Day At The Track

Dexter brilliant and betting passes $4-million

06:48 PM 14 Feb 2021 NZDT
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JL Cruze scores in the Saturday night co-featured trot at The Meadowlands Saturday night, one of six winners on the card for driver Dexter Dunn, Harness racing
JL Cruze scores in the Saturday night co-featured trot at The Meadowlands Saturday night, one of six winners on the card for driver Dexter Dunn.
Lisa Photo

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Wagering on harness racing at The Meadowlands continued to bustle Saturday night, as betting blasted past the $4-million barrier for a third time in 2021, the same number of times that was accomplished during all of 2020.

Action was huge from the get-go on the 15-race card as a total of $367,134 was pushed through the windows on the opener, $86,011 of which was bet on the 20-cent Pick-5. Action was at least $330,000 on races six, seven and nine before the 10th race took in the most play of the night, with $370,062.

The sixth race 50-cent Pick-4 saw $105,648 pushed through the windows and resulted in the wager’s biggest payout of the meeting. Twenty-to-one long shots won the opening and payoff legs of the bet, resulting in a payoff of $17,959.

In sharp contrast, the 10th race Pick-4, which saw a total pool of $94,171, saw two even-money shots, a 5-2 and a 3-1 combine for a payout of $78.55.

The all-source total wagered on the card was $4,082,528, an average per race of $272,168. Betting has exceeded $7 million for the last three weekends at The Big M. That plateau was reached three times during all of 2020.

THAT’S A HALF-DOZEN COUSIN: Driver Dexter Dunn continued his brilliance in the bike at the current Big M meeting by winning six times on the program.

The 31-year-old native of New Zealand, the two-time defending United States Harness Writers Association Driver of the Year, won a total of eight races over the weekend, upping his Big M driver-colony leading win total to 39.

‘JOE’ BEATEN, ‘JL’ CRUISES: A pair of fan favorites sat atop the marquee in the co-featured $22,500 winners-over $11,500 events, one on the pace and the other on the trot.

Tulhurstsantanna A worked out an ideal trip in pulling off a 21-1 upset in the pace. The driver of the 8-year-old gelded son of Santanna Blue Chip-Ballroom Belle had designs on leaving the gate, but Andy McCarthy thought better of it.

“I put his nose on the gate and thought about stepping out,” said McCarthy. “But I aborted that mission when I saw everybody else had the same idea and managed to work out a sweet second-over trip.”

Western Joe, the 4-5 favorite who was seeking his second straight score in the weekly feature, brushed to the lead while parked past the half in :54.2, but was pressured by long shot Points North shortly thereafter, which set it up for a closer.

McCarthy tipped Tulhurstsantanna A off the cover provided by Points North as they straightened up in the stretch but still had one major player to worry about.

“I knew [3-1 second choice] Springsteen was on my back,” said McCarthy. “He’s very fast, that horse, but my horse, he keeps horses at bay. He knows what to do.”

In winning a third straight at The Big M, Tulhurstsantanna A returned $44.20 to his backers after completing the mile in a lifetime-best equaling 1:49.4 on a night with a feel-like temperature of 19 degrees. Springsteen finished a half-length back in second, with Italian Delight N third and Western Joe fourth in the eight-horse field.

Trained by Andrew Harris and owned by Douglas Overhiser, Tulhurstsantanna A raised his lifetime stats to 24 wins from 144 starts, good for earnings of $191,454.

In the marquee trot, JL Cruze chalked up his third win in his last four Meadowlands outings, scoring by a half-length over Scirocco Rob in 1:52.4. Rich And Miserable was third.

“He’s a classy old horse,” said winning driver Dunn of the 10-year-old gelding by Crazed-Topcat Hall. “And it’s a pleasure to sit behind him every week.”

JL Cruze left alertly from post eight in the eight-horse field and opted to race in the five-hole early on. “I got him out of there and we took a seat,” said Dunn. “It’s not usually the way he races, but I was pretty confident we would run them down.”

The even-money favorite followed the live tow of 7-1 third choice Scirocco Rob down the backstretch, and once leader Winnerup was done, it was down to those two. Under confident handling from Dunn, JL Cruze reported home an easy winner after tipping off cover, scoring for the 43rd time from 127 career starts for trainer Eric Ell and owners W. Kenneth Wood, J. Dittmar Jr. and S.J. Iaquinta. His lifetime bank account now stands at a gaudy $1,572,392.

A LITTLE MORE: Scott Zeron and Corey Callahan both recorded driving doubles while the red-hot Jeff Cullipher trained a pair of winners. … Shrewd 20-cent Pick-6 players made a big score, as with only one long shot (22-1) winning during the sequence, those with winning tickets walked away with $12,891. Of the other five winning horses, two were favored, while the other three went off at 5-1, 5-2 and 3-1. … Racing resumes Friday at 6 p.m.

 

By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations

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