Day At The Track

Shartin N out to repeat in Matchmaker

08:11 AM 18 Apr 2019 NZST
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Shartin N, harness racing
Shartin N
Mike Lizzi Photo

If fans are looking for a horse in top form entering Saturday's (April 20) $401,600 Blue Chip Matchmaker championship for harness racing older female pacers, they need to only look at...well, just about everyone.

Six of the eight mares are heading to the Matchmaker championship at Yonkers Raceway off a win (thanks to four horses skipping last week's fifth-and-final preliminary round of the series). Furthermore, a look at each of the finalist's past three starts show only three finishes worse than second in the 24 total tries, and two of those occurred from post eight, which is the least favorable post position at the track.

"It's been a very good series," said Jason Bartlett, who drives Andrew Harris-trained Dont Think Twice A. "There have been a lot of different winners every week. It's basically the same times too, right around (1):52.

"Shartin is Shartin, but otherwise it's a very competitive group. It's going to come down to who gets the better trip."

Shartin is defending Matchmaker champion Shartin N, the New Zealand-bred mare who was the 2018 Dan Patch Award winner for best older female pacer. She won three of her four preliminary rounds in the series and was fourth from post eight in her remaining start. She will start Saturday from post six, one spot outside of stablemate Bettor Joy N, who was a nose from being undefeated in four races in the series.

"They're both pretty powerful girls," said Jim King Jr., who trains both mares. "Hopefully everybody behaves in the first turn and no one causes any bad luck for somebody else. From there, let the best horse win. At least let them all have a chance. If they all behave around the first turn and everyone gets where they're going, I think I've got a little better chance than most. I've got two good horses and they're in respectable spots."

Shartin N was a known quantity entering the series, but Bettor Joy N has made a name for herself as well. She has won once by leading from start to finish and twice by rallying from fourth at the top of the stretch.

"We had a little adjustment to make (after she lost in the first round) and fortunately it all went well," King said. "We opened her up and got her more quiet, got her to pay a little more attention to the driver rather than be so anxious. She's very versatile. I don't think we've seen her best work yet."

Dont Think Twice A, who starts Saturday from post four, has two wins and two seconds in the series. She is one of four mares to finish no worse than second in all her Matchmaker prelims, along with Apple Bottom Jeans, Feelin Red Hot, and Bettor Joy N.

"I think I drew a good spot," Bartlett said. "There is speed inside and Shartin got the six so (driver Tim Tetrick) has to make a decision what he wants to do. I have a good mare, coming off a win, so I think she's got as good a shot as anybody. She's handy. She can do just about anything you ask her to do and she's got a great attitude. I've loved her since day one."

Apple Bottom Jeans, who was a neck from being unbeaten in four Matchmaker starts, will start from post two. She has gone gate-to-wire in all three of her victories in the series and was caught by Feelin Red Hot just prior to the finish in the other.

"She should be a perfect 4-for-4," driver Corey Callahan said. "That week (she lost) was my fault. Everybody was kind of walking to the half, so I went ahead and did that too. I shouldn't have done that. I should have let her keep moving along. She's got a big, long gait. I took full responsibility for that.

"She's been winning on the front because that's how the races have set up and she's been such a heavy favorite. I've been able to cut it or get away quiet to the lead. But she is a better horse tracking horses down. She might be in that spot (this week), or she might be in a spot where she can cut it. I don't really think she will be, but you never know when they say go."

Apple Bottom Jeans did not race during the fourth week of the series but returned with a win in the fifth round. Dont Think Twice A, Bettor Joy N, Shartin N, and Ideal Lifestyle A all took off last week. Kaitlyn N, Feelin Red Hot, and Seaswift Joy N each competed in all five preliminary rounds.

"We'll see which one of us went the right way," Callahan said with a laugh.

"Until somebody beats her, Shartin is the one to beat," he added. "There are a lot of other nice mares in there. It's not like she's going to be able to get away quiet and brush to the lead and have things her way. I don't think anybody is going to be able to do that."

Racing begins at 6:50 p.m. (EDT). The Matchmaker is race nine on the card, which also includes the $662,800 George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series championship (race 11).

Following is the field for the $401,600 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series championship.

PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer

1-Kaitlyn N-Matt Kakaley-Richard Banca
2-Apple Bottom Jeans-Corey Callahan-Dylan Davis
3-Feelin Red Hot-George Brennan-Ron Burke
4-Dont Think Twice A-Jason Bartlett-Andrew Harris
5-Bettor Joy N-Dexter Dunn-Jim King Jr.
6-Shartin N-Tim Tetrick-Jim King Jr.
7-Ideal Lifestyle A-TBA-Tahnee Camilleri
8-Seaswift Joy N-Jim Marohn Jr.-Tony Alagna

Ken Weingartner

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