Day At The Track

Ariana G aims to be Beal's first female champ

04:16 AM 29 Jun 2017 NZST
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Ariana G
Ariana G
Curtis Salonick Photo

Ariana G starts Saturday's $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for 3-year-old trotters from an unfavorable spot, but harness racing trainer Jimmy Takter is confident the filly can step up and defeat eight male rivals in one of the season's few remaining preps for August's Hambletonian Stakes.

No female trotter has ever competed in the Beal Memorial final in its seven-year history. Ariana G, who received the 2016 Dan Patch and O'Brien awards for best 2-year-old female trotter in the U.S. and Canada, is this year's fastest 3-year-old trotter, with a mark of 1:51.1. Takter has won the Beal three times.

Ariana G was among three elimination winners last weekend - along with Long Tom and Perfect Spirit - and begins Saturday's final with driver Yannick Gingras from post No. 8. Horses win 5.8 percent of their starts from post eight at Pocono, which is second to only post nine's 5 percent victory rate for the lowest at the five-eighths-mile oval.

"I really think she can win it anyway. I really do," Takter said. "Of course she's got to work a little harder to get out of there, but if Yannick wants to press it, he can. She could be as good as any horse I ever had.

"It looks like there could be a lot of horses leaving (quickly from the gate). The horse to beat is Long Tom; he's the one that looked the best in the eliminations. But it is going to be a really interesting race."

Ariana G and Long Tom both enter the Beal final undefeated in three races this season. Ariana G is the 5-2 morning line favorite while Long Tom, who starts from post one, is the 3-1 second choice. Both trotters are New Jersey Sire Stakes champions.

The Beal is one of four stakes finals Saturday at Pocono, with the $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace for older male pacers, $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old male pacers and $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old female pacers.

North America Cup champion Fear The Dragon and stablemate Downbytheseaside are the top choices in the Hempt while the top four finishers in the Fan Hanover Stakes -- Bettor's Up, Agent Q, Tequila Monday and Idyllic Beach -- are ready for a rematch in the Lynch. Elimination winners Mel Mara and Keystone Velocity lead the Franklin.

Ariana G, who has won 12 of 14 career races and earned $816,467 in purses, is owned by breeders Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz. She is a daughter of stallion Muscle Hill out of the mare Cantab It All and is a full sister to 2016 Hambletonian Oaks winner All The Time.

Last week, Ariana G won her Beal elimination in gate-to-wire fashion by 1-1/2 lengths over Bill's Man in 1:53.4. She opened with a :27.3 first quarter-mile and closed with a :27.3 final quarter. The middle half was :58.3.

"She had a very nice elimination," Takter said. "I was a little bit concerned bringing in a horse off a three-week layoff; I don't train horses hard between races. I was very happy for her to get a nice mile; she raced for basically a half. She should be sharp. She came out of the race super and felt wonderful here jogging.

"She's much more a horse this year," he added. "Last year she was a little awkward looking. She just was fast. Now she is very solid. She grew a good inch and a half and she filled out. She probably weighs 150 pounds more than she did last year. She couldn't be better. She's gorgeous now."

Takter is uncertain whether Ariana G will race against the fillies on Aug. 5 in the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks at the Meadowlands or challenge the boys in the $1 million Hambletonian Stakes. And he is in no rush to make a decision.

"We'll just take one step at a time with her," Takter said.

Takter remains hopeful that colt Rubio can find consistent winning form in time for the Hambletonian. Rubio has won six of nine career races, with two of his losses -- including a seventh-place finish in his Beal elim -- coming in races in which he went off stride.

"I'm still very optimistic about Rubio," Takter said. "I know (last week) he was over-trotting himself in the last turn, but Yannick said he had plenty of go. I know he can go with these horses. I don't say he can go with (returning Dan Patch Award winner) Walner, but he's a very good horse.

"If Rubio is really good, then I'll probably keep Ariana in the (Hambletonian Oaks). I've been in this game a long time, and you can look like you have five horses going into the Hambletonian and you have none. And it can look like you have no horses going to the Hambletonian and you have five. There is so much going on. It's how these horses handle these tough races. The main thing is don't get panicked. If you know you have a good horse, you can be a little more patient."

Racing at Pocono begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The night's stakes finals are races nine through 12. Following is the field for the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial, which is race 12. For the complete card, click here.

PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Line

1-Long Tom-Tim Tetrick-Marcus Melander-3/1

2-Perfect Spirit-David Miller-Ake Svanstedt-6/1

3-Sortie-Andy McCarthy-Noel Daley-10/1

4-Moonshiner Hanover-Scott Zeron-Chris Beaver-12/1

5-Bill's Man-Corey Callahan-John Butenschoen-4/1

6-Lucky Matter-Brian Sears-Chris Beaver-20/1

7-Devious Man-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-5/1

8-Ariana G-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-5/2

9-Dover Dan-Brett Miller-John Butenschoen-15/1

ROAD TO THE HAMBLETONIAN
A look at open stakes for 3-year-old male trotters
and state-restricted stakes featuring Hambletonian eligibles

Date - Track - Event - First - Second - Third
May 6 - Freehold - Dexter Cup - Lord Cromwell - Gustavo Fring - Southwind Cobra
May 19 - Meadowlands - NJSS - Long Tom - Yes Mickey - Deacon Tony
May 19 - Meadowlands - NJSS - What The Hill - Southwind Cobra - New Jersey Viking
May 20 - Meadows - PASS - Sortie - Giveitgasandgo - High Glider
May 20 - Meadows - PASS - Andy M - Gustavo Fring - Stealth Hanover
May 20 - Meadows - PASS - Common Parlance - Brown Bear - Brand New Key
May 29 - Vernon - NYSS - Stick With Me Kid - Bill's Man - Top Flight Angel
May 29 - Vernon - NYSS - Devious Man - Lord Cromwell - Aces And Eights
May 29 - Vernon - NYSS - Enterprise - Swell Chap - Meetmeinthemiddle
June 2 - Meadowlands - NJSS Final - Long Tom - King On The Hill - What The Hill
June 3 - Meadows - Currier & Ives - Fraser Ridge - Meme Hanover - Muay Hanover
June 3 - Meadows - Currier & Ives - Moonshiner Hanover - Giveitgasandgo - Lars Perry
June 3 - Meadows - Currier & Ives - Sortie - Dover Dan - Always A Good Time
June 9 - Mohawk - Goodtimes Elim - International Moni - Guardian Angel As - Jake
June 9 - Mohawk - Goodtimes Elim - Enterprise - AWOL Hanover - Shake It Off Lindy
June 9 - Vernon - EBC Elim - Bill's Man - Such An Angel - Stick With Me Kid
June 9 - Vernon - EBC Elim - Devious Man - Swell Chap - Lord Cromwell
June 10 - Pocono - PASS - Rubio - Muscles Jared - Di Oggi
June 10 - Pocono - PASS - Dover Dan - Moonshiner Hanover - Sir John F
June 10 - Pocono - PASS - Giveitgasandgo - President Lindy - Andy M
June 17 - Mohawk - Goodtimes - International Moni - Mass Production - Seven And Seven
June 18 - Vernon - Empire Breeders Classic - Devious Man - Bill's Man - Stick With Me Kid
June 24 - Pocono - Beal Elimination - Long Tom - Sortie - Lucky Matter
June 24 - Pocono - Beal Elimination - Perfect Spirit - Devious Man - Dover Dan
June 24 - Pocono - Beal Elimination - Ariana G* - Bill's Man - Moonshiner Hanover
July 1 - Pocono - Earl Beal Jr. Memorial -
July 9 - Pocono - PA All Stars -
July 15 - Meadowlands - Stanley Dancer Memorial -
July 22 - Meadowlands - Tompkins-Geers -
July 29 - Meadowlands - Reynolds -
Aug. 5 - Meadowlands - Hambletonian -
Hambletonian eligible in bold
*Filly; also eligible to Hambletonian Oaks

Ken Weingartner

 

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