Matron recap and early Breeders Crown glance

Ted Black

November 9th, 2014

Last Thursday's card at Dover Downs may not have provided the ideal setting for eight stakes worth roughly $1.6 million after a heavy storm forced a 40-minute delay in the action, but those eight Matron Stakes helped provide an early read into this weekend's Breeders Crown eliminations at the Meadowlands.

Most of the trotters and pacers that competed in last Thursday's Matron Stakes encountered a sloppy track which was eventually upgraded to good toward the end of the card, but the results helped shed some light on potential Breeders Crown winners and possible divisional honors and even horse of the year.

While the three-year-old colt pacers have not seen a genuine standout all season - a trend reaffirmed last Thursday when Big Boy Dreams posted a 24-1 upset in the Matron for this division - the same certainly cannot be said for the sophomore trotters of both genders. In regards to divisional honors among sophomore fillies, trotter of the year and horse of the year it could truly all come down to the Breeders Crown finals on November 22.

Last Thursday evening Dover Downs hosted the two best sophomore trotting fillies and the two best trotting colts - all coincidentally from the same barn - and the results were quite revealing. Trainer Jim Takter clearly holds the upper hand in both sophomore divisions.

In the $200,000 Matron Stakes for three-year-old trotting fillies, Shake It Cerry (Ron Pierce) continued her torrid end to the campaign by leading throughout to edge away from stablemate Lifetime Pursuit (Yannick Gingras) to score in 1:52.4. It was the ninth straight win for Shake It Cerry and her 14th in 16 seasonal starts. She has basically won every major stakes since finishing second to Lifetime Pursuit in the Hambletonian Oaks.

Her campaign has been so good, in fact, that Pierce remarked after the race that Shake It Cerry can not only beat the top trotting boys of her generation, but she is deserving of both trotter of the year and horse of the year. She will likely continue to climb in the National Top 10 poll that will be announced on Tuesday and her winning time was stellar over the off going.

In fact, two races later on the card, Nuncio (John Campbell) held safe Don Dorado (Tim Tetrick) to capture the $200,000 Matron Stakes for three-year-old trotting colts. The ultra-consistent Takter trainee has won 11 of 16 starts this year, earned over $1.35 million and never been worse than second in any of his 26 lifetime starts while basically facing nothing but Grade I rivals.

His illustrious stablemate, Father Patrick (Gingras) made a costly break at the outset of the Matron and never reached contention. Last year's champion two-year-old colt trotter, Father Patrick has failed in virtually every major stakes this summer and fall. He broke stride as the favorite in the Hambo, got beat by Nuncio in the Kentucky Futurity and then galloped early in the Matron. Meanwhile, Nuncio won two legs of the Trotting Triple Crown and also the Matron and should be the favorite in the Breeders Crown.

While Pierce commented that Shake It Cerry should be the trotting champion and horse of the year for 2014, Campbell opted not to take sides in the argument. Nuncio has done enough talking for him and Takter, winning the Kentucky Futurity, Yonkers Trot and Matron after finishing second in the Hambo to Trixton, who has since been retired and is not in the argument for divisional honors at this point.

As is the case with the sophomore pacing colts, the three-year-old pacing filly division has also been wide open this summer and fall. But last Thursday evening Weeper (Pierce) joined the debate when she benefited from a pocket trip behind odds-on choice Act Now (George Brennan) then went by that filly in the lane to score in 1:51.

Weeper has displayed hints of brilliance throughout the campaign and now she is perhaps two wins away from capturing divisional honors. With her Matron score she has already likely secured the title of Maryland-bred horse of the year for 2014, coupled with the fact that freshman sensation Yankee Bounty failed to beat a foe in his Matron Stakes earlier on the card.