Maryland-Breds Could Earn the Spotlight This Weekend

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Ted Black

August 5th, 2016

While the chase for Maryland-bred horse of the year among the thoroughbred ranks appears already secured by Cathryn Sophia, the chase for Maryland-bred horse of the year among the standardbreds could be partially determined by the action this weekend at The Meadowlands on Saturday afternoon and perhaps at Ocean Downs on Sunday evening.

Saturday afternoon the Meadowlands will host its annual Hambletonian Day card, featuring the Grade I, $1 million Hambletonian for three-year-old colt trotters and accompanying Grade I, $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks for three-year-old filly trotters. But there are also a bevy of lucrative stakes on the undercard, several of which will feature proven Maryland-bred horses and others that will include those state-breds looking to earn their day in the limelight.

Coincidentally, Saturday's third race in the $188,350 Fresh Yankee for trotting fillies and mares, a race named in honor of the famed Maryland-bred trotting mare who was the 1970 harness horse of the year and a mortal lock to be included in the inaugural class of Maryland-bred Hall of Fame horses for trotters and pacers.

While Hannelore Hanover (Yannick Gingras) clearly rates the one to beat in the Fresh Yankee following her consecutive victories over the boys in both the Open Handicap last week and the $470,000 Hambo Maturity for four-year-old trotters on July 16, there is one Maryland-bred looking to post a stunning upset. Classical Annie (Matt Kakaley) won her last start over the track against conditioned foes in 1:54 on the same night Hannelore Hanover beat the boys in 1:51.1, so this Winbak Farm product would have to improve considerably to earn a major portion of this event.

One race later in the $300,000 Peter Haughton Memorial final for two-year-old trotting colts, an event where trainer Jimmy Takter could have the top three finishers, there are two Winbak Farm products looking to put the Free State breeding program on the map.

Devious Man (Andy Miller), who owns a 1-1-1 slate and $25,000 bankroll and lifetime mark of 1:58.2 in a Big M qualifier, will start from post eight while New Jersey King (Ake Svandstedt) will leave from post nine. New Jersey King has won once in three starts, taking a New Jersey Sire Stakes prelim in 1:55.4 on July 1 before finishing fourth as the 7-5 favorite in the NJSS final two weeks later. He was fourth in his Haughton elim where Takter trainees King On The Hill (Tim Tetrick) and Rubio (Gingras) dead-heated for first in 1:54.2.

Then several races later in the first $80,000 Hambletonian elimination, Iron Mine Bucky (George Dennis) will look to earn a berth in the final an hour later when he leaves from post eight. A three-year-old Explosive Matter colt trained by Greg Haverstick, Iron Mine Bucky was bred by Julie & Lois Swann of Denton, Maryland, a town perhaps more recently known as the home of champion aged trotter, JL Cruze, who will be competing in the John Chapman Memorial on Saturday.

Iron Mine Bucky began his season with a sharp score in a $57,600 division of the Currier & Ives at the Meadows near Pittsburgh, but he has finished third three times, fourth once, sixth once and eighth once in six starts since. Granted, the Hambo elim is a tough spot for any colt to regain his winning ways, but Iron Mine Bucky does not have to contend with favorite Southwind Frank in this division, so there could be a spot awaiting him in the final.

Two races later in the $75,000 Vincennes Invitational for older trotters, last year's Hambo hero, Pinkman (Gingras) and Graduate series champ, Musical Rhythm, will vie for favoritism. But Centurion ATM (Svandstedt) rates a chance to upset at a big price. A four-year-old SJ's Caviar stallion bred by Eli Solomon of Ocean City, Md, Centurion ATM won three starts back at Pocono Downs in 1:54.3 then was second in the Graduate final behind Musical Rhythm.

Then in the penultimate race on the card, the $236,000 Lady Liberty for pacing fillies and mares at one-mile and an eighth, reigning Maryland-bred horse of the year, Devil Child, has the rail and will face Lady Shadow, the future book favorite to capture the Maryland-bred title this year.

Devil Child, who sported a solid 7-8-1 slate and $350,000 bankroll from 22 starts last year, has won only three times in 10 outings this year and has been, pardon the pun, overshadowed by the favorite in this spot. Lady Shadow boasts five wins in 11 starts and earnings of $315,000 this year, including sharp scores in the Roses Are Red final at Mohawk Raceway in Canada and the $230,000 Golden Girls over this strip on a night when she covered the nine furlongs in 2:00.3, slightly faster than Always B Miki.

Lady Shadow vaulted past the $1 million plateau in career earnings with her sharp score in the Golden Girls and rates the favorite in this spot despite starting from post 12 in the second tier. This Winbak product owns a 21-7-3 slate and slightly more than $1 million banked in 46 career outings and she rates the early favorite to garner the Maryland-bred horse of the year honors for 2016 unless Devil Child can post the upset or one of the freshman trotting colts can join the argument.

Speaking of Always B Miki (David Miller), the sport's top-rated horse of either gait is the solid 3-5 favorite in the $225,000 U.S. Pacing Championship slated to go just before the Hambo Oaks. Always B Miki has won six of eight starts and banked over $560,000 this year, including consecutive wins in the Ben Franklin elim and $500,000 final in identical 1:47 clockings. He is undoubtedly on target to be the Delaware-bred horse of the year.

Looking to upend him on Saturday is Delaware-based Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague), the reigning horse of the year. Wiggle It Jiggleit has not fared well against Always B Miki this summer, but he has enough speed to make his presence known early. He has won 10 of 15 starts and banked over $800,000 this year and sports an impressive 33 wins and $3 million bankroll from 42 lifetime tries.

Then on Sunday evening at Ocean Downs, several talented Maryland-bred juveniles will be looking to earn their night in the spotlight. Hybrid Henry has won all four of his starts easily and rates the odds-on favorite in the $28,000 Maryland Standardbred Race Fund for freshman trotting colts.One race later Adios Muchachos will seek his fourth win in five starts in a MDRF event for freshman pacing colts then Miss Valerie will look to stay unbeaten in a MDRF event for pacing freshman fillies.