Spotlight On The Grand Circuit

Published: June 3, 2021 09:18 am EDT

The publicity department for the Grand Circuit has sent its weekly recap and preview of racing on the Grand Circuit.

This Week: Battle of Lake Erie, Northfield Park, Northfield, Ohio, and Graduate Series legs, The Meadowlands, East Rutherford, N.J.

Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit heads to Northfield Park on Saturday (June 5) for the $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie for older pacers. Also on Saturday, The Meadowlands has two $50,000 divisions in the second leg of the Graduate Series for four-year-old trotters and two $50,000 divisions in the third leg of the Graduate Series for four-year-old pacers.

Last Time: Three-time Breeders Crown champion Manchego ($4.20) lived up to favored billing in the $100,000 Maxie Lee Memorial Trot on Sunday (May 30), cascading off third-over cover for a 1:51.3 win, the fastest mile ever trotted by a filly or mare in the 16-year history of Harrah’s Philadelphia.

Just two weeks removed from her gutsy 1:51.1 triumph in the Arthur Cutler Memorial at The Meadowlands, Manchego was able to benefit from a covered trip and a closer-friendly track bias in the Lee. Fellow millionaire Guardian Angel As controlled a :55.3 first half before facing sustained pressure from 2019 Hambletonian winner Forbidden Trade up the backstretch and past three-quarters in 1:23.1.

As the duel raged on through the final turn, Dexter Dunn swung Manchego four-wide in preparation for the sprint home. Once given racetrack, the six-year-old Muscle Hill mare lifted to the lead, scooting away in the final yards to win by a widening two lengths. Lindy The Great (Andy Miller) emerged from traffic for a narrow second over Forbidden Trade (Bob McClure).

“We changed tactics with her halfway through last year because she was starting to over-race and not finishing the miles off,” Dunn explained. “Once we did that, she’s just really been doing what you want her to do. There was speed early and I found a good helmet to follow. She really is (spectacular). I’m so lucky to sit behind her, really. She’s just amazing. I moved her over in the stretch and she just took off. For a trotter to have speed like that, it’s really nice to sit behind.”

Nancy Takter trains Manchego, who has won 35 races and banked more than $2.8 million in her career, for Black Horse Racing.

Also at Harrah’s Philadelphia, driver Joe Bongiorno steered Nicholas Beach ($3.80) to a 1:48.4 score in the $100,000 Commodore Barry Pace, while fast fractions and sustained pressure took their toll on 8-5 choice Soho Burning Love A and paved the way for Keep Rockin A ($9.60) and Brian Sears to cascade to a 1:50.1 win in the $100,000 Betsy Ross Mares Pace.

Nicholas Beach, who had not finished worse than second in any of his 18 career starts leading into the Barry, prompted a demanding :26.1 first quarter by stringing double millionaire This Is The Plan out through the first turn before yielding. After ceding control of the terms, Nicholas Beach drafted comfortably through middle sectionals of :54 and 1:21.1 before angling off the pegs midway through the final turn to take aim at American History, who sustained a first-over push out of third to reach the lead.

Off the home corner, Bongiorno tipped Nicholas Beach three-wide, and the five-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding swelled to the lead, widening his margin to 1-1/4 lengths en route to his 15th career victory. This Is The Plan (Yannick Gingras) battled stoutly for second; Western Joe (Dexter Dunn) ducked from second-over cover to the pegs in the stretch and chased for third.

Trainer Jenn Bongiorno co-owns Nicholas Beach, who now has earned $178,400, with John Lengacher and Michael Gagnon.

After Soho Burning Love A brushed to command beyond a :26.3 first quarter in the Betsy Ross, Sears angled Keep Rockin A into live third-over cover nearing a :53.4 half. The five-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven mare was towed into striking range as JK First Lady ground her way alongside Soho Burning Love A through a :28 third split, and then kicked cover off the home turn before lifting to a 1-1/2 length triumph as the pace imploded. Snobbytown (Yannick Gingras), the longest shot in the race at 47-1, rallied from last to claim second over Machnhope (Andy McCarthy), another 1-1/4 lengths in arrears.

Keep Rockin A, a seven-time winner with earnings of $156,995, campaigns for Richard Poillucci.

Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website.

Grand Circuit Standings: In 2021, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2021 Grand Circuit awards.

Here are the leaders (through the races on May 30, 2021):

Drivers: 1. Yannick Gingras – 165; 2. Dexter Dunn – 114; 3. Todd McCarthy – 95; 4. Andrew McCarthy – 94; 5. Tim Tetrick – 90.

Trainers: 1. Ron Burke – 204; 2. Nancy Takter – 69; 3. Noel Daley – 62; 4. Todd Buter – 55; 5. Ake Svanstedt – 49.

Owners: 1t. Renee Bercury – 50; 1t. Brad Grant – 50; 3 (tie). Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi – 49.4; 5 (tie). Black Horse Racing, Jesmeral Stable – 40.

Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will take place next week at The Meadows and The Meadowlands. The Meadows will host the Currier & Ives for three-year-old open trotters while The Meadowlands will feature the third leg of the Miss Versatility for older female trotters.

(Grand Circuit)