Day At The Track

Grand Circuit week opens at Indiana State Fair

01:24 AM 09 Aug 2018 NZST
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This Week: Dan Patch Invitational, Hoosier Park, Anderson, Ind.; Carl Milstein Memorial, Northfield Park, Northfield, Ohio; Fox Stake, the Ralph Wilfong, the Horseman Stakes and the Hoosier Stakes, Indiana State Fair, Indianapolis, Ind.; Crawford Farm Trot, Joie De Vie and Tompkins-Geers Stakes, Tioga Downs, Nichols, N.Y.; and Gold Cup and Saucer trials, Red Shores Racetrack & Casino, Charlottetown, PEI.

Schedule of events: An extremely busy week of Grand Circuit action kicks off this Wednesday (Aug. 8) as the Indiana State Fair will host one day of Grand Circuit racing with the feature being the $44,868 Fox Stake for 2-year-old colt pacers. The co-featured event is the $28,032 Ralph Wilfong for 2-year-old colt trotters. The Hoosier Stakes for 2-year-olds will see two divisions each in the $23,492 2-year-old filly pace, the $22,908 2-year-old colt pace, the $21,698 2-year-old colt trot and the $21,126 2-year-old filly trot. The Horseman Stakes for 3-year-olds features two divisions in the $31,704 3-year-old filly pace and single divisions in the $37,333 3-year-old colt trot, the $35,574 3-year-old filly trot, and the $28,120 3-year-old colt pace.

Friday night (Aug. 10) at Hoosier Park will feature the $325,000 Dan Patch for older pacing horses. Also on Friday, Tioga Downs will host four sets of Tompkins-Geers stakes for 2-year-old pacers and trotters. There will be two divisions each in the $59,500 2-year-old filly pace, $58,000 2-year-old filly trot, $57,800 2-year-old colt trot and $50,400 2-year-old colt pace.

On Saturday (Aug. 11), Northfield Park will host the $400,000 Carl Milstein Memorial for 3-year-old pacers. Also on Saturday, Red Shores Racetrack & Casino will host one of two trials for the Gold Cup and Saucer for older pacers. The second trial will be held on Monday (Aug. 13).

The week's action will continue on Sunday (Aug. 12) at Tioga Downs with the $175,000 (est.) Crawford Farm Trot for older open trotters and the $175,000 (est.) Joie De Vie for older trotting mares.

Complete entries for the U.S. races are available at this link. Entries for the Red Shores Racetrack & Casino races are available at this link.

Last time: Meadowlands Racetrack closed out their Championship Meet this past Saturday with several lucrative Grand Circuit races led by the $1.2 million Hambletonian, the first leg of trotting's Triple Crown for 3-year-olds. Rick Zeron, an admitted crier, had reason to well up Saturday after the 93rd Hambletonian. Not only had the veteran horseman won the trotting classic in his first try, but his son Scott was in the sulky to make it a family affair, and the high point of a 43-year-old career.

Atlanta won the Hambletonian final in a time of 1:50.4 for driver Scott Zeron.

And he got the job done with a filly, the very determined Atlanta.

"This is a dream come true," said Rick Zeron. "That's my specialty, trotters. I live and breathe to train a trotter, especially a filly. It's more satisfying for me to train a filly to get where I am today, to win what I did today, than with a colt. It's a bigger challenge."

Atlanta won the $1 million Hambletonian final on Saturday, becoming the 14th filly to capture the famed trotting race for 3-year-olds.

It was an emotional victory for the father-son team from Oakville, Ontario.

The filly won the Hambletonian the hard way, setting the pace and holding on gamely in the lane. Scott Zeron employed those tactics earlier in the day in the first of two eliminations, and got Atlanta beat after setting a wicked pace. Remarkably, Atlanta regrouped quickly after the punishing mile.

"I spoke to my assistant trainer Ernie Henry who has looked after her since she was 18 months old," said Rick Zeron. "He said it took her about seven to 10 minutes longer than usual to get her wind back. After that, she was absolutely perfect. He said we were good to go."

That was an understatement.

In the final, Atlanta was again on the lead. This time, Zeron did a better job of rationing her speed. Atlanta responded by kicking away from challenger Tactical Landing at the top of the stretch to open a three length advantage. She trotted strongly to the wire, winning by one length over 29-1 shot Met's Hall.

"I've said it to a few people close to me," said Scott Zeron. "She's the best horse I ever drove. Everything is so fluid and effortless. The mile (in the elimination) just got away from me. I was mad at myself. That's not how I wanted to head into the final. If she was a champion, she would bounce back and she did."

The time was 1:50.4 for the mile.

It was the second Hambletonian victory for Scott Zeron. He was at the lines when Marion Marauder won in 2016.

The win in the final was worth $500,000 for the ownership team of Rick Zeron, Crawford Farms, Holland Racing, Howard Taylor and Brad Grant.

Complete recaps of all the weekend races are available at the Grand Circuit website.

Grand Circuit Standings: In 2018, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2018 Grand Circuit awards.

Here are the leaders following the past weekend.

Drivers: 1. Yannick Gingras - 648.5; 2. Tim Tetrick - 624; 3. David Miller - 294.5; 4. Scott Zeron - 270; 5. Jordan Stratton - 268.

Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 625.5; 2. Jimmy Takter - 444; 3. Tony Alagna - 246; 4. Jim Campbell - 196; 5. Jim King Jr. - 191.

Owners: 1. Burke Racing Stable - 136.1; 2. Weaver Bruscemi - 131.1; 3. Fashion Farms - 129; 4. Vonknoblauch Stable - 117; 5. Bill Donovan - 93.8.

Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will be taking place next week at Vernon Downs, Tioga Downs, Red Shores Racetrack & Casino and Hippodrome 3R. Vernon will kick off the week as host of the Zweig Memorial races for 3-year-old colt and filly trotters. Tioga Downs will feature the Roll With Joe for open pacers, Artiscape for older pacing mares, and a leg of the Miss Versatilty for trotting mares. Red Shores Racetrack & Casino has the Gold Cup and Saucer final and Hippodrome 3R will contest the Prix d'Ete for 4-year-old pacers.

by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit


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