The freshman trotters geared up for the first round of their major stakes on Friday night at The Meadowlands. Twenty-four fillies went behind the gate in three eliminations of the Jim Doherty Memorial (formerly the Merrie Annabelle) while 19 colts and geldings contested the Peter Haughton Memorial eliminations, split into two divisions.
One of the major stars of the night was Broadway Donna, who entered the first Doherty elimination with an unblemished record and she left just the same, romping to a 1:53.3 score as the 1-9 prohibitive choice over Celebrity Eventsy and Im Outstanding. The clocking was not only a lifetime mark, but it was the fastest mile by any two-year-old trotter, filly or colt, thus far in 2015.
Broadway Donna was guided to victory by Dave Miller for trainer Jim Campbell and Fashion Farms LLC, who also bred the filly. She will undoubtedly be a short-priced favourite in the $389,450 Jim Doherty Memorial Final on Hambletonian Day after running her record to a perfect five for five.
The second elimination for the Doherty saw Womans Will assert her will over eight other fillies, winning in 1:55.3 as the even-money favourite. She held off a late burst from the Jimmy Takter-trained and driven Miss Tezsla and Silent Blessings.
Womans Will was driven by Andy Miller for Julie Miller and owners Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz, who bred the filly.
Kathy Parker got the job done as a co-favourite at 5-2 in the third elimination of the Doherty, winning in 1:56.1 for Johnny Takter. The two-year-old filly was guided to the lead before the half-mile pole and appeared to be an easy winner, until a 90-1 longshot, Lindys On Fire, burst on the scene in the last sixteenth of a mile, but Kathy Parker was able to hold on by the narrowest of margins. Sunset Glider was a trapped-in third.
Kathy Parker, named for the editor of the Horsemen and Fair World, is trained by Jimmy Takter for Christina Takter, Brixton Medical, R A W Equine and Joyce McClelland.
The nine that have locked in their spots in the $389,450 Jim Doherty Memorial Final are: Broadway Donna, Womans Will, Kathy Parker, Celebrity Eventsy, Im Outstanding, Miss Tezsla, Silent Blessings, Lindys On Fire and Sunset Glider.
The three fourth-place finishers that will be draw by lot for the final spot in the final are: Southwind Adele, Gifted Lady and Encore Gold.
The draw for the last entrant and the post position draw for the Jim Doherty Memorial will take place on Saturday afternoon.
The first Peter Haughton elimination saw another favourite return dividends as Southwind Frank made short work of the field of 10, scoring his third victory in four starts in 1:54.1 as the 1-5 betting choice. Leading from the three-eighths pole to the wire, Southwind Frank easily held sway in the stretch over Earn And Burn and Alexander Hanover.
Southwind Frank was driven to victory by Yannick Gingras for Ron Burke, who co-owns the colt with Weaver Bruscemi, Our Horse Cents Stables and J And T Silva Stables.
The second elimination produced an 8-1 upset in Milligans School, who sat third behind a rapid pace, moved on the far turn, opened up in the stretch and held sway rather easily in 1:54.1. Favoured Bar Hopping rallied willingly in the stretch to be second with Brooklyn Hill a game third.
The winner is owned by Story Inc. and trained by Julie Miller. Andy and Julie Miller teamed up for their second win of the night.
The 10 two-year-olds qualifying for the $349,850 Peter Haughton Memorial Final are: Southwind Frank, Milligans School, Earn And Burn, Sliding Home, Alexander Hanover, Dominion Beach, Bar Hopping, Brooklyn Hill, Southwind Flash and Winter Harbor.
Both fields will be drawn on Saturday afternoon.
Handover Belle just missed by a nose to Market Share one week ago, but tonight, she flipped the script on her eight opponents winning the $28,500 Open Trot in 1:51.1.
Combined in the wagering with Gural Hanover, Handover Belle allowed the pace to settle down in front of her, as her stablemate did the early lifting, reaching the quarter in a sharp :26.4. As the field turned down the backstretch, Handover Belle made her move for the lead and she cleared Gural Hanover and rolled past the half-mile in :54.1. With no challenge coming around the far turn, Handover Belle was able to back the field down a bit, trotting :28.4 on the far turn. At that point, Gural Hanover pulled the pocket to challenge his entry-mate in the stretch as the rest of the field closed in. Wind Of The North mounted a strong bid along the pylons, while Allie Labrook and Shake It Cerry came charging down the center of the racetrack. But, Handover Belle was able to hold everyone off to score a game victory. Wind Of The North rallied up the pylons for the place spot, with Allie Labrook rolling late to get up for third.
Handover Belle was driven by Yannick Gingras for Ron Burke, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Howard Taylor. With the victory, Handover Belle surpassed $500,000 in lifetime earnings.
The Jimmy Takter duo of French Laundry and The Bank were as-advertised in the $23,750 Three-Year-Old Open Trot as they made their final tune-ups for the Hambletonian.
Sent off as the 2-5 favoured entry, The Bank cleared the lead going past the three-eighths pole, while his stablemate, French Laundry, followed suit and took over into the far turn. French Laundry opened up daylight as the field reached the head of the stretch, but The Bank cut into that margin through the lane as the two finished well in front of the rest of the field and streaked under the line together, with French Laundry holding on by a neck in 1:52.4. It was four lengths back to Aldebaran Eagle in third.
French Laundry was driven by Brett Miller for Jimmy and Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld. The win was the 10th in 18 lifetime starts for French Laundry and his earnings now stand at over $400,000.
The Jackpot Super Hi-5 carryover went unclaimed on Friday night and the carryover into the Saturday program will be $225,376.
Post time for the Saturday program, featuring the eliminations for the Hambletonian Oaks is 7:15 p.m.
(With files from Meadowlands Racetrack)