Day At The Track

Tall Dark Stranger in stunning season debut 1:47.4

05:14 PM 28 Jun 2020 NZST
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Tall Dark Stranger, harness racing
Tall Dark Stranger makes his 3-year-old debut a winning one, scoring in a season’s-best-equaling 1:47.4
Lisa Photo

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - For Tall Dark Stranger, it's all systems go for The Meadowlands Pace. Harness racing trainer Nancy Takter had her prized colt in a less-than-ideal spot for his 3-year-old debut at the Meadowlands, facing older foes in a high-end conditioned pace, but in this post-coronavirus reality where many plans have had to be re-worked, everything turned out as well as she could have hoped.

"I wasn't shocked," said Takter. "I knew he had that in him. He did it very easily without much effort. The fact that he did it in his first start, that surprised me."

What Tall Dark Stranger did was win in 1:47.4 to equal the fastest mile in the sport this year.

The Bettor's Delight-Precocious Beauty product was in a live cover flow past the half, getting a perfect tow from Western Joe, who won a week ago in 1:48.2. But just after the five-eighths, Western Joe started to slow, causing driver Yannick Gingras to swing three-wide a little earlier than he would have liked, midway through the far turn, with Tall Dark Stranger.

"[The trip] didn't concern me," said Takter. "He's a racehorse. He knows what he's supposed to do."

What he did was explode through the stretch, pacing his final quarter in :25.4 to record a 1½-length win in lowering his previous lifetime best by one-and-one-fifth seconds. Escapetothebeach was second, The Devils Own N third and Western Joe fourth.

The top-ranked horse in the Big M's weekly "Road to the Meadowlands Pace" Top 10 looks more than ready to go. "He's got a blowout mile in him now," said Takter. "He's going to get next week off before the [July 11] Pace eliminations. He's right where I want him to be."

Tall Dark Stranger

Tall Dark Stranger ($3.80 to win as the 4-5 public choice) has now won nine of 10 lifetime starts and has earnings of $726,889 for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms and Howard Taylor.

The $682,650 Meadowlands Pace Final takes place on July 18.


It wasn't easy, but Gimpanzee came from well off the pace to win one of two $50,000 divisions of the Graduate Series' second leg for 4-year-old trotters in a lifetime-best 1:50.2.

Driver Brian Sears opted to race the two-time Breeders Crown and New York Sire Stakes champion from off the pace after a highly contentious several-horse scrum into the first turn had him take back to seventh at the quarter.

"I knew the horse to beat was Chin Chin Hall and I wasn't going to press my horse early," said Sears.

The son of Chapter Seven-Steamy Windows was sixth in a third-over flow at three-quarters as Chin Chin Hall was sailing along on the lead.

But Gimpanzee still had plenty of fuel in the tank.

Despite having 4½ lengths to make up through the final three-sixteenths, the Marcus Melander trainee was up to the task, rocketing home in :27 to best Chin Chin Hall by a half-length. Kings County was third.

"Gimpanzee is everything you want in a racehorse," said Sears. "I thought [Chin Chin Hall] was going to be spent [in the latter stages] and I thought we had a chance. My horse is a gamer and knows what we are trying to accomplish. He put his head down and did what he had to do."

Gimpanzee paid $2.60 to win as the 1-5 favorite in raising his lifetime numbers to 19 wins from 25 starts, good for earnings of $1,770,111 for owners Courant Inc and S R F Stable.


Southwind Avenger won the other Graduate division in 1:51.3 at odds of 22-1, one of four victories on the night for driver Andy McCarthy. Don't Let'em, the 4-5 favorite, broke at the start and finished last in the field of nine. ... Geez Joe gunned down 3-5 favorite Sintra for a second straight week in taking the overnight feature, the Preferred for pacers, in 1:48.2 as the 9-2 second choice. ... Wagering on the 13-race card totaled $2,863,730. Betting has now exceeded the $2.5-million mark the last 15 racing programs. ... The season's mark that Tall Dark Stranger equaled was Kissin In The Sand's, who is trained by Takter and driven by Gingras. ... Racing resumes Friday at 7:15 p.m. Patrons will be welcomed back into the Meadowlands at 25 percent capacity.

By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations

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