On a perfectly dreadful morning with temperatures in the high 40s (48°F / 9°C) with rain but little wind, the qualifiers got a 9:00 a.m. early start at The Meadowlands. The track was listed as “sloppy” but that was not an issue for a number of harness racing's top trotters from 2022.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night shall stay Bella Bellini from the swift completion of her appointed rounds. Despite the horrible conditions, the champion mare did as she does. She sat patiently near the back for regular accomplice Dexter Dunn as the lead dawdled, then burst through a small seam to win in 1:56.2 with her individual final split clocked in :26.1. Richard 'Nifty' Norman has trained the mare throughout her career for owner Dave McDuffee, who has his sights set on the upcoming Miss Versatility (May 6) and Arthur Cutler Memorial on May 20 as possible targets to open her 2023 campaign.
Following Bella Bellini across the wire were Venerate (Brian Sears) who raced well for new connections and recent import Immanuel K S (Ake Svanstedt) — who looks remarkably like his sire, the great Sebastian K — was also willing.
Dan Patch Award winner Special Way returned in grand style this morning for trainer / driver Ake Svanstedt. Special Way fronted the field through a 1:00 half then trotted away from a formidable group with the greatest of ease in an effortless 55-second final half, home in :27 flat. Secret Volo (Sears), Heart On Fire (Todd McCarthy) and Mambacita (Gingras) were all solid, left in the winner’s wake.
Several of last season’s top freshman colt trotters lined up for race nine and Oh Well (Tim Tetrick) swept past accomplished rivals willingly through a :27 last quarter to win in 1:55. Celebrity Bambino (Gingras) set slow fractions and held off the pocket pull of Kimmeridgian (Svanstedt) but could not stall the winner.
Sam Bowie dropped $350,000 to get Energetic Hanover bought at last fall’s Harrisburg mixed sale and thus far it appears the big fella may have spent wisely. Scott Zeron steered Energetic through his second qualifier with a pillar-to-post 1:52 win, home in :26.3 well within himself. Tony Alagna trains the now four-year-old son of Captaintreacherous. Night Hawk (Joe Bongiorno) closed sharply to be second with a :26.1 stretch kick.
Alagna’s Stay Hungry sophomore pacing colts were 1-2-3 with Dupree Hanover (Andy McCarthy) taking over past the 58.3 half then holding stablemates Stormalong (Jordan Stratton) and Hungry Angel Boy (Todd McCarthy) at bay through the :26.4 end to the 1:54.1 mile.
Ervin Hanover won back in 1:52.4 from off the pace, closing into a :26.4 final quarter for the Burke/Gingras combo, setting him up nicely for next Saturday’s beginning to the PA Sire Stakes. Kopi Luwak closed between horses for Dave Miller for second while Taste Of Honey was unable to last on the lead for Dexter Dunn.
Pacing fillies saw Hungry For Love (Dave Miller) rally strong in the stretch for a clear 1:53.3 win over Burke stablemate Late For Dinner (Yannick Gingras) and mile-cutting four-year-old Wickedly Innocent (Tetrick)
Treacherous Penny scored out of the pocket for Alagna and Andy McCarthy, wearing down a game Super Girl (Jordan Stratton) through a :26.1 end to a 1:55 mile. Falana Hanover (Dave Miller) impressed with good late energy, used twice from a bad post.
Other three-year-old trotting fillies saw If The Shoe Fits (Andrew McCarthy), another winner from the Alagna barn, leading all the way and winning comfortably in 1:55.4, home in :28.3 unasked. On The House (Svanstedt) followed nicely for second while Wal Street Lady (Gingras) got a flat line using a pocket ride to be third.
Then Life Itself (Svanstedt) launched a sustained, uncovered move after the half to wear down the leader then held off the close of In Italian (Gingras) for a 1:58 victory.
Sophomore trotting colts continued with Point Of Perfect (Gingras), on good behavior for the Burke barn today, cut the mile for an easy 1:56.1 win off a half in a minute. EL Lincoln (Svanstedt) followed but proved no match for the winner today. Dire Straits (Dave Miller) had sneaky good energy late though well back of the winner.
Cypress Hanover (Josert Fonseca) flashed a little of the potential that his $475,000 yearling purchase price promised today as he made up significant ground on then roared past fellow $400,000 yearling Cadillac Moon (Mattias Melander) to get the 1:57 win for trainer Nancy Takter.
Live harness racing resumes at 6:20 tonight at The Meadowlands with the New Jersey Maturity finals, two of which will be raced off the card at 5 p.m.
(Photo: Bella Bellini (USTA / Mark Hall), Special Way (Amanda Stephens) and Oh Well (New Image Media). Recap courtesy Meadowlands Media)