Day At The Track

Indiana State Fair stakes open Grand Circuit

01:20 AM 13 Aug 2020 NZST
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Harness racing this Week: Dan Patch, 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 Farms Trot, Joie De Vie and Artiscape, 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. 12) as the Indiana State Fair will host one day of Grand Circuit racing with the feature being the $57,235 Fox Stake for 2-year-old colt pacers. The co-featured event is the $33,530 Ralph Wilfong for 2-year-old colt trotters. The Hoosier Stakes for 2-year-olds will see two divisions in the $21,576 2-year-old colt trot and single divisions in the $21,085 2-year-old filly pace, the $20,677 2-year-old colt pace and the $19,835 2-year-old filly trot. The Horseman Stakes for 3-year-olds features single divisions in the $31,502 3-year-old colt trot, the $29,632 3-year-old filly trot, the $29,027 3-year-old colt pace, and the $27,307 3-year-old filly pace.

Friday night (Aug. 14) at Hoosier Park will feature the $225,000 Dan Patch for older pacing horses.

On Saturday (Aug. 15), Northfield Park will host the $250,000 Carl Milstein Memorial for 3-year-old pacers. Also on Saturday, Red Shores Racetrack & Casino will host one of two C$12,500 trials for the Gold Cup and Saucer for older pacers. The second trial will be held on Monday (Aug. 17).

The week's action will continue on Sunday (Aug. 16) at Tioga Downs with the $175,000 (est.) Crawford Farms Trot for older open trotters, the $175,000 (est.) Joie De Vie for older trotting mares and the $175,000 (est.) Artiscape for older pacing 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: The sensational filly Ramona Hill took a well-deserved gulp from the Hambletonian trophy after beating the boys on Saturday (Aug. 8) in the $1 million trotting classic at The Meadowlands Racetrack.

The victory, the 15th by a filly in the race's illustrious history, was hardly a surprise. She was the 2-5 favorite following the previous week's jaw-dropping win from an impossible spot, kicking home with a :25.4 final quarter in the Hambletonian eliminations.

Ramona Hill's 1:50.1 time equaled Muscle Hill's mark for the fastest Hambletonian final. USTA/Ken Weingartner photo.

She was just as good in the final. Andy McCarthy turned Ramona Hill loose down the backside and she easily surged past Threefiftytwo to take command for good. Through the lane, Ramona Hill remained solidly in command, beating Ready For Moni by a length with Back Of The Neck third.

The time for the mile only confirmed what observers already knew: Ramona Hill is the real deal. The 1:50.1 clocking equaled the stakes mark set by her sire Muscle Hill in 2009.

It was the first Hambletonian victory for McCarthy and trainer Tony Alagna, who took a very patient approach with his talented filly. The race was only her fourth of the year and 11th of her career.

"People talked earlier about how COVID affected this filly's schedule," Alagna said. "Honestly, this was our schedule from the beginning, with or without COVID. She's very much like a Thoroughbred. She doesn't need the starts to be at her best."

Of course, the Hambletonian Oaks for fillies earlier in the day was a possible target. But after Ramona Hill cruised to a convincing win in the Del Miller on July 18, Alagna set his sights on the bigger goal.

"We always had it (the Hambletonian) in the back of our minds, but nobody wanted to be the first one to say it," Alagna said. "After the Del Miller, it became a reality."

It had already been a great afternoon for McCarthy with four victories. Number five, the Hambletonian, will be the one he'll always remember.

"It was a very good start to the day and I was trying to keep my cool, and I was trying to let it sink in too much because I still had a lot of work to do," McCarthy said.

The driver and the filly completed the mission in style.

"The adrenaline you get from winning a race like this, words can't explain it," the Australian reinsman said. "It's an amazing event and a privilege to be involved."

With the victory, Ramona Hill improved her record to 9-0-2 in 11 starts for Brad Grant, Crawford Farms Racing, Robert LeBlanc and In The Gym Partners. The 2019 Breeders Crown and Dan Patch Award winner is the second filly to capture the Hambletonian in the last three renewals, joining Atlanta (2018).

Complete recaps of all 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 - 327; 2. Tim Tetrick - 244; 3. Andrew McCarthy - 237; 4t. Dexter Dunn - 219; 4t. Brian Sears - 219.

Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 311; 2. Nancy Takter - 250; 3. Marcus Melander - 203; 4. Tony Alagna - 192; 5. Ake Svanstedt - 164.

Owners: 1. S R F Stable - 82.5; 2. Brad Grant - 82.4; 3, Courant Inc. - 67; 4. Burke Racing Stable - 65; 5. Crawford Farms Racing - 59.7.

Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will be taking place next week at Vernon Downs, Woodbine Mohawk Park and Red Shores Racetrack & Casino. Vernon will host the Zweig Memorial races for 3-year-old colt and filly trotters; Woodbine Mohawk Park will have eliminations for the North America Cup for 3-year-old open pacers, the Fan Hanover for 3-year-old filly pacers, the Roses Are Red for open pacing mares and the Armbro Flight for older trotting mares; and Red Shores Racetrack & Casino has the Gold Cup and Saucer final.

by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit


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