“I don’t know if he can step up to being a Grand Circuit four-year-old, but for what we’re asking of him right now, I definitely think he’s a major contender.”
Julie Miller thought Opulent Yankee might be well suited for series racing this winter at the Meadowlands Racetrack, and so far the four-year-old trotter has made good on the trainer’s beliefs.
Opulent Yankee, who joined Miller’s stable in November, won both of his starts in the preliminary rounds of the Super Bowl Series for three and four-year-old trotters at the ‘Big M’ and is likely to be among the favourites in Saturday’s $50,000 final.
Saturday’s card at the Meadowlands also features the $56,000 Escort Series final for three and four-year-old male pacers and the $47,600 Worldly Beauty Series final for three and four-year-old female pacers.
Opulent Yankee will start the Super Bowl from Post 10 with driver Andy Miller.
Propulsion, who also won two preliminary divisions in the series, will start from Post 1 with Tim Tetrick at the lines for trainer Tony Alagna. Other division winners JL Cruze, Two Hip Dip and Blocking The Way drew Post 4 through 6, respectively.
Jeff Gural’s Little E LLC bred and co-owns Opulent Yankee with Arthur Geiger, Jason Settlemoir and David Stolz. Gural is also among the owners of Propulsion, with Brittany Farms, Joe Sbrocco and the partnership of Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld and Sam Goldband.
“I’ve been really happy with him,” Miller said about Opulent Yankee. “Mr. Gural sent him to us after Lexington and we evaluated him and we told him we really liked the horse. We thought he could be a major contender in the winter series at the Meadowlands and it’s proven to be true. He’s been good in the first two legs and hopefully he’ll be right there for the final.”
Opulent Yankee (Muscles Yankee-Opulent Bluestone) was winless in eight starts at age two, but finished third three times, including in a division of the Reynolds Memorial Stakes at Vernon Downs.
He went off stride in his 2014 debut, in the Charles Smith Trot at Freehold in September, but rebounded to win in 1:51.4 in a late closer at the Red Mile two weeks later.
After two more starts in October, Opulent Yankee was given time off. He was entered to sell in the November Standardbred Horse Sale’s Mixed Sale, but was withdrawn.
“He has a nice way of going and a great gait to him; a good attitude and nice size and conformation,” Miller said. “When he was in Lexington he showed some speed, so I felt like he was definitely a horse that could be competitive at this level. If they show a little bit of talent at two and three, there is something to work with from the get-go.
“The first time Andy and I trained Opulent Yankee, I said to Andy that I hoped Mr. Gural didn’t want to sell (Opulent Yankee) because I thought he would be something nice to hang onto for the four-year-old year. I don’t know if he can step up to being a Grand Circuit four-year-old, but for what we’re asking of him right now, I definitely think he’s a major contender.”
Miller is no stranger to winter success at the Meadowlands. In 2013, she finished 1-2 in the Super Bowl with Windsun Galliano and Helios. Last year, she saw Perfect Alliance win the Singer Memorial Series and Bambino Glide capture two legs of the Horse & Groom Series. And in 2009, Lucky Jim won the Horse & Groom on his way to dominating the summer and fall open stakes and a Dan Patch Award as best older male trotter.
Opulent Yankee’s ownership group is the same partnership that raced Perfect Alliance last year. Opulent Yankee won his first round of the Super Bowl by five and three-quarter lengths over Annapolis in 1:55 and won his second round by a half-length over JL Cruze in 1:53.2.
“I don’t want to date myself, but when I first raced in the Super Bowl, they were going in (1:) 56 and (1:) 57 to win it,” Miller said. “Now it’s a whole different level of horses that are eligible to those races. It makes for competitive racing, which is what we’re all looking for. There are no easy spots in these series. They’ve really developed a nice program for these horses.
“This final should be a great race. It’s going to be the draw and how the trip works out. But I have a lot of confidence in Andy and Opulent Yankee.”
This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.