Tab another victory in the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial for driver Brian Sears and another Grand Circuit trotting win for trainer Marcus Melander. The dynamic team of trotting overhauled an oversized field of 11 with new acquisition Venerate to take the $155,200 free-for-all stakes on Saturday night (May 20) at The Meadowlands.
Sears settled into fourth with Venerate from Post 1 as Hillexotic bounded from Post 10 and to the lead towards a :26.4 first quarter. Rattle My Cage soon pulled off the pegs to take the lead into the backstretch, but promptly saw Hillexotic move to reclaim command before yielding the front to his stablemate – and 7-5 favourite – Its Academic all through a :54.4 half.
Control belonged to Its Academic through the final turn as he continued on high throttle all while Sears patiently angled Venerate first over to ply his attack. Its Academic clocked three-quarters in 1:22.4 and came under strong urging as Venerate mounted serious pressure from steady Sears hands through the lane. Venerate glided by Its Academic in the final eighth going away and registered a two-length win in a lifetime-best 1:50.1. Rattle My Cage took third from Its Academic fourth. Star mare Bella Bellini – the lone distaffer in the field – levelled off from a second-over trip and finished fifth.
Venerate is a five-year-old stallion by Love You now owned by Courant Inc., Holly Lane Stud East Ltd., Kemppi Stables Oy Inc. and Venerate Partners. Marcus Melander conditions the former Julie Miller pupil who changed hands in the 2022 Harrisburg Mixed Sale at the gavel slam of $410,000 last fall.
“We put together a group and bought him there,” Melander said after the race. “He was a nice horse and we didn’t really have an Open trotter, so that’s why we bought him. He’s a strong horse. He was very good in the qualifier, so I had high hopes for him in the race.”
The Cutler victory padded Venerate's millionaire status, with his account now worth $1,177,330. He paid $9.80 to win.
The win was driver Brian Sears’ seventh in the stakes – a record he held at six and added upon Saturday. Melander won for the second time in the Cutler, collecting his first victory in 2019 with North American export turned Swedish import Cruzado Dela Noche.
Melander confirmed Venerate would likely next surface in an Open race at The Meadowlands to prepare for the Crawford Farms Open Trot on July 1.
Up Your Deo Does In Big Favourite In Shocking NJSS Win
Up Your Deo stunned a field scratched to 10 to win the New Jersey Sire Stakes (NJSS) second leg for sophomore trotting colts at 43-1. The Walner colt recorded his first victory defeating favourite Oh Well in a duel to the finish of a 1:52 mile.
The field left the gate swiftly with trotters three-wide pushing for the lead. The trio of Dire Straits, Up Your Deo from the second tier and Kimmeridgian settled in a line past a :27.1 quarter. But, Oh Well demanded the top spot and soared through the backstretch to take control.
Oh Well went smoothly through a :56 half and looked well enough to motor home while posting three-quarters in 1:25.2 until Up Your Deo took after him to pose a serious challenge down the stretch. Up Your Deo lunged forward continuously in the stretch to overpower Oh Well by a head in the shadow of the finish pole. Tactical Approach, the crowd’s second choice in the wagering, finished third and Celebrity Bambino, off a first-over push around the far turn, took fourth.
Trainer-driver Ake Svanstedt, Suleyman Yuksel Stables, Deo Volente Farms and Van Camp Trotting Corp own Up Your Deo, whose winning share of the purse upped his bankroll to $82,687. The colt’s first win was worth $89.60 to his backers.
Co-owner Mike Gulotta of Deo Volente Farms said he was not shocked that the colt’s first victory came in this race.
“He won his qualifier and [went] his last quarter in :27.1," said Gulotta. "Sarah [Svanstedt] said 'he’s really, really good' and Ake said 'he's easy to drive [and] it's easy to look like a great driver when you have an easy horse to drive.' We bred him. We bought the mare for like $35,000 and bred it to Walner and got lucky.”
Up Your Deo was sold at Lexington for $100,000 and Gulotta was offered to buy in as an owner for 20 per cent.
“And I said, 'Sure, why not?' It's not too often you can stay in on a horse you bred.”
The connections had high hopes for Up Your Deo. At two, he went in 1:52.4 and was competitive in the Valley Victory and Kindergartens but was winless at the end of his freshman campaign.
The first of two $30,000 divisions of the NJSS for the sophomore filly trotters went to Secret Volo. Brian Sears drove her to a 1:53.2 personal mark by a head over favourite Mambacita. Marcus Melander trains the Walner product. Heights Stable, Rick T. Wahlstedt and Kenneth Kjellgren share ownership. She paid $4 to win. Tactical Mounds finished third.
Special Way with driver-trainer Ake Svanstedt won the second filly division by 2-1/2 lengths in 1:53.4. The Walner filly’s ninth win in a row was worth $2.20 to win. Brittany Farms LLC, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld are the owners. Walner Payton was second and Blonde Bombshell was third.
A Little More
Billy Clyde, a five-year-old son of Always B Miki-Jan It Jackson, made it five wins in his last six Meadowlands starts after emerging victorious in his first Big M outing since the middle of September in the overnight feature, a $25,000 Open 1 for pacers, hitting the finish in 1:50.3 after leading at every call. The Ray Schnittker trainee, who took his mark of 1:47.3 on Hambletonian Day last year, was driven by Mark MacDonald and returned $12 to win.
Handle topped the $3-million mark as a total of $3,520,346 was pushed through the windows on the 14-race card.
Andy McCarthy led the driver colony with three walks down victory lane while Melander and Ake Svanstedt were the top trainers with two winners apiece.
Racing resumes on Friday, May 26 at 6:20 p.m. (EDT).
(With files from The Meadowlands)