Special Way continued her dominant ways at The Meadowlands on Friday night, upping her win streak to 10 while completing a three-race sweep of the New Jersey Sire Stakes for three-year-old fillies on the trot by taking the $240,000 final of the series in a lifetime-best 1:51.4.
Trainer-driver Ake Svanstedt was in no particular hurry with the daughter of Walner-Special Hill, sitting fifth past the quarter and half – making the backers of the 1-9 favourite a tad nervous – as Mambacita reached those markers in :27.3 and :56.2. Special Way vacated the rail after the half and started her march toward the leader as Mambacita hit three-quarters in 1:24.1.
Racing wide while third into the stretch, Special Way put up a final quarter of :26.4 to win going away by an easy two lengths. Secret Volo rallied to grab second with Walner Payton third.
“I have to share with you what Ake said to me [right after the race],” said co-owner Marvin Katz with a laugh. “He said, ‘She’s so good, she overcame my bad drive. She’s exceptional.’”
After starting her career with losses in her first two starts, she’s been a perfect 10 since.
“Actually, her first start, Sarah [Svanstedt] drove her and they were still working on her,” said Katz. “She wasn't quite ready yet and she was careful with her and so forth and it was just a good drive and a good first start. She was 70-1 and she closed her last quarter in :26.2. We just knew that this was a talented horse. We didn't know perhaps she was this good, but we knew she had some talent.”
Can Special Way join Ramona Hill (2020) and Atlanta (2018) as fillies to win The Hambletonian? Katz was non-committal.
“I'm thinking I'm going to enjoy this evening tonight,” said Katz. “I'm going to celebrate this and we'll go one step at a time. How's that for a political answer?”
Special Way is owned by George Siegel’s Brittany Farms LLC, Katz and Al Libfeld. She’s now 10-for-12 lifetime, good for earnings of $956,850. She returned $2.20 to win.
In the $240,000 NJSS final for three-year-old colt and gelding trotters, Marcus Melander trainees finished 1-2 as Air Power blew past 9-5 favourite Oh Well nearing the wire to remain perfect in three seasonal starts.
Since the top two were both driven by Tim Tetrick in their most recent outings, Tetrick piloted the public choice (and 2022 Mohawk Million winner), so Andy McCarthy picked up the drive, his first behind Air Power.
“It really worked out for me,” said McCarthy. “I'm not sure [how I got the drive] to be honest with you. I know Marcus had a bunch in there and, you know, I know [Marcus’ brother] Mattias had been driving the horse before Tetrick raced it last week. But, yeah, I just got lucky, I guess.”
Luck was also on his side from a trip perspective.
Oh Well left hard from post seven but couldn’t find a spot at the rail around the first turn and had to go on with it, reaching the lead at the half in a taxing :55.4. Air Power was in Nowheresville at the time, racing eighth at the rail, but as horses vacated the pylons, McCarthy advanced his horse to sixth at the three-quarter call and then fourth at the top of the stretch.
Oh Well was still doing good things on the lead at the head of the lane, as McCarthy and Air Power tried desperately to find a path to the winner’s circle. Inside the eighth pole, Air Power swerved to the outside and lunged past the favourite to win by a half-length nearing the wire. Up Your Deo was third. The mile time of 1:50.4 was a lifetime-best.
“I watched his replays and it looked like he just really loves to pass horses,” said McCarthy. “I figured there'd be a fair bit of speed in there and I was hoping for a bit of a flow and trip on the outside, but that didn't look too good. So, we had to take a shot the other way. It worked out. The seas parted and I got out when I needed to. He definitely had a lot of trot finishing up. I actually had to slow him down there a little bit.”
A winner of half of his six lifetime outings, Air Power, a colt by Muscle Hill-Beyond Blue, returned $9.60 to win as the 7-2 third choice in the betting. He’s now earned $165,387 for owners AMG Stable Inc., Rick Wahlstedt, Kenneth Kjellgren and Heights Stable.
McCarthy topped the driver colony with three winners on the card.
All-source wagering totalled $2,866,645 on the 13-race program.
Gabe Prewitt was the winner on Night 1 of the “Battle of the Masterminds” handicapping contest. Prewitt tallied $665.60 after having an $8 ticket on the Early 50-cent Pick-4, which returned $41.60.
Racing resumes Saturday at 6:20 p.m.
(With files from The Meadowlands)