Northfield Park, Yonkers offer top Saturday night action

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Ted Black

May 19th, 2016

While many thoroughbred racing fans will be looking to unwind after Saturday's running of the Preakness Stakes regardless of how well Nyquist performs in the middle jewel of thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown, serious standardbred fans will turn their attention to a pair of half-mile ovals that will offer lucrative stakes for older pacers and trotters.

Saturday's feature is the $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield Park near Cleveland, Ohio, where two of the sport's top four-year-old pacers will clash for the first of potentially numerous meetings this year.

Reigning horse of the year Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) drew the coveted rail for the Battle of Lake Erie and will seek to rebound from a pair of second-place finishes as the odds-on choice at two Canadian ovals. Last Sunday evening Wiggle It Jiggleit finished second in the $244,000 Confederation Cup at Flamboro Downs when he started from post nine and was unable to overtake the unbeaten Rockin Ron in the lane.

Wiggle It Jiggleit, who won 22 of 26 starts and banked nearly $2.2 million last season en route to taking home a trio of Dan Patch Awards including horse of the year, has won four times and finished second three times in seven starts and banked nearly $200,000 this year. He won two legs of the George Morton Levy Memorial Series at Yonkers Raceway in New York and captured the $100,000 consolation after losing a coin flip that could have propelled him into the far more lucrative $600,000 final.

Wiggle It Jiggleit has drawn the rail for Saturday's renewal of the Battle of Lake Erie are Luck Be With You, pocket-trip winner of the Van Rose Memorial Invitational at Pocono Downs and All Bets Off, a Ron Burke trainee who owns a win over Wiggle It Jiggleit this year. Burke's most famous trainee, Foiled Again, will leave from post three in quest of his first win in eight starts this year. The 12-year-old Dragon Again gelding has banked nearly $7.4 million on 86 wins from over 250 starts in a Hall of Fame career that is finally drawing to a close.

In fact, the Battle of Lake Erie is almost part of a farewell tour for the aging star. Foiled Again will likely make another start in the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington Raceway in Delaware in September and he could be part of a popular traveling show if tracks reach out to get him. Foiled Again could venture to several ovals like Rosecroft Raceway and Ocean Downs in Maryland and later Dover Downs in Delaware for various Invitational events that would not require six-figure pots to lure him. His fan base would certainly welcome his arrival and many would travel from track to track to see him compete.

Saturday evening The Meadowlands will host a trio of $50,000 Graduate Series events for four-year-olds, two of them for trotters.

In the eighth race, Rockin Ron (Yannick Gingras) will put his 10-race win streak on the line when he faces seven rivals in the lone Graduate event for pacers. Rockin Ron won last Sunday's $244k Confederation Cup at Flamboro Downs and looms as the odds-on favorite in a solid affair.

Split The House, a winner of his seasonal debut in 1:50.2, will pose a threat as will Artistic Major and J Eagle Feather. Burke trainees Rock N Roll World and My Hero Ron will join their rapid rising star in here. In The Arsenal finished a decent fourth in his seasonal debut last week while chasing Always B Miki and Mel Mara in a thrilling Open Handicap at The Meadowlands, while National Seelster arrives from Canada and Americanprimetime heads into the race off a 1:51.3 score on a half-mile oval.

The two Graduate divisions for trotters earlier on the card could not have come up much more different. Wings Of Royalty (Corey Callahan) will seek his third straight win to start the campaign for trainer George Ducharme and arrives fresh off a determined victory over Pinkman in a conditioned event last weekend at The Meadowlands. Canepa Hanover looms the main threat in this spot for trainer Jimmy Takter.

Then in the second Graduate split for trotters, Pinkman (Gingras) will seek redemption after being nailed late as the 3-5 choice in his seasonal debut last week. Last year's Hambletonian hero and champion three-year-old colt trotter and trotter of the year should be a generous price here since he was beaten in his four-year-old bow and draws in with two live contenders who bring identical unbeaten seasonal records.

Both Musical Rhythm (John Campbell) and Maestro Blue Chip (Tim Tetrick) have each won all nine of their starts this year and will pose a genuine threat to Pinkman Saturday and throughout the Graduate series. Crazy Wow makes his second start for Burke, while Centurion ATM and Crescent Fashion both make their local debuts for trainer Ake Svandstedt. Centurion ATM was one of the five finalists for Maryland-bred harness horse of the year in 2015.