On paper, the $83,000 Clyde Hirt Series final appeared to be a wide open race. However, on the racetrack, it was anything but.
Avatartist, sent off as the 9-5 favourite, made the early lead in :26.1 prior to yielding to the pocket. Driver Dave Miller made an aggressive move down the backstretch, reclaiming the lead past a :53.3 half-mile. 'The Buckeye' threw down the gauntlet and opened up a commanding lead heading to the top of the lane and never had an anxious moment in the stretch, winning in a stakes record 1:50.1. Alexas Jackpot rallied very well off dull cover to be second, while Wake Up Peter came from an impossible spot to be third.
The winner is trained by Tony O’Sullivan for Ontario owners William Hill, Peter Harrisson, Mike Saftic and James Walker.
Ironically, Avatartist is not eligible to the upcoming Whata Baron Series, which begins Saturday, April 5, while Alexas Jackpot and Wake Up Peter are heading to that series next.
In the $60,600 final of the Horse & Groom, it was a perfect storm for Hldontghttoyurdrms in more ways than one.
First, 3-5 favourite Bambino Glide made a break prior to the start, never to be involved. At the start, round one winner Amigo Ranger went off stride. Next, turning down the backstretch with Hldontghttoyurdrms leading through a :27.3 opening quarter, pocket-sitting March Awareness broke stride, leaving the pacesetter with a six-length lead heading to the half. Hldontghttoyurdrms got that half in :55.4 and three-quarters in 1:24.3, while never facing a challenge and romping to an easy score in 1:53.4 for Canadian-based driver Jonathan Drury.
The winner had been a bit disappointing in the first two rounds of the series, but with the money down, the gelded son of Muscles Yankee got the job done.
He is trained by Corey Johnson for Ontario's Frank Schimizzi and Frank Spagnolo, and New York's Saverio Spagnolo.
Longshot Magglio was second with Crosbys Clam Bake finishing third.
Scott Zeron and Jim Morrill Jr. were the winners in round two of the Legends vs. Phenoms Drivers Challenge.
Zeron continues to make plenty of noise at The Meadowlands as he easily led the Phenoms from gate-to-wire to win the second leg of the Driver Challenge with 85 points. Zeron also won the Phenom category last week as well.
While Zeron is dominating the Phenoms, the Legends category has been a battle. Tonight, Andy Miller and Morrill Jr. went into the last race each with 83 points, with first round winner Dave Miller right behind with 81 points. In the end, it was Morrill Jr., with 90 points, winning round two for the Legends.
For the tournament, Dave Miller (172) leads the Legends, followed by Andy Miller (160), Morrill Jr. (158), Corey Callahan (74) and John Campbell (73).
Zeron (163) is cruising along in the Phenoms category. Joe Bongiorno (90) is a clear-cut second. Rounding out the top 10 are Tony Hall (60), Drury (54), Steve Smith (52), Jim Marohn Jr. (49), Vincent Ginsburg (46), Tyler Smith (45), Jim Meittinis (33) and Eric Abbatiello (22).
On Saturday, April 26, the top five Legends and the top five Phenoms will qualify for the Driver Challenge Final, with the winner earning $15,000.
Racing resumes on Friday with the first round of the Artistic Vision Series for pacing mares, with post time at 7:15 p.m.
(With files from Meadowlands Racetrack)