Day At The Track

Sun Stakes finals highlight Grand Circuit

02:08 AM 28 Jun 2018 NZST
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This Week: Ben Franklin Pace, Earl Beal Jr. Memorial, Max C. Hempt Memorial and James M. Lynch Memorial finals, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; Cleveland Trotting Classic, Northfield Park, Northfield, Ohio; Tompkins-Geers, Tioga Downs, Nichols, N.Y.; and Landmark Stakes, Historic Track, Goshen, N.Y.

Schedule of events: The harness racing Grand Circuit spotlight will once again be on The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono this Saturday night (June 30) as the track will host four lucrative Sun Stakes finals in the $500,000 Ben Franklin for older pacers, the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for 3-year-old trotters, the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old male pacers and the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old filly pacers.

Also on Saturday, Northfield Park will host the $175,000 Cleveland Trotting Classic for older trotters.

On Friday (June 29), Tioga Downs will host three divisions in the $75,200 Tompkins-Geers for 3-year-old male pacers and three divisions in the $70,500 Tompkins-Geers for 3-year-old filly pacers.

Also on Friday, Historic Track will card eight Landmark Stakes for 2- and 3-year-olds of both sexes and gaits. Purses range from $6,125 to $14,350 for the Landmark Stakes.

Complete entries for the races can be found by clicking on this link.

Last time: Manchego, McWicked, and Lather Up were impressive in victories in the Sun Stakes eliminations Saturday (June 23) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.

Manchego kept her career record perfect after 15 starts, but in taking on the boys in her $25,000 Beal Trot elimination she was extended further than she had ever been before, holding off a game Crystal Fashion by a nose while equaling her career best of 1:52.4. Yannick Gingras kept the filly in mid-pack until traffic settled late on the first turn, then got her in gear before the :26.4 quarter, brushed to the lead, and got relatively soft middle fractions of :56 and 1:24.4.

But through the stretch Crystal Fashion, who had ducked inside from second-over an eighth of a mile out, gained steadily, with Gingras chasing after the super filly late to maintain the victory in only her third race of the year.

Jimmy Takter trains the winning daughter of Muscle Hill, who now has earnings of $929,688 for the ownership of Black Horse Racing, John Fielding and Herb Liverman.

McWicked made winning look easy despite a first-over journey, winning handily for driver Brian Sears in 1:48.3.

Mach It So set the early pace of :26 and :54.2, then had to contend with the winner. McWicked took the lead shortly after the 1:21.2 three-quarters, then finished out in :27.1, by 2-3/4 lengths ahead of Rockin Ron, who split horses late to just get second over longshot Mac's Jackpot, who nipped Mach It So for advancement to next week's championship.

Casie Coleman conditions the veteran son of McArdle, who now is at $2,396,362 in career earnings, for S S G Stables.

They saved the best for last on Sun Stakes Saturday elimination night, as the I'm Gorgeous colt Lather Up made the lead past the quarter, then came home in :53.1 in hand late for driver Montrell Teague to freeze the timer in 1:49 in his $25,000 Hempt elimination.

After the :26.2 opener put down by Nutcracker Sweet, Lather Up, three-wide just past the eighth pole, raced up to grab command, got a huge breather with a :55.4 half, and then asserted his divisional dominance with the brilliant last half, winning by 2-1/4 lengths over Nutcracker Sweet, with Wes Delight edging Done Well to move on to the final.

But someone will have to go a big mile in the final to defeat Lather Up, trained by Clyde Francis and moving his bankroll to $544,765 for owners Gary and Barbara Iles, who saw their pride and joy remain undefeated in seven seasonal starts.

Complete recaps of the weekend races, including the other Pocono stakes eliminations, 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. Tim Tetrick - 392; 2. Yannick Gingras - 291; 3. Jordan Stratton - 154; 4. Jason Bartlett - 139; 5. David Miller - 130.5.

Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 315; 2. Jim King Jr. - 151; 3. Jimmy Takter - 129; 4. Peter Tritton - 122; 5. Rene Allard - 80.

Owners: 1. Vonknoblauch Stable - 107; 2t. Burke Racing Stable - 74.8; 2t. Weaver Bruscemi - 74.8; 4. Richard Poillucci - 66; 5. Jo Ann Looney-King - 60.

Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will be taking place next week at Meadowlands Racetrack, Hoosier Park and Yonkers Raceway. The Meadowlands will host the Graduate Series finals for 4-year-old pacers and trotters, Meadowlands Pace eliminations for 3-year-olds, a Reynolds division for 3-year-old filly trotters, and the first leg of the Kindergarten Series for 2-year-old colt and filly pacers. Hoosier Park will card the Nadia Lobell for 3-year-old filly pacers and Yonkers features Lawrence Sheppard eliminations for 2-year-old pacers.

by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit

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