Meadowlands hosts solid card

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Ted Black

June 4th, 2015

While thoroughbred racing fans will be fixated on the stellar card at Belmont Park on Saturday afternoon with a bevy of lucrative, major stakes leading up to the Belmont Stakes where American Pharoah will be seeking Triple Crown glory, standardbred racing fans will want to turn their attention to the Meadowlands which offers a superb card that begins right after the Belmont Stakes is made official.

In the third race on the card at the Big M, a solid group of older trotters will go postward in the $56,250 Graduate Series. Shake It Cerry, last year's champion three-year-old filly trotter, has won only once in four starts this year for trainer Jimmy Takter but she can handle herself against the boys. Muscle Network has won twice in three starts for trainer Tony O'Sullivan and Sumatra scored in 1:54 for trainer Tom Fanning. Gural Hanover is winless in two parimutuel starts this year for trainer Ron Burke, but won a recent qualifier over the oval in 1:51.3 which makes him a major player here.

Three races later on the card the older pacers will have their say in a $56,250 Graduate Series leg. Jk Endofanera (Yannick Gingras) won his seasonal debut in 1:48.4 despite a troubled trip and draws the rail. Rockeyed Optimist (Tim Tetrick) has won eight of nine starts this year for trainer Steve Elliott and gets the acid test here in genuine open company, but could be up to the task. Luck be With You has won three of six starts this year for trainer Chris Oakes, while Somesizesomestyle (Eric Goodell) has won twice in six outings for trainer Larry Remmen.

Then two races later on the card another $56,250 Graduate Series leg will feature All Bets Off, who has won twice in four starts this year for Burke and was recently second to State Treasurer in the Molson at Western Fair last weekend. Doo Wop Hanover (Tetrick) has won three of seven starts for Elliott and Bushwacker (David Miller) has already won four of six outings for trainer Chris Ryder. Rock Out (Scott Zeron) and Mattamerican (Mark Macdonald) have raced well this spring but drew the two outside spots.

Then three races later in the 11th, the second $56,250 Graduate Series split for older trotters, Father Patrick (Gingras) will be the heavy favorite in the field of seven. In his seasonal debut two weeks ago at Harrah's Philadelphia, Father Patrick led throughout to capture the $150,000 Maxie Lee by two lengths over Bee A Magician in 1:52.1 in a stellar performance. This Takter trainee won virtually every major stakes last summer and fall, although his failure in the Hambletonian likely cost him any chance for horse of the year.

Looking to upend Father Patrick is JL Cruze (David Miller), a talented sort who has thrived on early closers this winter and spring en route to winning 11 of 13 starts and over $150,000 for trainer Eric Ell and owner Kenny Wood of Denton, Maryland. JL Cruze certainly gets the acid test this weekend against Father Patrick, but he could prove ready for the challenge. Opulent Yankee (Zeron) has won six of 15 starts and been second nine times for trainer Julie Miller and he has spent much of the campaign chasing JL Cruze at several venues.