Meadowlands, Yonkers offer solid Saturday cards

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Ted Black

May 13th, 2016

While many thoroughbred racing enthusiasts might simply view this Saturday as the weekend between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, standardbred racing fans will have ample opportunities to make some plays with quality events at The Meadowlands in New Jersey and Yonkers Raceway in New York.

While most of the other 11 races on the card might leave a lot to be desired on Saturday night at the Meadowlands, the $25,000 Open Handicap slated as the 11th race on the program includes several of the sport's top older pacers. While many of the sport's top three-year-olds have yet to make their seasonal debuts, the older pacing bracket has already proven to be a quality group.

Last Sunday afternoon, Always B Miki (David Miller) notched his first victory in two starts this season when he cruised to a three-length score in 1:49.1 as the 1-20 favorite. This five-year-old Always A Virgin stallion won all four of his starts last year in a brief but impressive stint and now looms as one of the best older horses in training. He will be favored again on Saturday night, but Always B Miki does face several formidable foes.

Just to his inside is stablemate JK Endofanera (Yannick Gingas), who was second in the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial Invitational last weekend at Pocono Downs in 1:48.4 after cutting the early fractions. JK Endofanera had a 6-6-1 slate and banked over $550,000 last year at age four and he already boasts more than $2 million in career earnings on the strength of 20 wins from 49 starts.

To their inside are two pacers who found the George Morton Levy Memorial Series at Yonkers a little too tough this spring. Doctor Butch (Tim Tetrick) finished second once, third once and fourth once in three tries before bowing out. Always At My Place (Joe Bongiorno) finished sixth twice in two tries but has since come back to win a pair of conditioned races at The Meaadowlands and Pocono Downs for trainer Ron Burke.

The JT Silva-owned entry of Mel Mara (Corey Callahan) and In The Arsenal (Brett Miller) will start from posts two and five, respectively. Mel Mara won two weeks ago conditioned foes here in 1:48.2 for trainer Dylan Davis, while In The Arsenal and McWicked (Scott Zeron) both exit a pair of fast qualifiers at The Big M. McWicked bested In The Arsenal in both qualifiers in 1:50.4 over a fast track then in 1:52 over a sloppy surface last out, but both make their seasonal debuts in this spot.

Across the Hudson River at Yonkers Raceway in New York, a solid field of eight will contest the New York half-mile oval's $40,000 Open Handicap which includes five horses who tried the ultra-tough Levy series.

Ideal Cowboy (Jason Bartlett) won a leg of the Levy and finished fifth in the $100,000 consolation behind reigning horse of the year Wiggle It Jiggleit, but the Jeffrey Bamond trainee has been idle since that outing and may need a start or two. Lettucerockthem A (Daniel Dube) finished first once, second once and third once in three Levy tries and then won a Levy eligible event before settling for second in a tough overnight event at Pocono Downs two weeks ago and may need a start while being assigned the eight hole.

Artistic Major (Brent Holland) won his four-year-old debut in this spot two weeks ago and drew post seven here, so he will likely need a race. Stolen Car climbed the condition ladder to earn a spot in the Open last week and raced well while third, but this group came up considerably tougher and any of four horses to his outside should prevail.

Great Vintage (Mark MacDonald) won a pair of tough overnight events here before finishing second after a prolonged first over try in the Preferred last weekend, but certainly merits respect in the Open. Texican N (Jordan Stratton) is winless from eight starts this year, but he performed admirably in the Levy series and finished a respectable third in the $600,000 final before finishing fifth at this level in his return last week.

Atta Boy Dan (George Brennan) may not have tried the Levy, but he has grown accustomed to facing tough Open rivals here and elsewhere and was the beaten favorite in this spot last week and could make amends here for Burke. Bettor Rock On N (Brian Sears) finished second twice in four Levy tries then was second in the Levy eligible event before returning last weekend to take the Preferred as the even-money choice for trainer Andrew Harris.

One race later on the card the $30,000 Preferred for older pacers also features several horses that competed in the Levy series, including one that won a pair of legs.

Lucan Hanover (Brian Sears) began the season with a pair of victories at Dover Downs then arrived at Yonkers where he won two Levy legs before his form simply went south. He was unlucky in the subsequent post draws and did not garner a check in either of his last two prelims or the final. He then finished a nondescript seventh in the Open Handicap here last weekend, but drops into a winnable spot despite post six.

Limelight Beach (Brennan) finished third four times in five Levy legs then was fourth in the consolation and fourth again last Sunday afternoon in the Open at The Meadowlands. He returns to a winnable spot this weekend and will start from post five. Sunfire Blue Chip tried the Levy three times without much luck but dropped out to win an overnight event two weeks ago. But from post eight he might need a race.

Perhaps the horse that could post the upset is Machtu N (Steve Smith), who makes the modest jump in class after finishing a sharp second in the non-winners of $25,000 last five starts class last week. During a spring in which the New Zealand imports such as Bit Of A Legend N, Bettor Rock On N, Sell A Bit N and Al Raza N have made their presence known over the New York half-mile oval, Machtu N certainly bears watching in his first try against Preferred rivals.