Meadowlands featured the cream of the crop

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Ted Black

July 19th, 2016

Last Saturday night's stellar card at The Meadowlands in New Jersey allowed fans and horsemen alike to witness the best trotters and pacers in the land compete in numerous stakes races and many of the current division leaders ascended to the head of the class.

Fittingly enough, the feature race on the program was the latest edition of the $730,000 Meadowlands Pace for three-year-old colt pacers, the track's signature event. On paper, the latest renewal of the Meadowlands Pace looked like a virtual match race between favored Control The Moment (Brian Sears) and Racing Hill (Brett Miller).

In their two previous meetings this summer, Racing Hill had finished second in the Max Hempt Memorial while Control The Moment faded to fourth after a first over journey, while Racing Hill had finished second in the North America Cup final at Mohawk Raceway while Control The Moment settled for third behind early division leader Betting Line.

While Racing Hill accepted a bye into the Meadowlands Pace, Control The Moment delivered an exceptional performance in the Pace elim, rallying from well off the pace to score in 1:49.2. Control The Moment's victory in the elim was so impressive that he was eventually made the 3-5 favorite in the final while Racing Hill was the 8-5 second choice. Boston Red Rocks and Lyons Snyder were the third and fourth choices at 10-1 and 11-1, respectively.

When the gate folded in the Meadowlands Pace final, Lyons Snyder left alertly in his customary fashion to gain command then Racing Hill raced parked the clear to the front in a 26.3 opener. Control The Moment had typically done his best racing ftrom off the pace, but Saturday night Sears sent him on a successful brush bid to gain command before the half in 53.2 and from there, despite a brief, first over bid from Boston Red Rocks, the event was virtually a match race.

Control The Moment shook off Boston Red Rocks turning for home and appeared to have left Racing Hill in his wake as well. But the Hempt winner found another gear in the final eighth of a mile and closed willingly in the final 100 yards to make it interesting. Control The Moment needed more than a hint of urging from Sears and he just outlasted Racing Hill for a nose victory in 1:48.2.

A sophomore son of Well Said trained by Brad Maxwell, Control The Moment has won three of seven starts this year and banked nearly $550,000 this year. He now owns 11 wins and earnings of nearly $900,000 from 16 career tries. His 1:48.2 score in the Big M Pace final represented a new lifetime mark. Racing Hill settled for second but still owns a 2-4-1 slate and $635,000 bankroll from seven seasonal outings and a 7-4-3 slate and $765,000 bankroll from 17 career outings.

Several races earlier on the card, Always B Miki (David Miller) solidified his status as the best older pacer in the land and the top horse of either gait in the land when he brushed to command before the half and held safe the first over bid from Shamballa (Scott Zeron) to capture the $470,000 William Haughton Memorial in 2:01.1 for the one-mile and one-eighth.

Always B Miki has won four straight races and six of eight starts overall this season, pushing his earnings past $575,000 this year for trainer Jimmy Takter. The five-year-old Always A Virgin stallion has won 10 of 12 starts since moving to Takter's barn and now owns 24 wins and $1.8 million banked from 43 career outings.

Shamballa raced well in defeat after being humbled in the Ben Franklin final at Pocono Downs. Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) benefited from a pocket trip but had nothing to offer in the lane and settled for third. The reigning horse of the year owns a 9-3-2 slate and $675,000 bankroll from 14 starts this year, but his chances of successfully defending his title appears to be slipping away from him.

In fact, the horse that may own the best chance of eventually overtaking Always B Miki for the coveted horse of the year title is Southwind Frank (Yannick Gingras), who won his $150,000 Stanley Dancer Memorial split for sophomore colt trotters in 2:06.4 for the one-mile and one-eighth. This Ron Burke-trained son of Muscle Hill has won four of five starts this year and banked nearly $400,000 and he now owns 15 wins and $1.18 million banked from 17 career tries.

Southwind Frank is the future book favorite to capture the Grade I, $1 million Hambletonian, a race that continues to elude Gingras. But last year's two-year-old colt trotter champ appears on target for his best effort next month. Marion Marauder (Zeron) won the other Dancer split in 2:08.1 for his fourth win in five starts this year for trainer Paula Wellwood, daughter of the late, great William Wellwood.

Two mares, one pacer and one trotter, also delivered excellent performances on the Big M card and now loom as the odds-on favorites to capture their respective division titles.

Hannelore Hanover (Gingras) defeated male rivals to capture the $470,000 Hambletonian Maturity as the 4-5 favorite. This Ron Burke trainee has won four straight races and nine of 10 starts this year and banked over $450,000 this year and looms as the lone threat to Bee A Magician to capture divisional honors. Then in the Golden Girls for pacing mares, Lady Shadow (Gingras) rallied from midpack to score in 2:00.3 - a faster clocking than Always B Miki - for the nine furlongs. This Maryland-bred daughter of Shadow Play has won five of 11 starts this year and 21 of 46 career tries.