Brave By Design braved rain and wind on a chilly afternoon at Freehold Raceway to win Saturday’s (May 7) $150,505 Dexter Cup for three-year-old male trotters by 1-3/4 lengths over Justice in 1:57.2 over a track labeled sloppy. Pour Mea Double was third.
The top-three finishers were the only horses in the eight-horse field not to go off stride in the race, which was the season’s first Grand Circuit event for three-year-old male trotters and kicked off the road to the Hambletonian Stakes.
Brave By Design, driven by Joe Bongiorno for trainer Jennifer Bongiorno, is eligible for the $1 million Hambletonian, which is Aug. 6 at The Meadowlands.
Earlier in the day, Little Pink Lies captured the $58,025 Lady Suffolk for three-year-old female trotters at Freehold. The filly is not eligible for the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, which is the Hambletonian’s filly companion event.
In the Dexter Cup, Brave By Design grabbed the lead from post two as Grizzly Bare from post three, Bar Coins from post five, and Pretender from post six battled for position around the first turn. Grizzly Bare and 1-5 favourite Pretender went off stride, leaving Brave By Design, Bar Coins, and Justice in the top-three spots in a :29 opening quarter.
Justice, who started from post seven, and driver Ake Svanstedt made their move for the front heading to the half-mile point and cleared Brave By Design to lead as they hit the midpoint in :58.4. Justice remained on top through three-quarters, reached in 1:28, but was unable to hold off Brave By Design in the stretch.
“The race worked out really good,” driver Bongiorno said. “With (Bar Coins) leaving out of there, it had (Pretender) out wide in the first turn and that one went off stride. At that point, I wouldn’t have minded being on the front, but Ake kept coming. I know that horse from racing against him in the New York Sire Stakes last year and he’s a nice horse, so I figured it was OK to follow him.
“Up the backside, it looked like he wasn’t doing it as easy as I thought he would be, so I decided to put a little pressure on him in the last turn and it worked in our favour.”
Brave By Design, who was making his 2022 debut, is owned by the Brave By Design Stable. A son of Walner out of Nuvola, the gelding was bred by Al Libfeld. He has won two of five lifetime starts and earned $98,802.
“He’s Hambletonian eligible, but he’s got to prove a lot more to be that caliber of a horse,” Bongiorno said. “But let’s enjoy today and we’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.”
Sent off at odds of 7-1, Brave By Design paid $16.20 to win.
In the Lady Suffolk, 8-5 favourite Little Pink Lies started from post one, took the lead heading to the first turn, and never looked back to win by 1-3/4 lengths in 1:58.1 for driver Ake Svanstedt. What Should I Goo finished second and Bomb Hugger was third.
Fractions for the race were :28.2, :59, and 1:28.4.
“No drama,” said Svanstedt, who also trains Little Pink Lies. “She can leave fast, so No. 1 was the best post. The race worked out how I expected.”
Little Pink Lies, a daughter of Chapter Seven-To The Question, was making her seasonal debut. She won for the third time in 11 career races and pushed her earnings to $139,090.
The filly is owned by Svanstedt, Triple Play Trotters, and Tomas Andersson. She was bred by Crawford Farms.
Little Pink Lies paid $5.40 to win.
Hechkoff, Calabrese Victorious In AHDC Trots
Bob Hechkoff and John Calabrese each won a $9,000 division of the American Harness Drivers Club series today at Freehold Raceway. Heckkoff scored with Warrior Way in 2:00.3 and Calabrese was victorious behind Shoemaker Hanover in 1:59.2.
In the first split Mike Polansky sent My Big Kadillac immediately to the lead and they showed the way by the quarter in :29.2. After starting from the five-hole Hechkoff settled Warrior Way in behind the leader and followed him as challengers FiJi (Dave Offenberg) and Worldsstonecold AS (Tony Beltrami) remained on the limb.
My Big Kadillac was still in command past the half in 1:00.4 and still led everyone by the three quarters in 1:30.2. But when they rounded the final turn and headed for home Hechkoff moved Warrior Way off the pylons, they gained the lead and went on to a length victory in 2:00.3 over the rain-soaked racetrack.
My Big Kadillac held on for second while Worldsstonecold AS garnered the show dough.
Hechkoff's RBH Ventures owns the winner. He paid $8.80.
In his split Calabrese hustled Shoemaker Hanover toward the lead from post eight but settled in the two hole as Trump This and Tony Beltrami had command after a :29 quarter. Calabrese was content to follow the leader past the half in :59.4, but when they headed for the three quarters Calabrese wheeled his trotter off the pylons and they got first call as they took command on the final turn. In the stretch Shoemaker Hanover was the strong horse and he rallied to a 2-1/2 length triumph in 1:59.2. Trump This was second best and Caviar Star (Paul Minore) finished third.
The winner is owned by Calabrese Farms LLC and Michelle Rickey. He paid $9.40 for the win.
(USTA / AHDC)