Heading into the first round of the Burning Point Series for pacing mares, all eyes were on the re-match of Worldly Beauty winner Witch Dali and her rival and runner-up from that same series, Donttellruss.
New to the party was the Ron Burke-trained Southwind Serentiy, a fine compliment to her stablemate, Donttellruss. Such a fine compliment, that Yannick Gingras, given his choice of the two, opted to Southwind Serenity. That entry was sent off as the 1-2 favourite, with Witch Dali the 2-1 second choice. But someone forgot to tell Empress Deo that this was a three-horse race.
The early lead belonged to Southwind Serenity, who was hustled to the front by Gingras and established a :27.1 opening quarter under no pressure. She was allowed to coast through a :55.4 half-mile as her stablemate, Donttellruss, committed first over. But it was a slow grind and Southwind Serenity appeared comfortable as she reached three-quarters in 1:24. Witch Dali loomed as a menacing presence from second over as the field turned for home.
When the field straightened up in the stretch and Gingras asked his mare for more, there was no real response. Donttellruss had stalled first over at this point, Witch Dali kicked off cover and Somenicebeach pulled the pocket and was in contention.
But behind all that, Empress Deo, hopelessly locked in on the pylons, was angled all the way to the outside by Brett Miller, and as soon as she saw clear racetrack in front of her, she exploded and stormed past the entire field to win in 1:51.4. Somenicebeach was second and Witch Dali third.
The winner was trained by Wayne Givens for Legacy Racing Of Delaware Inc. She returned $30.20 to win.
The $25,000 Dash For The "C" Notes for the trotters was contested Friday night at The Meadowlands. The race featured an overwhelming favourite in Rock Of Cashel at 1-2.
There was plenty of action throughout the mile with four lead changes between the start and the three-quarter pole. Rock Of Cashel turned for home with the lead, but the field was closing in.
Meanwhile, Perfect Picture, a 70-1 longshot, was blocked and looking for racing room. Suddenly she found it inside the one-eighth pole and rallied to score a huge upset to kick off the late Pick 4, a sequence that returned over $24,000 for a $.50-cent ticket. My Muscleman was second and Rock Of Cashel faded to third.
The winner was driven by Trace Tetrick for trainer Amber Buter, and owners Oldford Farms LLC and Tyler Buter. The same trainer and owner connections of the Thursday night Dash For The "C" Notes winner, Antigua Hanover.
In the 11th race, a non-winners of $15,000 in the last five starts condition event for pacing mares, Shebestingin, the fastest pacing mare of all time made her return to the races. She was taken off the pace, followed cover and rallied to finish second as the 1-2 favourite, defeated by 29-1 longshot Addys Way. Trainer Joe Holloway indicated in a pre-race interview that Shebestingin would need to return to the top level or she would likely head to the breeding shed for this breeding season.
The Tetrick brothers combined for four wins on the program, while Gingras hit a grand slam himself.
The fifth race $.20-cent Jackpot Super Hi-5 went unclaimed tonight, resulting in a $12,996.60 carryover into the Saturday program. The last race Jackpot also was not hit, and that carryover now stands at $94,175.03. That means there will be well over $100,000 on the line in the last race Jackpot Super Hi-5 on Saturday night. Post time for the 13-race program, featuring the first round of the Sonsam Series is 7:15 p.m.
(With files from Meadowlands Racetrack)