Matchmaker highlights Friday Yonkers; JL Cruze at Meadowlands

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Ted Black

April 14th, 2016

Friday evening will mark the fifth and final leg of the Bluechip Matchmaker Series for pacing fillies and mares at Yonkers Raceway, while the Meadowlands across the Hudson River will host an Open Handicap for trotters featuring reigning older male champion JL Cruze.

Much like the accompanying George Morton Levy Memorial Series that takes place each Saturday night, the Bluechip Matchmaker has gradually lost the war of attrition. Of the 26 distaffers nominated to the series, only 14 are slated to go behind the gate on Friday night for the final round of preliminaries. Of those 14, just 10 will have competed in all five legs of the series. Like the Levy, eight will return for the April 23 final and another eight will comprise the consolation.

Friday's sixth race is the first of two divisions of the last Matchmaker round and the race, with all seven starters already assured of at least earning a spot in the consolation. In fact, Krispy Apple (Jason Bartlett) and Sell A Bit N (Jordan Stratton) have already secured a berth in the $185,000 final. Sell A Bit N has already won twice in the series and Krispy Apple punched her ticket to the final by recording her first series tally last week.

Railbound Cinamony could leapfrog past several foes into the final, but she would need to win this split and then need plenty of help courtesy of several subpar efforts from other mares to get into the big dance. She is assured a spot in the consolation. But Carolsideal (Daniel Dube) who will start from post three, could make things interesting. A second straight win Friday night could get her past Lady Shadow and into the final. A first- or second-place finish by Lady Shadow would get her into the final.

Then in the second division, dual winner Yagonnakissmeornot (Dube) and Mach It A Par (George Brennan), who sports a win, two second- and one third-place finish in four tries, both appear locks for the final and they will start from posts two and three-respectively, which will make it difficult for too many other to earn enough points to join them. Venus Delight, For The Ladies N, Regil Elektra and Skippin By sit sixth, eighth, ninth and 10th, respectively, in the standings and it is possible anywhere from only one to all four will reach the final depending on Friday's results.

That same evening at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, defending champion older male trotter JL Cruze (John Campbell) will seek his third straight win to begin the campaign while starting from post seven in the $25,000 Open Handicap for trotters. JL Cruze won his seasonal debut at the Big M over a sloppy surface in 1:53 then ventured to Dover Downs and captured the Open Handicap there in 1:53.2 as the 2-5 favorite from his assigned outside eight hole.

JL Cruze, a five-year-old Crazed gelding trained by Eric Ell for owners Kenny Wood, Bill Dittmar and Steve Iaquinta, won 16 of 21 starts last year and earned over $625,000 en route to being named champion older male trotter. He has won 23 of 40 career outings and banked over $690,000, so another win would push his lifetime bankroll past the $700,000 plateau. But the "Denton Destroyer" could have some serious competition on Friday.

Immediately to his inside is Shake It Cerry (David Miller), who enjoyed a solid four-year-old campaign last season for trainer Jimmy Takter, posting a 5-3-3 slate and $420,000 bankroll from 16 lifetime tries. She was even better one year earlier at age three when she successfully defended her division crown and arrives with 28 wins and earnings approaching $2.5 million from 44 lifetime outings. Shake It Cerry defeated Crazy Wow and Bee A Magician in a local qualifier last Saturday morning and makes her five-year-old debut on Friday night.

But just to her inside is Rose Run Parker (Joe Bongiorno) whose three-race win streak at The Meadows near Pittsburgh ended when second as the 3-5 choice last week to Melady's Monet in this event. Rose Run Parker has won 31 of 45 lifetime starts and earned over $670,000 for Burke. Crosbys Clam Bake won the Open Hcp here on Feb. 19 and March 4, respectively, while Opulent Yankee (Andy Miller) took the Open Hcp on Jan. 22 and Feb. 5. Tweet Me won the Open Hcp at Yonkers on March 26.