Tuesday cards set the stage for week ahead

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Ted Black

June 22nd, 2016

On Tuesday evening it was the pacing fillies and mares who were on display at Harrington Raceway in Delaware in state-bred action, but beginning on Friday at The Meadowlands the best older horses of both gaits will garner the spotlight as the stage will be set for legitimate fireworks on July 4th weekend at one oval.

On Tuesday evening at Harrington, both Use Your Noodle (Jim Morand) and Mortgage Bags (Eddie Dennis) displayed plenty of early speed and more than a hint of late determination to win their Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund splits for three-year-old pacing fillies.

Use Your Noodle was able to dictate the tempo through fractions of 28.2, 57.3 and 1:25.1 then held off a game first over bid from Apple Bottom Jeans (Montrell Teague) to score in 1:53.1. Those two will be joined in the $100,000 DSBF final on the July 28 Governor's Day card by Mortgage Bags and Eternal Rings (Allan Davis) who battled to the wire in 1:56.4. In all likelihood, Apple Bottom Jeans will be the favorite on Governor's Day.

That same evening at Harrington, Hostess Lisa (Tony Morgan) lived up to her role as the even-money choice in the $15,000 F-M Open when she gained command soon after the start and held safe the late inside bid of Springforth (George Dennis) and the wide surge from Purrfect Bags (Victor Kirby) to score in 1:53. At least two of them will be on hand for the Legislator's Cup on Governor's Day, highlighting the best state-bred horses in training.

On Friday evening the Meadowlands will host the $200,000 Arthur B. Cutler Memorial for older trotters and the race attracted many of the sport's best.

JL Cruze (John Campbell), last year's champion older trotter, has won four of seven starts this year for trainer Eric Ell and will seek to rebound from a pair of defeats at Pennsylvania five-eighths mile ovals. Gural Hanover (Yannick Gingras) sports a 2-3-1 slate from nine starts this year, while Obrigado (Mark MacDonald) owns the biggest win of the group when he won the $200,000 Maxie Lee at Harrah's Philadelphia on a day when JL Cruze broke stride on the lead turning for home.

But there are several other strong trotters in the Cutler. Crazy Wow (Tim Tetrick) was among the top three-year-old colts in training last year, although he has yet to regain that form in three winless starts this year. Flanagan Memory (Brian Sears) is capable of scoring on the big stage, as is Wind Of The North (David Miller), who owns a 2-2-1 slate from nine starts this year. Resolve (Ake Svandstedt) drew the outside and is winless in two starts, officially, but he was disqualified from first after easily winning the Mack Lobell over this oval in May.

Then on Saturday night all eyes will focus on Pocono Downs as the Pennsylvania five-eighths mile oval hosts a pair of eliminations for the Max Hempt Memorial, the James Lynch, the Earl Beal and three eliminations for the Ben Franklin.

Races two and five on the card will be the Hempt elims, with Boston Red Rocks and Control The Moment, both exiting the $1 million North America Cup, vying for favoritism. Racing Hill, Big Top Hanover and Western Fame will garner much of the support in the second elim three races later. Racing Hill was second at a big price in the North America Cup.

Then in the first of two Lynch elims,  Shezarealdeal, I Said Diamonds and Newborn Sassy will attract most of the support while Pure Country, Yankee Moonshine, Darlinonthebeach and Call Me Queen Be will get the focus in the second elim. Pure Country was last year's champion two-year-old filly pacer and already sports three wins in five starts, including last week's $400,000 Fan Hanover final at Mohawk. Darlinonthebeach was second in that event and owns a prior win over Pure Country.

But races 10, 11 and 12 will undoubtedly highlight the card as Pocono offers three consecutive Ben Franklin elims for the best older pacers in the land. In the 10th, reigning horse of the year Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) will face last year's champion older pacer, State Treasurer, Shambala and Luck Be With You. Wiggle It Jiggleit has won seven of 10 starts and already sits atop the latest Hambletonian Society National Top 10 Poll.

Then one race later on the card, Always B Miki will renew his rivalry with Mel Mara and also faced Mach It So, All Bets Off and Rockin Ron. Then in the 12th, Freaky Feet Pete will clash with Limelight Beach, Sunfire Blue Chip, In The Arsenal and Bushwacker. Only the top three pacers from each elim will return for the stellar July 2 card that will feature finals of the Ben Franklin, Earl Beal, James Lynch and Max Hempt Memorials.

After the Ben Franklin final on July 2, the sport's top older horses will still have ample chances to clash in lucrative stakes at Woodbine, the Meadowlands and Harrington Raceway. But other smaller local venues like Ocean Downs and Rosecroft Raceway could still lure quality fields for Free-For-All pacers this summer and fall, events that would certainly enliven the fan base and perhaps rekindle glory days from decades ago.