Meadowlands offers Hambo Oaks elims

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Ted Black

July 29th, 2015

One week before the New Jersey one-mile oval will take center stage among standardbred fans when it presents the Grade I, $1 million Hambletonian for three-year-old colt trotters, the Meadowlands will offer two eliminations for the Hambletonian Oaks for three-year-old filly trotters in addition to a quartet of Open events for older trotters and pacers who are also prepping for the big stage the following weekend.

Saturday's two $35,000 eliminations of the Hambletonian Oaks will be contested as the sixth and seventh races on the card and will be absent one notable name - Mission Brief. Last year's champion two-year-old filly trotter will bypass the Oaks to tackle the boys in the Hambletonian next Saturday. She has won three times in four starts this year, including a sharp score in the $185,000 Zweig Memorial at Vernon Downs last Sunday. Mission Brief has won 12 of 17 lifetime outings, but she broke stride in four of those five setbacks.

Looking to gain the upper hand in the Oaks with Mission Brief elsewhere is Wild Honey (John Campbell), who was second to the Hambo-bound filly last Sunday in the Zweig. Wild Honey sports a 2-2-0 slate and $140,000 bankroll from five starts this year and is one of two Jimmy Takter trainees in the field. Smexi (Corey Callahan) sports a 2-2-0 slate from six starts this year and both are expected to make the final from this elim, along with Lady Winona (Andy Miller) and Smokinmombo who has won four of six starts this year and earned over $130,000 along the way.

One race later in the second Hambo Oaks elim much of the focus will be on Magic Marker (David Miller) who has won twice in nine starts this year and banked over $90,000 and was most recently third behind Mission Brief and Wild Honey in the Zweig for trainer Richard "Nifty" Norman. Other contenders in this elim include Rules Of The Road (Callahan), Livininthefastlane (Andy Miller) and Takter trainees Sary (Takter) and Speak To Me (Scott Zeron). Livininthefastlane has won three of four starts and earned nearly $100,000 this year.

Not to be completely overlooked are four Open races on the card, two for older pacers and one each for pacing mares and trotting boys.

In the $50,000 TVG Open Trot, this solid group includes Melady's Monet, Natural Herbie, Dw's Ny Yank, Intimidate and Obrigado. Melady's Monet has won eight of 16 starts this year, while Natural Herbie and Intimidate are both looking to regain the form that carried them through stellar campaigns in 2014. Natural Herbie won an Invitational at the Big M on Hambo Day and later beat a stellar group of older trotters at Yonkers Raceway, including Sebastian K and Commander Krowe. Intimidate also bested Sebastian K on more than one occasion last season.

Several races later on the card in a $28,000 F-M Open for pacing distaffers, Anndrovette, Radar Contact, Rocklamation and Empress Deo will also vie for favoritism. Then in a $28,000 Open Handicap for older pacers, Art History will look to maintain his sharp form against Nova Artist, Odds On Equuleus, Dapper Dude, Doctor Butch and McWicked. Like the F-M race, any number of those older boys could succeed in that event.

Then one race later the track will offer the $50,000 TVG Open for older pacers and this stellar field includes Doo Wop Hanover, Mach It So, State Treasurer, JK Endofanera, Foiled Again and Dancin Yankee. Doo Wop Hanover has been the best four-year-old pacer this season, but he was trounced as the favorite in the $400,000 William R. Haughton final here two weeks ago won by Mach It So. State Treasurer rallied for second that day, but typically is at his best on a half-mile oval, as are Foiled Again, the sport's all-time winningest pacer with over $7 million banked, and Dancin Yankee, the beaten favorite in the $260,000 Joseph Gerrity Memorial last Saturday night at Saratoga Raceway.

Earlier that afternoon the Meadows near Pittsburgh will host the $400,000 Adios final for three-year-old pacing colts, the track's signature event. Elim winners Cooperstown, My Hero Ron and National Seelster will garner plenty of support, but the two best performances last weekend came courtesy of Dude's The Man (Callahan) and Lost For Words (David Miller), who finished third and second, respectively, behind 38-1 upsetter Cooperstown in the fastest of the three splits last weekend.

One race earlier the track will offer the Adios consolation and one race before that it will present a 4yo Invitational where recent Yonkers Raceway winner Summer In LA draws the rail. Speaking of Yonkers, the sport's top mare trotter, Bee A Magician will compete in that track's $48,000 Open Handicap on Saturday night and George Morton Levy Memorial final hero Domethatagain returns for the $48,000 Open Handicap for older pacers following a good, fast-closing third-place finish in the Gerrity last weekend at Saratoga.