Saturday Meadowlands card is first rate

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Ted Black

July 16th, 2015

Throughout the first half of the harness racing calendar, many of the sport's premier events have been contested in New York, Pennsylvania and Canada. But this Saturday evening the focus will once again return to the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey as the one-mile oval, deemed the sport's mecca for decades, offers a stellar program that is an early precursor to another giant card slated for Hambletonian Day on August 8.

In fact, Saturday's feature is the track's signature event for three-year-old colt pacers, the $750,000 Meadowlands Pace final. In previous years the race has attracted many of the sport's top sophomores, several of which such as Niatross, Nihilator and Beach Towel, used a victory in the Meadowlands Pace as a springboard to champion three-year-old colt pacer and horse of the year. A quartet of talented sophomores in this year's final will be seeking to join that elite group.

Headlining the field is Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague), the top rated horse of any age, gait or gender in the sport. A son of Mr Wiggles trained by George Teague, Jr. of Rainbow Blue fame, Wiggle It Jiggleit has won 13 of 14 starts and earned over $625,000 this year with youthful Montrell Teague in the bike. He rallied second over to win his Meadowlands Pace elim last weekend in 1:48.4, only one week after winning the $500,000 Max Hempt Memorial final at Pocono Downs by over a length in 1:48.2. He will leave from post five this weekend, likely as the 4-5 favorite.

Perhaps the colt with the best chance of upended Wiggle It Jiggleit in the Meadowlands Pace final is the only pacer to have beaten him thus far - Wakizashi Hanover (Tim Tetrick). Trained by Joann Looney-King for owner Bruce Kennedy, Wakizashi Hanover has won six of nine starts and earned $560,000 this year and he was a good second to Wiggle It Jiggleit in their respective elim last weekend. Wakizashi Hanover had earlier upended Wiggle It Jiggleit in the $1 million North America Cup final at Mohawk Raceway in Canada after benefiting from a perfect pocket trip. He will have to use his speed early to overcome post nine to work out a trip this weekend.

Starting from post five is another colt with a solid record and plenty of lucrative stakes experience, In The Arsenal (Brian Sears). Boasting five wins from eight starts and seasonal earnings of over $350,000 for trainer Kelvin Harrison, In The Arsenal has already won the Art Rooney final at Yonkers and earned a berth in the North America Cup and Max Hempt finals and last weekend he stamped his ticket to the Meadowlands Pace by taking his elim in 1:49.1. He appears to be a notch below the top two colts right now, but In The Arsenal certainly merits respect this weekend.

While Wiggle It Jiggleit, Wakizashi Hanover and In The Arsenal have ascended to the head of the class among three-year-old colt pacers, the jury is still out on Artspeak, last year's champion two-year-old colt pacer. After winning eight of 10 starts and over $800,000 a year ago, Artspeak has struggled this spring and summer. He sports a 3-2-0 slate and $250,000 bankroll from seven starts this year for trainer Tony Alagna, but Artspeak has looked dull in his defeats and last week he faded to fourth despite sitting a pocket trip behind In The Arsenal in the slower of the two Big M Pace elims. Even with post three the defending champion is a risky proposition at 8-1 on Saturday.

Those seeking to find their horse for the Hambletonian will have three good chances to do so this Saturday. The second and fourth races are $157,500 Stanley Dancer Memorial divisions for three-year-old colt trotters, while the sixth is the Delvin Miller Memorial for three-year-old filly trotters.

In the second race, much of the focus will be on Pinkman (Yannick Gingras), recent winner of the $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial at Pocono Downs for trainer Jimmy Takter. Pinkman has won four of five starts and earned over $350,000 thus far. Looking to upend Pinkman are Canepa Hanover (Takter), Habitat and Cruzado Dela Noche (David Miller). Habitat was won four of seven starts for trainer Ron Burke, but he has also galloped in several key spots.

Two races later on the card the other Dancer division will feature Crazy Wow, another Burke trainee looking to foil the Takter trio in the Hambo. He owns the year's best victory courtesy of a sharp score in the Empire Breeders Classic at Vernon Downs and he was a good third behind Pinkman in the Beal. French Laundry, The Bank and Whom Shall I Fear will give Takter a solid trio here, while Centurion ATM (Ake Svandstedt) will be seeking to work out a better trip than his first over journey against Pinkman in the Beal. He won the Peter Haughton Memorial on Hambo Day one year ago.

Two races later on the card in the sixth, the $200,000 Delvin Miller Memorial, all of the attention will be on Mission Brief (Gingras), last year's champion two-year-old filly trotter who has won both of her starts this year and is pointing for a date with the boys on Hambo Day. Last year Mission Brief won nine of 13 starts, but she broke stride in all four of her defeats. She has stayed flat in her lone two tries this season, but she has yet to face any serious rivals and at this point appears several notches below the top boys.

Looking to hand Mission Brief a rare defeat are Wild Honey (Takter), Livininthefastlane (Andy Miller) and Lady Winona (Steve Smith). Wild Honey has won twice in three starts this year for Takter, while Livininthefastlane has won all three of her starts this year for trainer Julie Miller. Lady Winona sports a solid 2-4-0 slate from nine tries this year and draws the outside.