Meadowlands Pace elims highlight weekend action

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Ted Black

July 10th, 2015

One week after the best three-year-old pacing colts and geldings faced one another in the $500,000 Max Hempt Memorial at Pocono Downs, many of those same participants will go postward in a pair of $50,000 eliminations for the $800,000 Meadowlands Pace final one week from tomorrow at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

Throughout the years many of the sport's top three-year-old pacing colts and geldings, including Niatross, Nihilator, Beach Towel and Rocknroll Hanover have won the Meadowlands Pace en route to multiple year-end honors, including horse of the year. This year's group of sophomores in the Meadowlands Pace elims certainly has every chance to follow in their footsteps. Wiggle It Jiggleit, Artspeak and In The Arsenal, the top three finishers in last week's Hempt final, drew into the elims this weekend and are expected to meet again in the lucrative final.

Midway through the card the first $50,000 Meadowlands Pace elim features Artspeak (Scott Zeron) and In The Arsenal (Brian Sears), who finished second and third, respectively, in last week's Hempt final. Artspeak, last year's champion two-year-old pacing colt, owns a solid 3-2-0 slate and $244,000 bankroll from six starts this year for trainer Tony Alagna. He won his Hempt elim in 1:50, but settled for second last week in the final behind Wiggle It Jiggleit, now the top rated horse of any age or either gait in the country.

Artspeak began the season by winning a New Jersey Sire Stakes elim and then the $100,000 NJSS final over this oval in May, but after a second-place finish in his North America Cup elim the Western Ideal colt settled for fifth in the $1 million final after drawing post 10 and being forced to race parked out the entire mile. He displayed plenty of gate speed in his Hempt elim and posted the fastest clocking of the three splits, but Artspeak proved no match for Wiggle It Jiggleit in the final despite the pocket trip. He should rule as the 3-5 favorite in this elim and should get another chance at Wiggle It Jiggleit next weekend.

In The Arsenal has enjoyed a solid start to his sophomore campaign for trainer Kelvin Harrison, posting a 4-1-1 slate and $330,000 bankroll from seven outings. He has also showed up for all of the major races thus far, winning an elim and then the $300,000 final of the Art Rooney at Yonkers Raceway in New York, won an elim for the North America Cup then was fourth in the final and was second in his Hempt elim before finishing a good third in the final. He will start from post two in this elim and should be forwardly placed throughout and then on hand for next week's final.

Two other colts also merit consideration for upset chances and should return for next week's final. Hurrikane Ali (Yannick Gingras) won two NJSS elims then was no match for Artspeak in the final six weeks ago. He finished fourth in his North America Cup elim, but failed to earn a check in the final. He won a qualifier last week over the strip in 1:52 and leaves from post five tomorrow. Pierce Hanover (Brett Miller) won two overnights at Mohawk Raceway, then was fifth in his NA Cup elim and fifth in the consolation. He was third in his Hempt elim, but did not get a check in the final after going first over while chasing Wiggle It Jiggleit.
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Three outsiders round out the field, but at least one of them will make the final and a second one could if either of the top four choices fail to deliver. Dealt A Winner (David Miller) has looked okay in qualifiers, but he has yet to win a race from four tries this season after winning five of six outings last year. Dude's The Man (Corey Callahan) owns a solid 2-1-2 slate from six starts this year, including a win in a division of the Somebeachsomewhere stakes at Mohawk. Revenge Shark (Tim Tetrick) won an overnight race last week over the oval, but does not appear to be one of Alagna's first stringers.

Five races later on the card the track will offer the second elimination for the Meadowlands Pace with clearly the top two pacers in the group drawing the two outside posts, although neither should be compromised in the slightest.

Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) will leave from post seven tomorrow night, but the recent winner of the Max Hempt final should have little trouble overcoming that outside stall. Last week the Mr Wiggles gelding brushed to command before the half in 53.4 then put away Pierce Hanover on the far turn and edged away from Artspeak to capture the Hempt by nearly two lengths in 1:48.2. Wiggle It Jiggleit has won 12 of 13 starts this year and 13 of 14 career outings for trainer George Teague, Jr. of Rainbow Blue fame, with his lone setback courtesy of a second-place finish in the $1 million North America Cup final.

Drawing just to his inside is Wakizashi Hanover (Tetrick), who finished fourth in last week's Hempt final, two weeks after overhauling Wiggle It Jiggleit in the lane to capture the North America Cup in 1:48. Wakizashi Hanover is currently the second-best three-year-old pacer in the land with six wins in eight starts and seasonal earnings of $550,000 for trainer Joann Looney-King and owner Bruce Kennedy. The Dragon Again gelding figures to be a major player in this event and throughout the summer and fall stakes schedule.

Just to their inside is Badiou Hanover (Brett Miller), a Well Said gelding who has won five of eight starts this year for trainer Julie Miller and took the Hempt consolation last week at Pocono Downs in 1:50.3, about two seconds slower than the final. His other four wins have all come in overnight races at Harrah's Philadelphia, the Meadows and the Meadowlands.

Just to his inside is Lyons Levi Lewis (Gingras), who is looking to regain his winning ways following a solid freshman campaign in which he had a 2-6-2 slate and $360,000 bankroll from 12 starts for trainer Ron Burke. Lyons Levi Lewis is winless in four starts this year. Roland N Rock (John Campbell) arrives with an unblemished record, having won all four of his starts this year and all 18 outings of his career for owner-trainer Duane Roland. Most of his wins have come on the fair circuit, but Roland N Rock owns a 1:51.2 score at Springfield and a 1:52.2 tally at Balmoral Park against open stakes foes, so he should earn a trip to the Meadowlands Pace final despite likely suffering his first setback this weekend.

One race before the second Meadowlands Pace elim, a solid group of nine four-year-old trotters will clash in the $250,000 Graduate Series final. The event features two defending division champions from the same barn as well as the new star of this age and gait.

Last year while Father Patrick (Gingras) and Shake It Cerry (Jimmy Takter) were capturing many of the sport's top open stakes for their respective age, gait and gender - Father Patrick is a colt, while Shake It Cerry is a filly - JL Cruze (Campbell) was competing amid obscurity. While Takter trainees Father Patrick and Shake It Cerry combined to win 27 of 34 starts and nearly $3 million, JL Cruze posted a solid 4-3-4 slate and banked just over $26,000. But this season the four-year-old Crazed gelding has certainly made up for lost time.

JL Cruze has spent much of the campaign feasting on restricted company in early closers at various tracks, but he has also looked good in recent ventures into the open ranks. This Eric Ell trainee has won 14 of 16 starts this year and earned over $270,000 for owner Kenny Wood and the "Denton Destroyer" has won his last three starts against the best trotters in the land. He captured a $75,000 Invitational last weekend at Pocono Downs in first over fashion by overtaking Sebastian K in the final strides in 1:51. He also defeated Father Patrick in consecutive Graduate events at the Meadowlands and is expected to be the favorite in tomorrow night's final.

Father Patrick will be looking for revenge this weekend, having finished second twice to JL Cruze in their only two meetings. This Cantab Hall stallion won several major stakes last season, but he also galloped in some lucrative spots and those miscues eventually cost him champion trotter and horse of the year. Shake It Cerry was the dominant three-year-old filly trotter last season, winning 15 of 17 starts for Takter, but she has only won three times in seven tries this season against older distaffers including Bee A Magician and Classic Martine and will have to elevate her game considerably against male rivals this weekend.