Who will win the BC Mare Trot? Wide open?
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Mistery Woman, who is the current world-record-holder for a 4-year-old female trotter thanks to her 1:51 triumph in the Allerage Farms Mare Trot at The Red Mile, is joined by fellow fleet-footed "fours” Classic Martine and Bee A Magician, both with marks of 1:51.1, and Handover Belle, who has won in 1:51.4.
It could produce a wide open, not to mention quick, Breeders Crown event, particularly when 5-year-old D'Orsay, who was one of the previous world-record-holding 4-year-olds, Ma Chere Hall, Charmed Life and Intense America are added to the equation.
"We got a great trip, so I didn't have to move her until the top of the stretch,” Matt Kakaley said after driving Handover Belle to victory in the prep race. "She got home pretty easy and did it pretty easy too. It's just kind of a prep for (the final), but I think she's got the talent. If the trip works out next week the way it did tonight, I don't see why she couldn't win next week too.
"Hopefully we'll get a little luck and things will go our way.”
Classic Martine, Bee A Magician and Charmed Life are the three richest trotting mares heading into the Breeders Crown final.
The winner of nine of 17 starts this season, Classic Martine has earned $376,412. Her victories include the Armbro Flight Stakes, Miss Versatility Series championship, and Ima Lula Series final.
"She was awesome, very good,” driver Tim Tetrick said after the prep race. "I was very happy with her effort. My cover kind of backed up, if anything, and I had to go three wide early. Otherwise I catch (Handover Belle). She got to slide out and got the jump on me, but I was super happy with her effort.
"They're good mares. My mare has made the most money and she's been able to be on top in a lot of these. Hopefully it keeps going that way.”
Bee A Magician, who was the 2013 Horse of the Year and won the Breeders Crown for 3-year-old female trotters in a stakes-record 1:52.4 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, finished fourth in the Mare Trot prep after leading at the top of the stretch.
"She was a bit flat, probably a little short maybe,” trainer Nifty Norman said. "It was good to get a prep. I was probably a bit easy on her (last) week, but she needs to improve quite a bit. It's a good bunch, a good field. But it's wide open next week, I think.”
Intense America has won one of 13 races this year and earned $18,387 for owner Ecurie Gaetan Bono Inc., and won eight of 49 lifetime starts for $273,475. In 2010, she won her elimination of the Peaceful Way Stakes and finished second in the final.
She has gone off stride in five races this year, although she rallied to finish third in one of them by trotting the second half of the mile in :55.3 over a "good” track at Woodbine.
"This year she has been struggling a little,” Dion said. "She's a mare with speed; she just sometimes does not behave herself. If she does, I think she can get a piece of the pie. This year she is struggling, but in the years before, last year, she got a few good times (including a career-best 1:53 win at Mohawk Racetrack).
"We think she has speed and the owner wanted to put her in. I know it's a big step up and I told that to the owner. We realize it's not going to be easy, but if she behaves herself she could be a contender. I don't think she can beat Bee A Magician or something like that. If she behaves herself, in the stretch she is usually pretty strong.”
In her most recent start on Nov. 7, a conditioned race at Woodbine, Intense America took the lead from post nine in a :27.2 opening quarter-mile and remained in front until the stretch before getting beaten by a length.
Dion is not limited to one Breeders Crown starter. He sends Flanagan Memory, a 4-year-old male trotter he owns with Liette Flanagan, into Saturday's $500,000 Open Trot.
Last year, the son of Kadabra-Classy Stacy won seven of 11 races and earned $396,855. His victories included the Goodtimes Stakes and Ontario Sire Stakes championship and he received the O'Brien Award as Canada's best 3-year-old male trotter.
This year, he has won two of 17 races and earned $135,060. He finished third in the single Breeders Crown Open Trot elimination, behind Maven and Your So Vain, timed in 1:52.4.
"At the half I was quite nervous,” Dion said, referring to Flanagan Memory being in seventh, and then later eighth, place. "He was pretty much locked in. I was very happy in the stretch when he came down the lane and it opened up for him.”
Although he has only picked up two wins, Flanagan Memory was third in the Hambletonian Maturity, which was restricted to 4-year-olds, and earned checks in the Maple Leaf Trot and Crawford Farms Open Trot.
"I think he's been racing OK,” Dion said. "He's a 4-year-old racing against the top trotters. They're tough trotters. He's been holding his ground I guess for a 4-year-old.
"We gave him a month off to kind of refresh him. The last two races he did at Woodbine, he raced pretty good. He finished fourth in the preferred, but he was locked in with nowhere to go, so we were happy with that one. The following week, he won by like four lengths. He's fresh, so that's why we decided to give this a go.”--By Ellen Harvey & Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications