Friday Harness Preview for 8/1/2014

Molly Jo Rosen

August 1st, 2014

by Ted Black

On the night before the track hosts the $1.2 million Hambletonian and accompanying $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, the Meadowlands will offer a card highlighting youthful trotters looking to make their presence known on the big day one year from now.

Beginning with the second race on the card, the Meadowlands will offer a grand sum of eight modest $10,000 Kindergarten events for two-year-old trotters of both genders, five for fillies and three for the colts. Granted, while many of the best freshman trotters of both genders will be on hand tomorrow afternoon for the Peter Haughton Memorial for colts and Merrie Annabelle for fillies, the eight Kindergarten events could provide an early start to the major stakes for several of its participants.

In tonight's second race at the Meadowlands, the first of five Kindergarten splits, Speak To Me (Yannick Gingras) could very well be the most talented trotter of either gender on the card. The Muscle Massive filly trained by Jimmy Takter, who could sweep the top three spots in Saturday's Hambo with Father Patrick, Nuncio and Trixton, has won all three of her starts including a recent Pennsylvania Sire Stakes score at Harrah's Philadelphia in 1:55.

But a pair of fillies will be primed for the upset. Sweet Thing (Ron Pierce) has won twice in four starts and then finished eighth in her Merrie Annabelle elim last weekend for trainer Homer Hochstetler, while Annalina (Charlie Norris) was second last out against PASS foes at Harrah's after a pair of good third-place finishes against similar.

One race later in the second Kindergarten split, Kelsey's Keepsake (Brett Miller) arrives off three good efforts against PASS foes at three different tracks. The Yankee Glide filly finished second in her career debut for trainer Julie Miller, won her next start at the Meadows in 1:57.1 then was a gritty second behind Smexi at Harrah's Philadelphia as the 1-2 choice. This looks like the ideal spot to rebound.

Then one race later in the fourth, the third Kindergarten split for fillies, Saturday Mornings (David Miller) also exits a tough race and looks ready to score, albeit at a short price. The Muscle Hill filly trained by Joe Holloway won her career debut against New Jersey Sire Stakes foes then finished second and fourth, respectively, in two tries against Mission Brief, the likely odds-on favorite in tomorrow's Merrie Annabelle.

Several races later in the eighth, the fourth of the five Kindergarten divisions for this gender, the two best fillies drew on opposite ends of the spectrum.

By And By Hanover (Ake Svanstedt) drew the rail following a sharp debut score as the 3-5 choice in the slop at Pocono Downs, while Shafina Hanover (Ron Pierce) will look to find an early tuck from post 10 on the far outside. This Noel Daley trainee was second at 23-1 in her debut against PASS foes at the Meadows, then prevailed as the even-money choice against lesser Stallion series rivals at Harrah's Philadelphia in her last outing.

One race later in the first of three Kindergarten splits for the freshmen colts, the Takter-trained entry of French Laundry (Gingras) and Mentzer Hanover (Johnny Takter) will be tough to overtake here. French Laundry will leave from post two, having won a NJSS event at first asking in 1:56 before fading to fifth in the NJSS final as the 8-5 choice. Mentzer Hanover makes his career debut and will look to get involved despite drawing post 10.

Looking to upend the Takter tandem in that event is Curfew (Svanstedt) who won a 2yo qualifier over this track in 1:59.2. The Muscle Hill colt is trained by Svandstedt, who will be seeking another major stakes with Sebastian K tomorrow afternoon in the John Cashman Memorial final for older trotters on the stellar supporting Hambo undercard.

One race later in the 10th, the fifth and final Kindergarten split for freshman filly trotters, another Takter trainee could finally attain her first career tally. Flirting Filly (Johnny Takter) was second in her career debut at Pocono Downs, but has since finished fourth twice and seventh in three subsequent starts. She chased Mission Brief in her Merrie Annabelle elim last out to no avail, but drops into a winnable spot despite the 10-hole draw.

Then in the 11th, the second Kindergarten division for the colts, Habitat (Gingras) looks poised to finally garner his diploma. The Conway Hall colt trained by Ron Burke has gone off stride in each of his two official starts, but rallied to finish second in the last one against NYSS foes at Tioga Downs. He came right back to win a restricted two-year-old colt & gelding trot event here by 15 lengths in 1:55.3 and should dominate this group if he stays flat.

Then in the 12th, the third and final Kindergarten split for the boys, any number of freshmen could prevail in this wide-open affair. Southwind Mozart (Svanstedt) is the likely favorite off two good tries against NJSS foes, while Muscle Diamond (John Campbell) tuned up with a 1:58.4 score here in a baby race and Falk On Hill (Johnny Takter) looks to rebound from a thumping in the NJSS final.