Meadowlands offers exceptional card on Saturday night

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Ted Black

July 14th, 2018

Harness racing fans who were accustomed to seeing the spotlight focused on the Meadowlands for decades in the 20th century will once again focus their attention on the New Jersey one-mile oval on Saturday night when the track offers its signature event and numerous other stakes for trotters and pacers.

In the opening race on the card, the first $30,000 Miss Versatility division for trotting fillies and mares, Broadway Donna (David Miller), Barn Doll (Jeff Gregory), N F Happenstance (Jack Parker, Jr.), Emoticon Hanover (Daniel Dube) and Caprice Hill (Doug McNair) boast the best credentials. Emoticon Hanover is the likely choice here and viewed as the second-best mare in the division with three wins in five starts this year and a 19-10-7 slate and $1.2 million banked from 43 career tries. Caprice Hill sports a 16-13-7 slate and $1.25 million bankroll, while Broadway Donna has won 19 of 36 outings and earned $1.3 million.

Then in the second race on the card, the second $30,000 Miss Versatility split for trotting mares, all eyes will be on Hannelore Hanover (Yannick Gingras). This Ron Burke-trained six-year-old daughter of Swan For All is the reigning harness horse of the year and the top rated standardbred of any age, either gait or gender heading into this weekend's action having won all five of her starts this year and boasting 41 wins and $2.7 million banked from 63 career tries. Celebrity Ruth looms the only threat, arriving with a 9-9-1 slate and $450,000 bankroll from 21 career outings.

Then one race later in the first of two $128,500 Del Miller Memorial divisions for three-year-old filly trotters, Hey Blondie, Seviyorum and Phaetosive will look to prep for the Grade I, $750,000 Hambletonian Oaks in three weeks with a win or at least a good effort here. Pheatosive was the second-best juvenile filly trotter last season to Manchego and has won once in two starts this year and sports a 5-2-2 slate and $290,000 bankroll from nine lifetime outings for trainer-driver Trond Smedshammer.

Then one race later in the first of two $180,000 Stanley Dancer Memorial divisions for three-year-old colt trotters seeking success in the Grade I, $1.5 million Hambletonian in three weeks, Wolfgang (Gingras) looms the odds-on choice having won both of his starts this year including the Goodtimes final at Mohawk. He brings a solid 5-3-0 slate and $430,000 bankroll into this event and will get tested late by Evaluate (Corey Callahan) and Hat Trick Habit (Tetrick).

Then one race later in the $190,000 Mistletoe Shalee Stakes for three-year-old fillies at one-mile and one-eighth, Kissin In The Sand (Zeron) and Youaremycandygirl (Gingras) will continue their rivalry following their epic duel in the $350,000 James Lynch Memorial final at Pocono Downs last month. Kissin In The Sand prevailed that night despite a tortuous trip and arrives with three wins in five starts this year and 10 wins in 19 career outings. Youaremycandygirl was the juvenile champ and owns 11 wins in 16 career outings.

Of course, looking to spoil the Mistletoe Shalee party for that tandem are Alexa's Power (Tetrick) and Wisdom Tree (Andrew McCarthy), who own ample ability but drew posts 11 and 12 in the second tier. Wisdom Tree has won seven of nine starts this year and looms a contender here, while fellow Maryland-bred sophomore filly Believe In Me would be a major upset.

Then one race later in the second $180,000 Stanley Dancer Memorial for three-year-old colt trotters, Six Pack (Ake Svandstedt) looms the choice despite drawing post eight following a solid second-place effort in the $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial final at Pocono Downs, his lone setback in five outings this year. Maryland-bred Met's Hall (Andy Miller), makes his seasonal debut in this spot, while Fourth Dimension, You Know You Do and Tae Kwon Do seek to play spoiler roles.

Then one race later in the $400,000 Hambletonian Maturity for four-year-old trotters at one-mile and one-eighth, Ariana G (Gingras) seeks her second straight score against the boys and looms the choice here having already won 23 of 30 career outings for Takter. Guardian Angel As (Tetrick), a winner of all three of his starts this year for trainer Annette Lorentzon and International Moni (Zeron), a well-traveled sort with 10 wins and $740,000 banked from 32 starts overall, loom contenders.

Then one race later in the $700,000 Meadowlands Pace final for three-year-old colt pacers, the track's signature event won by such legends as Niatross, Nihilator, Beach Towel and Real Desire among others, will certainly be one of the more contentious races on the program.

With division leader Lather Up passing on this event, much of the attention in the Meadowlands Pace final will be focused on elim winners Courtly Choice (David Miller) and Stay Hungry (McNair). Courtly Choice, a Maryland-bred trained by Blake Macintosh has won five of seven starts this year, although until last week his best efforts had come in minor consolations for stakes in which he failed to reach the final. But last week he overcame a first over trip to score in 1:48.2 and now looms the solid favorite for this final.

Stay Hungry won his elim second over in 1:49 and he has already advanced to several finals in which Courtly Choice missed. Blessed with ample back class, Stay Hungry has only won twice in six starts this year, but he has danced all of the tough dances to this point. He arrives with eight wins and $685,000 banked from 15 career outings and looms a major threat to the choice.

Looking to play spoiler roles are several sophomores who raced well in defeat in their respective elims. American History (Gingras) was second to Courtly Choice and owns the fastest mark of any sophomore this season courtesy of his 1:47 score two starts back for trainer Tony Alagna. Jimmy Freight (Louis Roy) failed as the odds-on choice in the elim won by Courtly Choice but could rebound here, while Hayden Hanover (Andy Miller) and Thinkbig Dreambig (Jordan Stratton) could both work out favorable trips.

Then one race later in the $190,000 Golden Girls for pacing fillies and mares at one-mile and one-eighth, division leader Shartin N (Tetrick) will look to make a bid for the top spot in the top 10 poll - obviously needing a hiccup from Hannelore Hanover earlier on the card - when she seeks her 12th win from 15 starts for trainer Jim King, Jr. Blue Moon Stride (Callahan) and Pure Country (Brian Sears) have serious upset chances in this spot. Pure Country is winless in five starts this year but the Takter trainee boasts three division titles in her first three seasons.

Then one race later in the deep and contentious $470,000 William R. Haughton Memorial for older pacers at one-mile and one eighth, division leader McWicked (Sears) has won four of six starts and earned $325,000 this year and 26 of 80 career tries and should be able to work out a trip in this crowded affair. Mach It So (Zeron) is the defending Haughton hero and won the 2015 edition as well and owns a solid 44-20-16 slate and $2.6 million banked from 132 career tries.

This event also includes Heaven Rocks A (Miller), Filibuster Hanover (Gingras), Donttellmeagain (Tetrick), Rockin Ron (Roy), Sintra (Jody Jamieson), Dealt A Winner (McNair) and All Bets Off (Matt Kakaley). Donttellmeagain arrives off a victory in the $250,000 Graduate final, Sintra sports the fastest mark this season (1:48) and All Bets Off arrives with a 29-23-17 slate and earnings just shy of $3 million for Burke and might be able to overcome his second tier draw.

Then two races later in the second $128,500 Del Miller Memorial division for three-year-old filly trotters, all eyes will certainly be on Manchego (Gingras) as she seeks to rebound from her late gallop and first career setback in the $500,000 Beal last month at Pocono Downs. Manchego had won her first 15 career outings before being undone by a first over trip and late break in the Beal and is back in with sophomore filly trotters. Plunge Blue Chip (Svandstedt) and Live Laugh Love (Miller) are both solid upset candidates if the choice is not on her game.