Day At The Track

Busy weekend of Grand Circuit action

02:30 AM 24 Jul 2020 NZST
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Harness Racing This Week: Spirit of Massachusetts and Clara Barton, Plainridge Racecourse, Plainville, Mass.; Nadia Lobell, Hoosier Park, Anderson, Ind.; Tompkins-Geers, Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, N.J. and Delvin Miller Adios eliminations, The Meadows, Washington, Pa.

Schedule of events: Grand Circuit action begins this Friday (July 24) at Harrah's Hoosier Park with the $100,000 Nadia Lobell for 3-year-old pacing fillies.

The Saturday (July 25) Grand Circuit card at The Meadowlands features the $89,100 Tompkins-Geers for 3-year-old trotting colts and a pair of $42,700 divisions of the Tompkins-Geers for 3-year-old trotting fillies.

Saturday Grand Circuit action also includes three $25,000 Delvin Miller Adios eliminations for 3-year-old male pacers at The Meadows.

On Sunday (July 26), Plainridge will feature the $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts for open trotters and the $100,000 Clara Barton for pacing mares.

Complete entries for the races are available at this link.

Last time: Tall Dark Stranger is a danger, especially with his back to the wall. Pushed to the max by old rival Papi Rob Hanover, Tall Dark Stranger battled back in deep stretch to win the $636,650 Meadowlands Pace by a neck on Saturday night (July 18) at The Meadowlands.

Tall Dark Stranger battled back in deep stretch to win the $636,650 Meadowlands Pace by a neck. Lisa photo.

In a gutsy effort, Tall Dark Stranger, the 1-2 favorite, captured the first major stakes of the season for 3-year-old pacers. Normally, the Pace follows the North America Cup, but the ongoing pandemic shuffled the calendar. This time, the Pace was the division's lead-off event, and it was a dandy.

Tall Dark Stranger, last year's Dan Patch Award winner, took charge with a strong move down the backstretch. Papi Rob Hanover and driver David Miller ranged up to challenge on the turn and fought their way to a clear advantage in the stretch.

Even driver Yannick Gingras thought he and Tall Dark Stranger were finished.

"Honestly, at the top of the stretch, I thought he was beat," Gingras said. "This horse is just so gritty. He wants to fight them off. Papi was a half a length by me."

Tall Dark Stranger wasn't done in this shootout. He surged again, pushing back to secure the win and give Gingras his second Pace win.

It wrote another chapter in a rivalry that dates back to the 2019 Breeders Crown, where Tall Dark Stranger was elevated to victory when Papi Rob Hanover was disqualified for interference.

"I said after the Breeders Crown that he was coming back to win that race," Gingras said. "There are a lot of doubters out there, but tonight is the proof that my horse loves to fight."

Tall Dark Stranger improved his season mark to 3-for-3 with the 11th win of his 12-race career.

Nancy Takter, daughter of Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter, got her first Pace victory, following Linda Toscano as consecutive female training winners of The Meadowlands Racetrack's signature event.

It was also the second straight Pace win for sire Bettor's Delight following last year's 27-1 upset by Best In Show.

Tall Dark Stranger became the sport's latest millionaire for the ownership team of Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms and Howard Taylor.

The time for the mile was 1:47.2.

Brett Pelling, all-time Pace training leader with four wins, settled for second and third, with Papi Rob Hanover and Allywag Hanover.

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

Grand Circuit Standings: In 2020, 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 2020 Grand Circuit awards.

Here are the leaders following this past weekend:

Drivers: 1. Yannick Gingras - 195; 2. Brian Sears - 127; 3. Dexter Dunn - 117; 4. Tim Tetrick - 92; 5. Scott Zeron - 87.

Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 195; 2. Nancy Takter - 120; 3t. Marcus Melander - 104; 3t. Ake Svanstedt - 104; 5. Tony Alagna - 50.

Owners: 1. Courant Inc. - 45; 2. Burke Racing Stable - 38.4; 3. Crawford Farms Racing - 38; 4. S R F Stable - 35; 5. Weaver Bruscemi - 33.4.

Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will be taking place next week at The Meadows and Meadowlands Racetrack. The Meadows will host six Grand Circuit events, led by the final of the Delvin Miller Adios for 3-year-old pacing colts. Meadowlands Racetrack will host eliminations for four lucrative stakes, led by the Hambletonian for 3-year-old colt trotters, as well as the Tompkins-Geers for 3-year-old pacers and the fourth leg of the Miss Versatility for trotting mares.

by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit


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