Many of the sport’s stars were out on Saturday night at The Meadowlands and none shown brighter than Archangel, who won the first $50,000 elimination for the John Cashman Jr. Memorial Trot in a world record 1:50 flat. The mile broke a six-way tie for the fastest mile ever by a trotter on a mile track.
Yannick Gingras sent the handsome five-year-old millionaire son of Credit Winner out fast for the lead with a wicked :26.1 opening quarter, then set even fractions of :54.4 and 1:22.3 in the record mile. Archangel was a geared down length and a three-quarter winner over Intimidate (Ron Pierce) with Market Share (Tim Tetrick) third. Your So Vain (Ake Svanstedt) and Sevruga (Marcus Miller) rounded out the qualifiers from this elimination for next Saturday’s $300,000 final. Spider Blue Chip (Corey Callahan) broke stride from the pocket during the second panel to take himself out of contention. Royalty For Life was scratched from the elimination due to an injury.
Gingras had high praise for Archangel in the post-race interview. “I told his caretaker Sarah I was gonna roll him," he said. "He has the ability, just hasn’t been lucky. He was staying with Sebastian K in the 1:49 mile at Pocono when he broke on the turn. I think he’ll give Sebastian some competition in the final -- I’d take it if I could cut the mile against him next week in the final.”
Ron Burke trains the winner for Legendary Standardbred Farm and Claire Semer.
Sebastian K was back to his winning ways in the second elimination for trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt with an easy three length score in 1:51.
The race began with Creatine flying off the wings from the outside for Mike Lachance and clearing Sebastian K as they reached the quarter in a dazzling :26 flat. The pace slowed abruptly when Lachance took up on the lead and Svanstedt was forced to yank Sebastian K out quickly before Mister Herbie (Tim Tetrick) could get the jump on him from third. He got out, though the judges flashed inquiry and reviewed the move, and back to the top. Sweet Justice (Corey Callahan) mounted a final turn challenge, but was rebuffed with a :27.3 final quarter. Mister Herbie split horse late to be second, Uncle Peter (David Miller) was third in his return to U.S. soil, Appomattox (Brett Miller) was a solid fourth and Arch Madness (Brian Sears) captured the final berth in next week’s race.
"He was very game. It was his third week in a row racing and he raced a really good race," said assistant trainer Bernie Noren. "He didn't like the off track up in Canada last week, but he came back good. He felt good all week; he was healthy, ate good and trained good Wednesday. Hopefully he can get a good, easy week and hopefully good weather next Saturday."
The eight-year-old Korean stallion, also a world champion courtesy of his 1:49 victory over Pocono Downs' five-eighth mile track, is owned by Knutsson Trotting and was winning for the sixth time this year in seven tries.
Defending Lady Liberty champion Drop The Ball fought off all challengers to persevere in the $40,000 elimination race for this year's edition.
Drop The Ball and driver Corey Callahan fired to the lead from post eight with Shelliscape (John Campbell) also leaving to her outside and rolling up alongside during the :27.1 first quarter. Drop The Ball parked Shelliscape past the quarter pole and then retook the lead down the backstretch en route to the half in :54.4. Shebestingin (David Miller) was flushed first over by her stablemate, Somwherovrarainbow (Brian Sears), and edged out in front of Drop The Ball nearing the third quarter mark of 1:22.3. However, Drop The Ball regained the lead around the final turn and held off the late closers in the stretch by half a length for the 1:49.2 triumph. Jerseylicious (Brett Miller) and Charisma Hanover (Yannick Gingras) finished second and third, respectively.
Ross Croghan trains the millionaire daughter of Western Terror for the Let It Ride Stables, Mentally Stable, and Dana Parham. Drop The Ball now has three wins in nine starts during her six-year-old campaign and was a runner-up in the Golden Girls in her last start on July 12.
Only Anndrovette (whose connections declined a bye) was eliminated as the top nine finishers from the 10-horse field will advance to the $177,750 final on Hambletonian Day. They will be joined by Rocklamation, who took a bye to the final.
The complete order of finish was: Drop The Ball, Jerseylicious, Charisma Hanover, Shelliscape, Somwherovrarainbow, Aunt Caroline (Ron Pierce), Shebestingin, Mattie Terror Girl (Scott Zeron), Krispy Apple (Mike Lachance), Anndrovette (Tim Tetrick).
Eliminations were not necessary for the Hambletonian Oaks, but early favourite Shake It Cerry tuned up for the rich event in a $35,000 prep race.
Driven by Ron Pierce, the millionaire daughter of Donato Hanover outsprinted insider Designed To Be (Brian Sears) to the lead from post two and carved out fractions of :28, :58.1 and 1:27.2 while rebuffing a first over challenge from Nitro Nittany (Howard Parker) en route to the 1:54.4 triumph. Designed To Be finished half a length behind in second while the winner's stablemate, Lifetime Pursuit (Yannick Gingras), edged out a from-last Harley Momma (Corey Callahan) for third over one length behind.
Shake It Cerry, this year's Del Miller Memorial Trot champion, is six-for-seven this year for trainer Jimmy Takter and Solveigs Racing Partners.
The 11 fillies entered in the $500,000 final, listed in alphabetical order, are: Cee Bee Yes, Cooler Schooner (who was scratched sick from the prep race), Designed To Be, Harley Momma, Heavens Door, Lifetime Pursuit, Nitro Nittany, Shake It Cerry, Take The Money, Tweet Me and Vanity Matters.
Prepping for the $257,700 U.S. Pacing Championship, Sweet Lou earned his seventh win in a row and fourth straight in sub-1:48 fashion in the $40,000 Free For All Pace.
Golden Receiver (Corey Callahan) used his customary gate speed to grab the lead before the first turn and fired off a :26.4 opening quarter, but driver Ron Pierce and Sweet Lou brushed by during the second panel and cleared at the :54.1 half-mile mark. Sweet Lou continued to lead to three-quarters in 1:21.3 with Thinking Out Loud (John Campbell) advancing from the backfield and early trailer Captaintreacherous (Tim Tetrick) following his cover. However, Sweet Lou kicked away by two lengths down the stretch for the 1:47.3 triumph. Captaintreacherous sprinted into second with a :25.4 final quarter while Thinking Out Loud edged out Golden Receiver and Wake Up Peter (Brett Miller) for third.
Ron Burke trains harness racing's hottest pacer for his Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Lawrence Karr and Phillip Collura. The five-year-old son of Yankee Cruiser has collected trophies in the Roll With Joe, Ben Franklin and William R. Haughton Memorial during his current win streak and has over $2.78 million in career earnings.
On the wagering front, total handle for the Saturday program yielded an increase of nearly 10 per cent from the same program in 2013, while live handle was up nearly 15 per cent.
(With files from Meadowlands Racetrack)