Graduate finals slated for Saturday night at Meadowlands

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Ted Black

July 5th, 2016

Throughout the winter and spring the Friday and Saturday night cards have left a lot to be desired, but this Saturday night the New Jersey mile oval will host a pair of $250,000 Graduate Series finals for four-year-olds, one each for trotters and pacers.

The eighth race on the Big M program is the $250,000 Graduate final for four-year-old trotters, although much of the focus will be on a pair of horses that arrive with identical records this season and will go postward at similar prices.

Maestro Blue Chip (Tim Tetrick) has won 11 of 13 starts and banked over $200,000 this year for trainer Jo Ann Looney-King, while Musical Rhythm has also won 11 of 13 outings and earned just over $150,000 for trainer Mario Benuit. Both Maestro Blue Chip and Musical Rhythm also possess similar tactics, but 'Maestro' got the better of the draw for the final so he likely looms as the favorite while 'Musical' will be the solid second choice.

But there are a number of upsetters in the field. Canepa Hanover (Yannick Gingras) has yet to win in five starts this year for trainer Jimmy Takter, but he possesses plenty of ability and could reward his backers with a generous price this weekend. Crazshana (David Miller) has been a model of consistency with a 2-2-2 slate and $85,000 banked from 10 starts this year for trainer Jeff Bamond, Jr., and she could upset the boys despite her nine-hole draw.

Then two races later on the card onlookers will be in for a treat as the track hosts the $250,000 Graduate final for four-year-old pacers and another showdown between reigning horse of the year Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) and Freaky Feet Pete (Trace Tetrick). Another solid four-year-old, Rockin Ron (Gingras), a winner 10 times from 15 tries this year for trainer Ron Burke, will look to foil the top pair.

Last weekend at Pocono Downs, Freaky Feet Pete finished second behind Always B Miki in the $500,000 Ben Franklin final for Free-For-All pacers in 1:47, while Wiggle It Jiggleit settled for third as the 4-5 favorite after enduring a first over trip for more than the final half-mile. Early tactics decided that event and they will play another major role in the Graduate final.

Wiggle It Jiggleit gained the early advantage in the Ben Franklin final then yielded to Freaky Feet Pete, who then surrendered command to Always B Miki. Once relegated to the three-hole, Wiggle It Jiggleit had little choice but to move before the half. He was unable to clear Always B Miki before the midway station in 53 flat then raced parked first over and down the backside in 1:19.2 while Freaky Feet Pete enjoyed a pocket trip.

At the top of the lane, Always B Miki shook loose from Wiggle It Jiggleit and then kept Freaky Feet Pete at bay through the lane to emerge as the early season leader among the older pacing ranks and then supplanted the reigning horse of the year as the top horse in the land in the Hambletonian Society National Top 10 Poll results released on Tuesday.

Saturday's Graduate final will offer another interesting battle early, although Wiggle It Jiggleit should be able to work out a much better trip. Granted, Freaky Feet Pete is in peak form right now - he had also won his Franklin elim in 1:47.1 on the same night 'Wiggle' scored in 1:48.1 - and he has enough tactical speed to make his presence known early and throughout the mile.

Across the Hudson River this Saturday night, both Go Daddy Go and Mach It So will look to continue their winning ways in a pair of Open events. Go Daddy Go has won his last two starts and now gets assigned the outside slot in the 4YO Open, while Mach It So toyed with his Open Handicap rivals last week in 1:51 when given the rail, but this weekend he will look to overcome the dreaded eight hole to notch another tally.