulky. The son of Bettor’s Delight-Precocious Beauty has won nine of 10 races this season and $1.05 million for trainer Nancy Takter. His victories include the Meadowlands Pace, North America Cup, and Cane Pace.
In his two most recent races, both at Red Mile, he won a division of the Bluegrass Stakes by a half-length over Little Brown Jug winner Captain Barbossa and the Kentucky Sire Stakes championship by a neck over Fortify.
Tall Dark Stranger, who has won 17 of 19 career races and $1.77 million, is owned by Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms, and Howard Taylor.
“He’s never one that’s going to win by five (lengths), but he just keeps winning,” Gingras said. “What else can you ask? You can’t ask anymore from that horse. He just goes on the track and does his job. He’s not flashy, he’s a fighter; he just wants to beat them. He’s just a tremendous racehorse. It’s going to be hard to find another one like him.”
Tall Dark Stranger leads the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll with 18 first-place votes and 329 points. Party Girl Hill has the second-most first-place votes, 10, but trails Ramona Hill, who received the remaining seven first-place votes, by two points, 302-300. It is the first time in at least a decade that three horses received at least 300 points.
Party Girl Hill, who was unraced at 2, is undefeated in 12 races this year with earnings of $616,870 for breeder/owner Tom Hill and trainer Chris Ryder. Only one 3-year-old filly pacer who was unraced at 2 ever banked more, Yellow Diamond, with $1.31 million in 2009.
A daughter of Captaintreacherous-Look Cheap, Party Girl Hill enters her Tattersalls split off a Bluegrass division win by 3 1/4 lengths over Lyons Sentinel in 1:48. She is the 5-2 favorite, with Dexter Dunn driving, from post one.
Her other victories this year include the Jugette, where she won her elimination with a 1:49.3 world record for a 3-year-old filly pacer on a half-mile track, as well as the Fan Hanover Stakes and the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship.
See You At Peelers is the only pacing filly in the last 30 years to defeat male rivals in a race worth six figures. She won the 2011 Art Rooney Pace.
“People have been talking about us (taking on the boys) for a while; I just thought it was the right time to try it,” Ryder said. “It’ll be on a mile (track) and, obviously, she’s done good enough to give it a shot. That kind of goes without saying. She’s thriving, she’s doing as good as a horse can do. So, now’s the time.
“She seems to be getting better and better. The Jugette was good and she was tremendous last week. So, here we are.”
Ramona Hill has won six of eight races this year and earned $915,615. In addition to her stakes-record-equaling 1:50.1 Hambletonian win, her triumphs this season include the Elegantimage Stakes, Del Miller Memorial, and Zweig Memorial for fillies.
She has won 12 of 15 career races and $1.32 million. A daughter of Muscle Hill-Lock Down Lindy, she is owned by Brad Grant, breeder Crawford Farms, Robert LeBlanc, and In The Gym Partners. She is trained by Tony Alagna and driven by Andy McCarthy.
Ramona Hill enters the Kentucky Filly Futurity off a second-place finish to Ab’sattitudexpress in a Bluegrass division last week. She is the 7-2 second choice behind 3-1 favorite Sorella. Ramona Hill drew post three, Sorella post four.
“I know she wasn’t quite herself last week, I think she was a little sick, and I’m expecting a much better effort this week,” McCarthy said. “In mid-stretch, I could tell she was getting tired and that’s not her at all. Usually, that’s when she’s getting ready to take off. Turn the page on that one.
“When she won the Elegantimage, I think she felt as good as she’s ever felt. I’ve got a good draw (Sunday) and I definitely think I’ve got the best horse in the race, so I’ve just got to figure it out.”
Gingras will drive the morning-line favorites in both the Kentucky Filly Futurity and Kentucky Futurity. The Takter-trained Sorella captured a Bluegrass division last week, beating Spoiled Princess and Hypnotic AM both by a nose, and has won seven of 10 races this season with $485,424 in purses. She is ranked No. 7 in the Top 10.
“She was really good last week,” Gingras said. “It was three tough fillies at the wire and we were lucky to come out on top. It was real close, I had no idea who won the race.
“Ramona Hill is the one to beat, for sure, but I think mine is coming into the race good and we’re going to go from there. She’s got a good post and I think she’ll definitely give a good account of herself.”
Ready For Moni, also trained by Takter, will start the Kentucky Futurity from the second tier’s post 11 and is 5-2 on the morning line. Marion Marauder won the 2016 Kentucky Futurity from post 11 to complete a sweep of the Triple Crown.
“Of course, you would always rather have your nose on the gate, but it’s not the worst spot in the world,” Gingras said. “I think we’ll get away fairly close and take a shot from there after that. I’d rather have (post) 11 than the outside with the way the race shook out.”
Ready For Moni has won five of seven races this year and $575,670. He finished second in the Hambletonian but came back to win the Zweig Memorial for colts and geldings and both his elimination and final of the Goodtimes Stakes. A break in the Canadian Trotting Classic halted his win streak. He is ranked No. 8 in the Top 10.
“He made a break his last start, so that’s not ideal, but before that he was super sharp,” Gingras said. “From what I heard, they did a little bit of work on him, changed his shoes and he’s really good now. I’ll find out on Sunday. I think when he’s on his game, he’s as good as anybody.”
Gimpanzee and Atlanta, ranked No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, in the Top 10, meet in the $148,500 Allerage Farms Open Trot. Gimpanzee is 9-5 on the morning line and Atlanta is 2-1. One other horse in the Top 10, Kissin In The Sand, will be in action Sunday at Red Mile. She is the 3-2 favorite in the $72,000 Allerage Farms Mare Pace. (Ken Weingartner/USTA)