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Hightstown, NJ — The $1.1-million harness racing yearling is now the 1-for-1 racehorse. Maverick, a trotting colt who last fall became the highest-priced yearling in harness racing history, won his career debut Monday at Lexington’s Red Mile, capturing a $5,000 event for 2-year-olds by 1-1/2 lengths over Tangled Love in 1:57.2. Immigrant AM S was third. Joe Bongiorno drove Maverick for trainer Tony Alagna and owner Maverick Racing. Immigrant AM S led the field to the opening quarter in :29.2. Maverick was third, but already on his way to take over the lead, which he did prior to reaching the half in :58.3. The colt remained on top from there, hitting three-quarters in 1:28.4 before coming home with a :28.3 final quarter. Maverick was the 2-1 second choice behind 4-5 favorite Argyle, who finished fourth. “He looked well within himself,” said Brad Grant, one of the owners in the Maverick Racing group. “I haven’t talked to Tony, but you’re always pleased when in their first start they get a win. I thought Joey did a great job driving him and being safe with him. We sure can’t complain. We’ll see how he came out of it and what Tony has to say.” “I’m very happy with his first start,” Alagna told harnessracing.com shortly afterward. “Maverick was comfortable and strong through the wire. Joe was very impressed with him.” Maverick, by Father Patrick out of Designed To Be, is a full brother to 2019 Trotter of the Year Greenshoe. He was bred by Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz, who also are members of the ownership group. Maverick’s purchase price at the Lexington Selected Sale eclipsed the previous record of $825,000 for trotting colt Detour Hanover at the 2011 Standardbred Horse Sale. “You try to treat (Maverick’s first start) the same as every other race and every other race day,” Grant said. “There’s no pressure on anybody, you just find out how he races.” by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

The first time Walter Haynes Jr. qualified Australian-bred Majestic Player in the U.S., the trotter was in against a field of pacers at Miami Valley Raceway in January. Majestic Player, with trainer Haynes in the sulky, was third after three-quarters of a mile, more than three lengths off the lead, but came home in :28.2 to win by two lengths in 1:57.2. Following the qualifier, Haynes called owner Brian Carsey. "Walter said he thought he was the real deal," Carsey said. "He went right by them like he was a pacer. He's definitely impressed us ever since." Majestic Player entered Friday as the winningest trotter in North America, with 10 victories in 11 starts. His only loss came by a head in his seasonal debut in February. On July 18, the 6-year-old gelding won the open at Harrah's Hoosier Park in a track-record-equaling 1:51.1, making him the fastest Australasian-bred trotter in history. And now, after dominating the opens at Miami Valley, Scioto Downs, and Hoosier, Majestic Player will see if he can be a big-time player on the Grand Circuit. On Sunday (Aug. 16), he meets a field that includes harness racing's No. 1-ranked horse, Gimpanzee, in the $220,000 Crawford Farms Open Trot at Tioga Downs. Majestic Player will start from post position three with Andy McCarthy in the bike. He is 8-1 on the morning line. "We're just fortunate to be in it and we'll see how he does, but we have high hopes for him," Carsey said. "He's got the will to win. He gives it his all. No matter how far they get away from him, he finds a way to catch them." The Crawford Farms Open Trot is one of three Grand Circuit events at Tioga on Sunday, with the $133,000 Joie De Vie for trotting mares and the $129,000 Artiscape for pacing mares. The Joie De Vie features the top-three finishers in last week's Dr. John Steele Memorial - When Dovescry, Plunge Blue Chip, and Manchego - while 2019 Horse of the Year Shartin N headlines the Artiscape. Last year's Crawford Farms was won by New Zealand-bred Speeding Spur, so Majestic Player will be trying to make it two in a row for imports from Down Under. Carsey bought Majestic Player toward the end of last year's racing season in Australia. The horse made one start for Carsey prior to leaving home, winning the Group 2 Breeders Crown for 4-year-old male trotters. "We watched him for about five months before we bought him," Carsey said. "I was working with a trainer down there, Dean Braun, and he kind of put the deal together. We bought him for the SOA (of NY Bonus Trotting Series) at Yonkers. It looked like he would have fit well. I wasn't looking at him being a top, top trotter or anything like that." After the deal was completed, Braun suggested otherwise. "Dean said I think you have a Grand Circuit horse for (this) year," Carsey said. "I told him not to get too high, but based on his influence, he convinced us to stake him the last part of the year. We didn't stake him early because we didn't want to race him hard." Carsey credited Haynes and drivers Brett Miller and Sam Widger with aiding Majestic Player's development in his new country. "They've done a great job with this horse, not getting too high and wanting to showboat him," Carsey said. "They raced him off the pace and taught him to be a racehorse over here." Majestic Player is by Majestic Son out of Another Player, who is a daughter of 2001 Maple Leaf Trot runner-up Dr Ronerail, and was bred by Yabby Dam Farms. Carsey shares ownership of the gelding with Jeff Fought Racing and Casey Myers. The horse has earned $103,250 this year. Following the Crawford Farms Open Trot, the gelding is eligible to the Maple Leaf Trot, Caesars Trotting Classic, Dayton Trotting Derby, Allerage Farms Open, and Breeders Crown. "He's really exceeded all of our expectations," Carsey said. "It's very exciting. We're just very fortunate, really." Racing begins at 1 p.m. (EDT) Sunday at Tioga Downs. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

Hightstown, NJ - After winning his first 10 harness racing career starts, Elver Hanover has found himself on the other side of a streak, dropping three races in a row. He will look to halt the skid Saturday (Aug. 15) when he meets seven rivals in the $250,000 Carl Milstein Memorial at Northfield Park. Elver Hanover, who was Ohio's 2019 Horse of the Year, starts the Milstein from post three with driver Chris Page. He is 4-1 on the morning line, the third choice behind Delvin Miller Adios winner Catch The Fire (2-1) and Indiana's 2019 Pacer of the Year Odds On Osiris (7-2). Catch The Fire starts from post one and Odds On Osiris from post two. Ocean Rock, who set a world record at Northfield last season and handed Elver Hanover his first loss with a track-record performance at Scioto Downs in July, leaves from post eight and is 8-1. "We're in a good spot," Page said. "There's going to be plenty of action, and I've got a lot of options in the race. My horse can do it any way I want him to. "It's going to be a fun race to watch and a better race to drive." Elver Hanover, a son of Yankee Cruiser out of Edra Hanover, won all nine of his starts at age 2. He captured the Ohio Sire Stakes championship at Northfield in 1:51.2 over a sloppy surface, missing Ocean Rock's world record for a 2-year-old gelding pacer on a half-mile track by one-fifth of a second. Two starts later, he became the fastest 2-year-old male pacer in history with a 1:48.3 win in a Bluegrass Stakes division at Lexington's Red Mile. He battled sickness earlier this year, resulting in a nearly month-long gap between qualifiers, but won his seasonal debut in a division of the Ohio Sire Stakes at Scioto on June 26. After suffering his loss to Ocean Rocks in an Ohio Sire Stakes split three weeks later, he finished third in his elimination of the Adios and fifth, beaten one length from post nine, in the final. "When you have a horse that went undefeated last year and set a world record, he's got pretty big shoes to fill, high expectations," Page said. "This year, he's still racing very good, and just missing. He was fifth in the Adios and just as easily could have been second. It was a blanket finish. "The horse is getting tighter each week, better every start. I look for him to race very good. He's raced on that (Northfield) surface before, so he's familiar with the track. He gets around a half good. I think it's all system's go this weekend. Hopefully all the stars align for us come Saturday." Elver Hanover is trained by Ron Burke and owned by Burke Racing, Bridgette Jablonsky, Jason Melillo, and J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby. He has earned $422,700 in his career. The Milstein Memorial is race 10, with an estimated 9 p.m. (EDT) post time. The event is named in memory of the former longtime owner of Northfield Park, Carl Milstein, who passed away in 1999. Racing begins at 6 p.m. Saturday. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Hightstown, NJ — Virgo won the $57,235 Fox Stakes for 2-year-old male harness racing pacers and Swingforthefences captured the $33,530 Ralph Wilfong Memorial for 2-year-old male trotters Wednesday (Aug. 12) at the Indiana State Fair. With Trace Tetrick in the sulky, Virgo was sixth through the first three-quarters of the 11-horse Fox Stakes before unleashing a :28.1 final quarter to win by five lengths over JK Going West in 1:52. TJ’s Indy Pacer finished third. “I was very happy with him,” trainer Dylan Davis said. “He went a big trip, came from a long way back.” Virgo is by Always A Virgin out of Star Of The Show. He was purchased for $13,000 at the Hoosier Sale and is a three-quarter brother to stakes-winner American Passport. He is owned by Davis, Howard Taylor, and Jeff Billings. He was bred by Dustin Miller. “Just looking at his videos, he’s not a real big, flashy-looking colt, but he looked very athletic, very light on his feet,” Davis said. “I’m really impressed how smart he is. I was a little worried about him getting hot most of the winter but the more he does it the more he’s relaxing. He’s got a lot of ability and he’s fast.” Virgo has three wins and a second in four races. He has earned $52,742. Swingforthefences won the Wilfong Memorial by 2-3/4 lengths over Breckenridge in 1:57.2. Jessie’s Swan was third. Peter Wrenn drove Swingforthefences for trainer Melanie Wrenn and owners David McDuffee and L&L Devisser. The son of Swan For All out of Sunday Yankee was bred by Concord Stud Farm. He was purchased for $100,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale. Swingforthefences has won three consecutive races after a second-place finish in his debut. He has earned $57,890. Virgo and Swingforthefences are both eligible to the Breeders Crown, which will be held at Harrah’s Hoosier Park in October. For Wednesday’s complete charts from the Indiana State Fair, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Hightstown, NJ — The moments following Ramona Hill’s win in the Hambletonian Stakes were unlike any Andy McCarthy ever experienced as a driver. “The feeling I got when I crossed the wire, I’ve never had that before, that amount of joy and emotion,” McCarthy said. “I don’t want to compare it to my kids being born, because that’s a completely different thing, but it was definitely emotional. Heading back to the winner’s circle, I’ve never felt anything like it in my life on the racetrack. Embracing the moment, just the feeling of joy, it’s unbelievable.” McCarthy and Ramona Hill captured the 95th edition of the Hambletonian this past Saturday at The Meadowlands. The duo won the $1 million event by one length over Ready For Moni in a stakes-record-equaling 1:50.1 for trainer Tony Alagna and owners Brad Grant, Crawford Farms Racing, Robert LeBlanc, and In The Gym Partners. Ramona Hill, a daughter of Muscle Hill out of Lock Down Lindy bred by Crawford Farms, became the 15th filly to win harness racing’s top race for 3-year-old trotters. The Hambletonian was McCarthy’s fifth win of the day on the stakes-filled Big M card. He won four of the afternoon’s first six races, including the Shady Daisy with Reflect With Me and the Jim Doherty Memorial with Darlene Hanover, and the fast start was beneficial. “It’s good to get some good vibes going for the day,” McCarthy said. “Confidence has such a main role in how you drive, I think. When the ball’s rolling and things are going good, you feel like you can do nothing wrong. For me, anyway, confidence is definitely a major player in how I do.” McCarthy’s biggest challenge was finding a way to enjoy the wins without getting too pumped up along the way. “You want to celebrate, and you want to feel that emotion, but you also don’t want to carry that over to the next drive,” he said. “You want to stay focused and you’ve still got work to do. I like to be confident but calm at the same time. I don’t want to be carrying too much emotion with me, just really stay focused on the job at hand. There are a million things that can go wrong in a race and you have to be super focused and aware of these things.” A native of Australia, the 34-year-old McCarthy has raced regularly in North America since 2007. He has seen his purse earnings increase annually since the start of 2013, reaching a career-best $7.67 million last year, when he ranked ninth among drivers in North America. In 2019, McCarthy became the eighth driver in history to win at least four Breeders Crown finals in a year. He became the first to accomplish the feat without driving a favorite. Last year, he also made his first appearance in a Hambletonian final, finishing seventh with Pilot Discretion. This year with Ramona Hill, he was fourth after a quarter mile, moved to the front on the backstretch, and cruised to victory. Her time equaled the stakes mark set by her sire Muscle Hill in 2009. “In my mind, I had the best horse in the race,” McCarthy said. “I just wanted to be safe through the first turn. Once I got through the first turn, I thought I could win the race however it went down.” McCarthy followed the Hambletonian while growing up in Australia but became more focused on the race after arriving in the U.S. to compete. He is the 28th different driver to win the Hambletonian in the 40 years it has called The Meadowlands home. “When I was a teenager, I started following the American racing more,” McCarthy said. “Back then, it was kind of pre-social media days, so it was kind of hard to keep up with it. I always liked American racing and I loved the Hambo. As far as thinking I could win it one day, that was a different story. “Once I got over here and went to the Hambo every year and watched it, it’s become the race. It’s the race you want to win, for sure. I’m just very lucky and privileged to be able to do that.” by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Shartin N made it three in a row in the Lady Liberty for harness racing pacing mares, winning Saturday's (Aug. 8) $177,100 edition by one length over Major Occasion A in 1:48.2 at The Meadowlands. Stonebridge Soul finished third.   Major Occasion A led the field to the opening quarter in :26.2, but driver Tim Tetrick already had Shartin N in gear and on her way to the front. Shartin N took the lead and reached the half in :54.3 and three-quarters in 1:22. She fought off a challenge from Warrawee Ubeaut on the final turn and went on to her fourth win in five starts this season and the 45th of her career.       "You just get to a point with 45 wins that you go out and you think you're going to win again, but it just doesn't always happen," co-owner Jo Ann Looney-King said. "It's just a thrill every single time. She's just a thrill."   Shartin N, the 2019 Horse of the Year, has won $2.33 million lifetime and 38 of 48 starts since arriving from New Zealand. She is owned by Richard Poillucci, Looney-King, and Tim Tetrick LLC. The 7-year-old mare is a daughter of Tintin In America out of Bagdarin.   "If it wasn't for Rich Poillucci, I would not be standing here and she would not be out there today," Looney-King said. "He picked her out, he bought her and brought her here; it's all Rich Poillucci."   Shartin N paid $2.80 to win.   by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Bettor's Wish took the lead on the backstretch and held off all challenges to win Saturday's (Aug. 8) $229,660 Sam McKee Memorial for older male harness racing pacers by a neck over Backstreet Shadow in a career best 1:47.3 at The Meadowlands. Century Farroh finished third.   Backstreet Shadow took the lead in a :25.3 opening quarter before Bettor's Wish charged to the front in a :52.1 half. Dancin Lou came first-over to battle Bettor's Wish into the final turn, but Bettor's Wish rebuffed his effort as they reached three-quarters in 1:19.4.   The job was not finished, though, as Backstreet Shadow looked to rally in the stretch, but Bettor's Wish and driver Dexter Dunn fended him off for the victory.       "We were going pretty hard, but he's just such a tough horse and he never gives in," Dunn said. "He got a little tired at the end off those fractions, but he stuck his head out.   "He's done that his whole career. He's given 110 percent every time and put up some amazing performances. It's a pleasure to drive him."   Bettor's Wish was the sport's top earning horse in 2019, when he won 13 of 19 races and $1.64 million. He was voted the Dan Patch Award winner for best 3-year-old male pacer and was runner-up to Shartin N for Horse of the Year.   This year, the son of Bettor's Delight has won two of five starts. He pushed his career earnings to $2.07 million. He is owned by trainer Chris Ryder, Bella Racing, Fair Island Farm and Bettor's Wish Partners.   Bettor's Wish, the 3-1 second choice behind 2-1 favorite Dancin Lou, paid $8.80 to win.   The Sam McKee Memorial, formerly the U.S. Pacing Championship, honors the late Meadowlands Racetrack announcer and Communicators Hall of Fame member Sam McKee, who passed away in 2017.   "It's a great race to win," Ryder said. "It's hard to describe. It's an honor to win it for Sam. I hope he's looking down on us today."   by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

To the list of certainties in this world, such as death and taxes, add Marion Marauder racing at The Meadowlands on Hambletonian Day. Marion Marauder, a multiple Dan Patch Award-winner, makes his fifth consecutive Hambletonian Day appearance at The Big M on Saturday (Aug. 8) when he races in the $291,350 John Cashman Memorial for older trotters. The 7-year-old stallion won the 2018 Cashman and finished second in 2017. Of course, his Hambletonian Day streak began in 2016 when he won both his elimination and the final of the Hambletonian Stakes. It was the first steps on his journey to sweeping the harness racing Trotting Triple Crown and being named Trotter of the Year. "We've always said that if we thought he couldn't compete we wouldn't continue racing him," said Mike Keeling, who shares training duties with wife Paula Wellwood. "He's a special horse. He loves his job. I think he's still competitive, I really do. We're really hoping for a good Saturday. I'm sure he'll make an account for himself." The Cashman is part of a stakes-filled card Saturday at The Meadowlands, highlighted by the $1 million Hambletonian for 3-year-old trotters and $600,000 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old female trotters. The Hambletonian is the first jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown. CBS Sports Network will air a delayed one-hour broadcast of the Hambletonian from 6-7 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. Racing begins at noon. The Cashman features an 11-horse field going the standard distance of one mile. The race includes 2019 Cashman champ Crystal Fashion, 2018 Hambletonian winner Atlanta, and Gimpanzee, who is unbeaten in four starts this season. Gimpanzee is the 2-1 morning-line favorite followed by Atlanta at 3-1. Marion Marauder, who starts from post three with driver Scott Zeron, is 6-1. The stallion heads to the race off a neck win over Don't Let'em in 1:50.2 in a conditioned race at The Meadowlands on July 24. It was his first victory in four races this year. For his career, he has won 21 of 66 starts and $3.37 million for owners Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling. "It was important for him to get position up close and get a chance to battle," Keeling said of Marion Marauder's most recent race. "The way they race nowadays really seems to hinder his abilities but he showed he's still got a little fight left in him and given the chance to put his nose up front at the wire, he'll do that. "He hasn't changed. He's really the same horse. We just kind of have to change how we approach racing, I think. He can't give up that six or seven lengths that he usually does and come charging. It just seems they can all sprint so much more. That's probably the biggest thing, finding a way to have him a little closer to the leaders when they get rolling along. Otherwise, I think he's a touch better than he was last year. He's got no issues going into this race at all." Following is a look at some of the remaining stakes on Saturday's card. Race 2 - $90,525 Shady Daisy for 3-year-old female pacers Reflect With Me, undefeated in three races this season for trainer Tony Alagna and driver Andy McCarthy, is the 4-5 morning-line favorite in a field of five. She brings a four-race win streak, which began with her triumph in her 2019 Breeders Crown final, to the race. Race 3 - $166,550 Dr. John Steele Memorial for older female trotters Manchego, coming off her world-record 1:49.3 win in the Spirit of Massachusetts on July 26 at Plainridge, is the 7-5 favorite for trainer Nancy Takter and driver Dexter Dunn. She has won four of five races this year and 10 of her last 12 (with two seconds). She captured the 2019 Steele in a stakes-record 1:50. Plunge Blue Chip is the 5-2 second choice and When Dovescry, the 2019 Hambletonian Oaks winner, is 7-2. Race 6 - $350,300 Jim Doherty Memorial for 2-year-old female trotters Alter is the 3-1 favorite from post 10 for trainer Per Engblom and driver David Miller. She went off stride on the lead in her Doherty elimination, but won the New Jersey Sire Stakes title one start prior. Elimination winners Darlene Hanover and Mazzarati are 7-2 and 5-1, respectively. Race 7 - $229,660 Sam McKee Memorial for older male pacers William R. Haughton Memorial winner Dancin Lou is the 3-1 favorite, with Brian Sears driving for trainer Tahnee Camilleri. Bettor's Wish, the sport's top-earning horse of 2019, is 7-2 and 2019 Breeders Crown champ American History is 9-2. Race 8 - $319,000 Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-old male trotters Elimination winner Plumville Prince is the 3-1 choice for driver Scott Zeron and trainer Rick Zeron. Venerate, who was third in the elim, is 7-2 and bye recipient Locatelli is 9-2. Race 13 - $273,125 Cane Pace for 3-year-old pacers The first jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown finds Meadowlands Pace winner Tall Dark Stranger the 6-5 favorite, with Yannick Gingras driving for Nancy Takter. Captain Kirk, who won last week's Tompkins-Geers Stakes, is 4-1. Tall Dark Stranger, a returning Dan Patch Award winner, finished fourth from post 10 in the race, only his second loss in 13 career starts. Race 15 - $177,100 Lady Liberty for older female pacers Shartin N, the 2019 Horse of the Year, is the even-money favorite for trainer Jim King Jr. and driver Tim Tetrick. She is a two-time winner of the Lady Liberty and captured last year's race in a world-record 1:46.4. Kissin In The Sand is the second choice at 4-1. For complete entries for Saturday's card at The Big M, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA 

The Pinske and Allen families have several things in common. Both run businesses that have existed for more than 100 years. Both are longtime participants in harness racing. And, on Saturday, both will be hoping to win their first Hambletonian Stakes. Amigo Volo carries the hopes of the Pinske family, as well as fellow owner David J. Miller. A year ago, the gelding gave the Pinskes their first Breeders Crown champion. Now, he is their first Hambletonian starter. His task will not be easy, starting from post 10 in the $1 million Hambletonian for 3-year-old trotters at The Meadowlands. Since the race moved to The Big M in 1981, no horse has won the Hambletonian final from post 10, although two horses - Pinkman in 2015 and Delvin G Hanover in 1984 - won eliminations from that spot. Pinkman went on to capture the final over filly Mission Brief. Amigo Volo, trained by Nifty Norman and driven by Dexter Dunn, has won two of five races this year and eight of 17 races lifetime. He finished third in his Hambletonian elimination and is 12-1 on the morning line. Ramona Hill, one of two fillies taking on the boys in this year's Hambletonian, is the 5-2 favorite. The Hambletonian is the first jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown. CBS Sports Network will air a delayed one-hour broadcast of the Hambletonian from 6-7 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. The stakes-filled card at The Meadowlands starts at noon. "It's going to be really tough," Marlys Pinske said. "But anything can happen. It's a well-matched group. I think right now Ramona Hill is standing out, but that's the way it is." The Pinskes, who own a custom cabinetry and millwork business that dates back to the 19th century, have been involved in harness racing since the mid-1950s. Pinske Stables today is Marlys, her son Karl, and grandson Carter, who has followed in the footsteps of his late grandfather Tim as a trainer. "All of the horses mean a lot to all of us," Marlys said. "Amigo Volo is the best one right now, he's the current one, but we've had a lot of good horses in the past. But he's our first top trotting colt. I enjoy watching him, just the way he goes. The races that he won this year, he's just gritty. "We'll be there (for the Hambletonian). I think there will be seven of us coming out. We'll have our own cheering section. David Miller, the other owner, is coming too. We're looking forward to it." What if Amigo Volo goes from being the Pinskes' first Breeders Crown winner to first Hambletonian starter to first horse to win the final from post 10? "That would be the perfect story," Marlys said. For the Allen family, their hopes rest with Big Oil. The colt, a son of Father Patrick out of Cee Bee Yes, was bred by brothers Jason and Doug Allen, who share ownership of the horse with their father Ron. The Allens raced Cee Bee Yes, who was a word-record-setter, and still own her as a broodmare. Big Oil, trained by Julie Miller, has won two of four races this year and finished fourth in his Hambletonian elimination. He will start the final from post four with driver Andy Miller and is 15-1 on the morning line. "I'm happy to be in the race," Jason Allen said. "It would be even better if we could get a check. The filly looked pretty impressive. We need a good trip and a lot of luck. (Big Oil) always tries. You can leave with him, you can take him off the gate; he's pretty handy." In 2016, the Allens finished third in the Hambletonian with Sutton, who was beaten a neck by Marion Marauder in a three-horse photo that included runner-up Southwind Frank. "A few more steps and we might have gotten there," Jason said. Ron Allen got started in harness racing in the late 1980s, partnering with Bruce McElven to buy horses. Several years later, they bred Fool's Goal, who at age 7 was the 2002 Dan Patch Award winner for best older male trotter and earned $3.05 million in his career. "After you get a horse like that, when you win some big races, you want to get another one that wins big races," Jason said. "But it's not so easy." The Allen family runs an oil and propane business, which was started by Ron's grandfather in 1919. Big Oil is a reference to a nickname a friend gave Ron. "It kind of stuck, so we decided we would name a horse Big Oil," Jason said. "We got a little lucky." Is it any more special to be in the Hambletonian with a homebred? "It makes it a little nicer because you own the mare," Jason said, "but it's special to have any horse in the Hambletonian." $1 Million Hambletonian PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML 1-Ready For Moni-Yannick Gingras-Nancy Takter-3/1 2-Back Of The Neck-Scott Zeron-Ake Svanstedt-4/1 3-Hollywood Story-David Miller-Marcus Melander-15/1 4-Big Oil-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-15/1 5-Ramona Hill-Andrew McCarthy-Tony Alagna-5/2 6-Threefiftytwo-Daniel Dube-Luc Blais-6/1 7-Capricornus-Tim Tetrick-Marcus Melander-15/1 8-Rome Pays Off-Mattias Melander-Marcus Melander-15/1 9-Sister Sledge-Brian Sears-Ron Burke-12/1 10-Amigo Volo-Dexter Dunn-Nifty Norman-12/1  by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA     

Hightstown, NJ — No harness racing trainer has ever won the Meadowlands Racetrack’s top events for 3-year-old pacers and trotters — the Meadowlands Pace and Hambletonian Stakes — in the same year. Just being in the position to accomplish the feat is rare enough, but that is the spot in which Nancy Takter finds herself this year. Takter won the Meadowlands Pace in July with Tall Dark Stranger. On Saturday, she sends out Ready For Moni in the $1 million Hambletonian final at The Big M. The only other trainer this century to win the Pace and have a Hambletonian finalist was Ray Schnittker in 2010, when One More Laugh captured the Pace and Cassis was eighth in the Hambletonian. Schnittker is among seven trainers to win both the Pace and Hambletonian during their careers. The others are Billy Haughton, Ray Remmen, Chuck Sylvester, Blair Burgess, Steve Elliott, and Linda Toscano. “I think that would be pretty awesome,” Takter said about winning the Pace and Hambletonian in the same year. “That would be pretty cool.” Ready For Moni, with Yannick Gingras in the sulky, is the 3-1 second choice on the Hambletonian morning line. He won his elimination last weekend by three-quarters of a length over Threefiftytwo in 1:51.3. The colt is 2-for-2 this year, with his first victory coming in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial in 1:51.4. Ramona Hill, one of two fillies taking on the boys in the Hambletonian, is the 5-2 favorite. The Hambletonian is the first jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown. CBS Sports Network will air a delayed one-hour broadcast of the Hambletonian from 6-7 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. The stakes-filled card at The Meadowlands starts at noon. “Ready For Moni trained really good Wednesday morning,” Takter said. “He came out of the elim really good and seems like he’s gotten a step better. Maybe he’ll be a little sharper after training and he’s as close to peaking as we can get him off of two starts for the year. But sometimes less is more. I think he’ll be fine. “You want them to be fresh. Some horses do need a race, horses that are a little laid back. Horses that are racehorses, they show up on race day. As long as they have a foundation and conditioning, they don’t need a lot of racing.” Ready For Moni is a son of French star Ready Cash out of Nothing But Moni. For his career he has won six of 10 races and $374,020. He is owned by John Fielding, Lindy Farms of Connecticut, Herb Liverman, and Bud Hatfield. In addition to the Hambletonian, Takter has two horses in the $600,000 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old female trotters. Sorella is the 7-2 second choice and Panem is 6-1. Marcus Melander-trained Hypnotic AM is the 5-2 favorite. Only two trainers have ever won the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks in the same year, Takter’s father Jimmy and Jan Johnson. Sorella has won three of four races this year, including a division of the W.N. Reynolds Memorial in 1:50.2, and five of 13 races lifetime. She is owned by breeder Elmer Fannin, Crawford Farms Racing, and Brent Fannin. A daughter of Muscle Hill out of Kadealia, she starts the Oaks from post seven with driver Gingras. Sorella has won three of four races this year. “She trained really well; I was really happy with her, she looked awesome,” Takter said. “She looks like she could be in top condition for Saturday. I know Yannick is kind of happy with her spot behind the gate, so I think all systems are go with her. We just need some luck.” Panem, a daughter of Father Patrick out of Katniss, has a win and three seconds in four starts this year. For her career, the homebred filly has won three of 14 races for Diamond Creek Racing. She will start the Oaks from post 11, in the second tier, with driver Dexter Dunn. “She also trained very well,” Takter said. “The biggest obstacle is going to be the 11-hole, but it is what it is and I’m sure Dexter can figure out how to get her out at some point from there. If anybody can do it, he can. Panem has a win and three seconds in four starts this year. “I’m looking forward to that race. I think both my horses are very good; we tossed around the idea of putting them in against the colts (in the Hambletonian). I think they’re both in a good spot.” Takter has a total of 14 horses racing on Hambletonian Day, including Manchego in the Dr. John Steele Memorial, Tall Dark Stranger in the Cane Pace (the first jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown), Kissin In The Sand in the Lady Liberty, and Locatelli and Type A in the Peter Haughton Memorial. “That’s good, it’ll keep me busy,” Takter said. “There’s no time for nerves then, you just have to keep getting your job done.” For complete entries for Saturday’s card at The Big M, click here. by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

Judy Taylor has spent decades in the harness racing game, first with her husband Jerry and then also with her son Howard after he followed in his dad's footsteps, and she says her horse buying days are drawing to an end. So, if her partnership with Howard on Hambletonian Stakes finalist Back Of The Neck represents something of a last hurrah, it also has presented ample reason for Judy to exclaim hurray. Back Of The Neck is the 4-1 third choice on the morning line in Saturday's $1 million Hambletonian for 3-year-old trotters at The Meadowlands. The colt has two wins and two seconds in four races this year, with his first setback coming by a nose in his seasonal debut and the other by a half-length to Ramona Hill in last weekend's Hambletonian eliminations. Sandwiched between those races were two 1:52 wins, first in a division of the W.N. Reynolds Memorial and the second in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial. The Taylors share ownership of Back Of The Neck, a son of French star Ready Cash out of Big Barb, with breeder Stefan Balazsi's Order By Stable. For his career, Back Of The Neck has won five of 13 races and $216,320. He will start the Hambletonian from post two with Scott Zeron driving for trainer Ake Svanstedt. Ramona Hill, one of two fillies in the race, is the 5-2 favorite from post five for driver Andy McCarthy and trainer Tony Alagna. The Hambletonian is the first jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown. CBS Sports Network will air a delayed one-hour broadcast of the Hambletonian from 6-7 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. The stakes-filled card at The Meadowlands starts at noon. "I've been in the business for a lot of years, but I've never had anything quite like this," Judy said. "It's very, very exciting. We'll just hope for the best. I've experienced enough of this to know that sometimes you're disappointed. Hopefully, this time I won't be, and we'll be in the winner's circle." This not Judy's first Hambletonian horse. She and Howard were among the owners of Jacksons Minion, who finished fifth in the 2015 Hambletonian. Jacksons Minion was 58-1. "This is definitely a little different caliber," Judy said. Jerome "Jerry" Taylor, a Philadelphia-based attorney who passed away in 2013, got the family started in racing when he decided in the early 1970s to buy a horse. The horse he purchased was Leander Lobell, who as a 3-year-old raced on the Grand Circuit against the likes of Most Happy Fella and Columbia George. Except, Jerry bought the horse at age 4. "My husband wanted to be in the horse business, which was rather alien to someone like him," Judy said with a laugh. "But, anyway, he decided he wanted a horse because he had gone out to Brandywine and Liberty Bell for many years. "He went with a friend to a horse sale, and he knew as much about horses as you know about moon walks. They bought a horse in the sale that was the most expensive one because they thought that's how you get a good one. They didn't know anything, all they did was buy a horse. But that's how it all started." Jerry, though, enjoyed his share of successes over the years, among the most notable New Jersey Sire Stakes and Grand Circuit champion Devil's Adversary, and loved the sport. "Horses mean a lot to me, but they meant even more to him," Howard said. "He never, ever missed a race. He would go everywhere, and he absolutely loved them. "I remember friends of his would get mad at him because he would never make plans to go anywhere until after the draw came out. You couldn't call him up to see what he was doing next weekend because he wanted to see if his horse got in to race. He knew what he was doing if the horse got in." Howard developed his own passion for racing, getting licensed as a trainer and driver in addition to owning horses. Howard, also an attorney, was among the owners of 2018 Hambletonian winner Atlanta and his many other notable horses included three-time Dan Patch Award winning trotter Buck I St Pat. "When kids went to camp in the summertime, he went to the track and learned how to rig a horse and all that," Judy said. "He always loved it since he was a kid. "He's very knowledgeable. I listen to what he tells me. I told him this is my last hurrah; I'll go with you (on a horse) if it's OK and hopefully we'll have a little luck. You buy what you think is good, the breeding is good, and then you hope for the best. He's been very successful. We'll keep our fingers crossed." Howard said as thrilled as he is for another chance to win the Hambletonian, he's most happy for his mom. "She's nervous, but she is very excited," Howard said. "She's having a good time." $1 Million Hambletonian PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML 1-Ready For Moni-Yannick Gingras-Nancy Takter-3/1 2-Back Of The Neck-Scott Zeron-Ake Svanstedt-4/1 3-Hollywood Story-David Miller-Marcus Melander-15/1 4-Big Oil-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-15/1 5-Ramona Hill-Andrew McCarthy-Tony Alagna-5/2 6-Threefiftytwo-Scott Zeron, Luc Blais-6/1 7-Capricornus-Tim Tetrick-Marcus Melander-15/1 8-Rome Pays Off-Mattias Melander-Marcus Melander-15/1 9-Sister Sledge-Brian Sears-Ron Burke-12/1 10-Amigo Volo-Dexter Dunn-Nifty Norman-12/1 by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Only once since 1992 has a trainer won the Hambletonian in consecutive years, but Luc Blais hopes he can accomplish the harness racing feat Saturday. Blais won last year's Hambletonian with Forbidden Trade, who upset favorite Greenshoe to win harness racing's premier event for 3-year-old trotters. This year, he sends Threefiftytwo to the $1 million final at The Meadowlands. Threefiftytwo finished second to Ready For Moni in his Hambletonian elimination this past weekend and is 6-1 on the morning line. Jimmy Takter is the most recent trainer to win the Hambletonian in back-to-back years, with Trixton in 2014 and Pinkman in 2015. "We've got a chance, that's for sure; we're in," Blais said, adding with a laugh, "The first part is to be in. The second part is tougher. Everything needs to be perfect that day. A healthy horse, the best trip, everything needs to be perfect." The Hambletonian is the first jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown. CBS Sports Network will air a delayed one-hour broadcast of the Hambletonian from 6-7 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. The stakes-filled card at The Meadowlands starts at noon. Threefiftytwo has won five of 13 career races and $167,818. His victories last year included a leg of the Define The World Series and two legs of the Ontario Sire Stakes Gold series. He finished fourth in the sire stakes final. This season, Threefiftytwo has a win and a second in four races. His triumph came in a conditioned race at Woodbine Mohawk Park in 1:52.3. In his start prior to the Hambletonian elim, he went off stride in a division of the Ontario Sire Stakes Gold series. The colt is owned by Determination stable, which also owned Forbidden Trade. Threefiftytwo is a son of 2013 Hambletonian winner Royalty For Life out of Four Damsals and was trained by Royalty For Life's conditioner George Ducharme before being purchased by Determination following his first start. "He's a nice horse," Blais said. "He was a tricky horse a little bit in the beginning. I think it took us a little time to figure him out. We made a few changes. I think this year he is more mature. I know he made a break the start before (the elimination) but I think he went too fast in the turn. Two weeks ago, he raced super good and the other night he looked good again. He raced very good." For the past seven years, the Hambletonian eliminations and final were raced on the same day. This year, the format returned to contesting eliminations the week prior to the final, which Blais said is a benefit to Threefiftytwo. "He's a different horse than Forbidden Trade," Blais said. "He's more anxious, he's not a cool horse. To have the elimination and then the final the week after is perfect for him. That is better than a doubleheader, that's for sure." Hambletonian elimination winners Ramona Hill, one of two fillies taking on the boys along with Sister Sledge, and Ready For Moni were guaranteed starting spots in posts one through five for the final. Ramona Hill will start from post five and is the 5-2 morning-line favorite. Ready For Moni will start from post one and is 3-1. Threefiftytwo will start from post six. Scott Zeron drove the colt in his elimination, but also is listed to drive 4-1 Back Of The Neck in the final. "That's a good draw for him," Blais said. "He likes to leave a little bit and that's a good place for him. He will be very focused for that. "It's exciting all the time to race in this kind of race," Blais added. "It is a big race. We enjoyed the moment (last year)." In addition to having Threefiftytwo in the Hambletonian, Blais has long shot Whose Blues in the $600,000 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old female trotters. Whose Blues, a daughter of Cantab Hall out of Bright Baby Blues, finished eighth in an Oaks prep this past weekend at The Meadowlands. Whose Blues won the Pure Ivory Series last year. She has won six of 13 career races and $92,874 for owner Determination. She is 20-1 on the Oaks morning line. "She raced just OK," Blais said. "I'm going to try to work on that." $1 Million Hambletonian PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML 1-Ready For Moni-Yannick Gingras-Nancy Takter-3/1 2-Back Of The Neck-Scott Zeron-Ake Svanstedt-4/1 3-Hollywood Story-Tim Tetrick-Marcus Melander-15/1 4-Big Oil-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-15/1 5-Ramona Hill-Andrew McCarthy-Tony Alagna-5/2 6-Threefiftytwo-Scott Zeron, Luc Blais-6/1 7-Capricornus-Tim Tetrick-Marcus Melander-15/1 8-Rome Pays Off-Mattias Melander-Marcus Melander-15/1 9-Sister Sledge-Brian Sears-Ron Burke-12/1 10-Amigo Volo-Dexter Dunn-Nifty Norman-12/1 $600,000 Hambletonian Oaks PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML 1-Crucial-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-15/1 2-Next Level Stuff-Tim Tetrick-Jim Campbell-9/2 3-Reba Blue Chip-Verlin Yoder-Verlin Yoder-20/1 4-May Baby-James Yoder-James Yoder-10/1 5-Tricky Sister-Corey Callahan-Andrew Harris-20/1 6-Whose Blues-Daniel Dube-Luc Blais-20/1 7-Sorella-Yannick Gingras-Nancy Takter-7/2 8-Fortune Starlet-No Driver-George Ducharme-15/1 9-Solsbury Hill-Scott Zeron-Rick Zeron-12/1 10-Ab'sattitudexpress-Tim Tetrick-Lucas Wallin-20/1 11-Panem-Dexter Dunn-Nancy Takter-6/1 12-Hypnotic AM-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-5/2 by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

East Rutherford, NJ --- Ramona Hill rallied from the back of the pack to defeat Back Of The Neck in the first of Saturday's two $50,000 Hambletonian Stakes eliminations at the Meadowlands and Ready For Moni rolled to victory in the second as the stage was set for next week's $1 million harness racing final. The Hambletonian is harness racing's premier event for 3-year-old trotters. The top-five finishers from each elimination advanced to the Aug. 8 final at the Big M. Joining Ramona Hill and Back Of The Neck in the final from the first elim were, in order of finish, Amigo Volo, Big Oil, and Hollywood Story. Joining Ready For Moni from the second elim were Threefiftytwo, Capricornus, Sister Sledge, and Rome Pays Off. Ramona Hill and Sister Sledge are fillies. This was the first time multiple fillies took on the boys in the Hambletonian since Act Of Grace and Continentalvictory in 1996, and only the second time since 1983. Marcus Melander, the 2019 Trainer of the Year in the U.S., has three of the finalists: Capricornus, Hollywood Story, and Rome Pays Off. Threefiftytwo is trained by Luc Blais, who won last year's Hambletonian with Forbidden Trade. As elimination winners, Ramona Hill and Ready For Moni got to draw for posts in positions one through five. Ready For Moni, who was randomly selected first to draw, got post one and Ramona Hill got post five. Posts two through four went to Back Of The Neck, Hollywood Story, and Big Oil, respectively. Starting outside Ramona Hill in posts six through 10 will be Threefiftytwo, Capricornus, Rome Pays Off, Sister Sledge, and Amigo Volo. In the first elimination, Ramona Hill, the 2019 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old filly trotter, was last in the eight-horse field and forced three wide around the final turn before flying home and besting Back Of The Neck by a half-length in 1:51.2. Her last quarter was timed in :25.4.   Andy McCarthy drove Ramona Hill, the 6-5 favorite, for trainer Tony Alagna. Ramona Hill, who captured the Del Miller Memorial on July 18 in 1:50.3 at the Meadowlands, has won two of three starts this season. "She's been great," Alagna said. "She was a very immature 2-year-old and she was still able to get the job done. We were so happy with how she came back (in the winter) in Florida. Her first start, she raced super off the pace and two weeks ago she was sparkling and tonight she's even better." Alagna was patient with Ramona Hill last year, giving the filly a midseason break in a campaign that culminated with a win in the Breeders Crown from post 10 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. "I knew what we had, we just had to do the right thing," Alagna said. "We waited on her when she needed it and she paid us back." Ramona Hill is a daughter of Muscle Hill out of Lock Down Lindy. She is owned by Brad Grant, Crawford Farms Racing, Robert LeBlanc, and In The Gym Partners. She was bred by Crawford Farms. For her career, she has won eight of 10 races and $556,865. Alagna said the decision to enter Ramona Hill in the Hambletonian rather than the all-fillies Hambletonian Oaks was made last Sunday. "I think as a group we all kind of knew what we were all thinking in the back of our minds, but we all waited to pull the trigger at the same time," Alagna said. "We were all willing to give it a shot. The big decision was the fact they don't go two heats on one day." In the second elimination, Ready For Moni took the lead at the half-mile mark and never looked back on his way to victory by three-quarters of a length over Threefiftytwo in 1:51.3.   Yannick Gingras drove Ready For Moni, the 6-5 favorite, for trainer Nancy Takter. Ready For Moni is 2-for-2 this year, winning a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial in 1:51.4 on July 18 at the Meadowlands in his seasonal debut. "The way the schedule has been this year, it's been a little difficult to find races," Takter said. "We didn't want to have him over-raced going into the Hambletonian, so he had a couple nice qualifiers to kind of let him get into his own and hopefully he'll take this race in the right way and be even sharper for next week. "There are a lot of small parts to the puzzle that need to be put together in the right spot for everything to go perfectly on Hambletonian Day," Takter added. "But with the win here we get post-position relief, so that will be a big help. But there are a lot of things that need to go right." Ready For Moni is a son of French star Ready Cash out of the mare Nothing But Moni. He is owned by John Fielding, Lindy Farms of Connecticut, Herb Liverman, and Bud Hatfield. The colt was bred by Moni Maker Stable. For his career, Ready For Moni has won six of 10 races and $374,020. He joined Takter's stable this year. "Ready For Moni was trained down in Florida with Lindy Farms through his winter training and came to me a few weeks ago, right before he was getting ready to qualify," Takter said. "So, they did all the heavy lifting with him, we've just kind of done the fine-tuning to get him a little bit sharper for the races. They did a great job with him and they get a lot of credit for how the horse is right now." by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

East Rutherford, NJ --- Hypnotic AM and driver Brian Sears grabbed the lead on the backstretch prior to the half-mile point and cruised to victory in Saturday's $15,000 harness racing prep for 3-year-old filly trotters entered in next week's Hambletonian Oaks, defeating May Baby by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:52.3 at the Meadowlands. Solsbury Hill finished third. Hypnotic AM, the even-money favorite, started from post eight in the eight-horse field and raced on the outside until clearing early leader Solsbury Hill for the top spot following an opening quarter of :27.1. From there, the Marcus Melander-trained filly reached the half in :56.3 and three-quarters in 1:24.4 on the way to her third win in four tries this season.   "I was just going to try to go forward if it looked like it was possible and take it from there," Sears said. Eliminations were unnecessary for the Hambletonian Oaks, the sport's top race for 3-year-old filly trotters. Twelve horses entered the Oaks, with eight opting to race in Saturday's prep at the Meadowlands. The $600,000 Hambletonian Oaks is Aug. 8 at the Big M, part of a card that includes the $1 million Hambletonian Stakes. Hypnotic AM is a daughter of Chapter Seven out of Daydream AM S. She is owned by breeder Courant Inc. and her triumphs this year include the Empire Breeders Classic. For her career, Hypnotic AM has won 10 of 13 races and $624,725. "We've come back this year and tried to get her to relax a little bit," Sears said. "At the end of last year she was getting a little warm with us, but Marcus has done a great job keeping her calm and she's been doing everything we've asked so far." by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

After a season in which he was prone to missteps, No Lou Zing is finding his best harness racing stride this year. No Lou Zing's display of winning talent is not a surprise to driver Josert Fonseca, who will join the horse in making the biggest start to date in both their careers in Saturday's (Aug. 1) $375,000 Delvin Miller Adios final at The Meadows. No Lou Zing, who went off stride in all three of his races last year and was shut down before summer's end, has three wins and two second-place finishes this season. The gelding heads to the Adios off a third-placed-second effort in his elimination, which was won by Papi Rob Hanover in a world-record 1:47.1 last weekend. Papi Rob Hanover was scratched from the final because of a season-ending injury, leaving Catch The Fire, also an elimination winner last week, the 3-1 morning-line favorite. No Lou Zing, trained by Nancy Takter, is 7-1 and will start from post five in the nine-horse field of 3-year-old pacers. "I have a lot of confidence in him," Fonseca said. "He doesn't get tired at all. He's got a great engine, he's got great speed, and he'll just go forever. I think it's really an open race now that Papi Rob is not in there. They're all even, good horses. "You never know how a race is going to turn out, but if I can put him in the right spot, he'll get down there just as good as last weekend." No Lou Zing is a son of Sweet Lou out of Terroronthebeach. He was purchased under the name Lou's Beach for $145,000 at the 2018 Standardbred Horse Sale. He is owned by 3 Brothers Stables, Rojan Stables, and Caviart Farms. "He was a very good-looking yearling," Fonseca said. "He started training down and always looked the part, he looked beautiful, but he made unnecessary breaks and things like that. He could qualify OK just babying him around, but every time we put him in a race, he would make a mistake. He got a little tense, you could feel it right away behind the gate. He just needed more time. "Training down this year in the winter, he grew so much more mentally and he got a lot braver and stronger. This horse is fast, he just had to learn and relax a little bit. We had to take our time. Before you knew it, he was getting better and better. We got a little more excited at the beginning of this year. We saw a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel." No Lou Zing started three times in conditioned races, finishing second to Splash Brother in his seasonal debut before winning back-to-back starts. He continued his winning ways in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes before his Adios elim. "Nancy has done a really good job with him," said Fonseca, a Takter assistant who has driven No Lou Zing in all but one of his eight lifetime starts. "I get along great with the horse. I think it's very beneficial for him; I know his weaknesses and his strengths. "He's been in great spirits this week. I think everything is in order so far and we just have to execute." The 31-year-old Fonseca had no knowledge of harness racing when he began working as a groom for Takter's father, Jimmy, eight years ago. Fonseca was born in Costa Rica, where he spent his early childhood before moving to New Jersey at the age of 8. He graduated from a high school located not far from Takter's stable but spent several years working in a variety of jobs before a friend introduced him to the sport. Fonseca began driving in 2018. He has won 27 of 158 starts, including four of 13 this year. "Obviously, this is what you dream of," Fonseca said. "Like I've said before, just to qualify a horse for anybody was a big deal and now I've been driving a little more. This is a great opportunity." The Adios is race 15, with an estimated post time of 4:02 p.m. (EDT). Here's the field with post positions, trainers, drivers and morning line odds: $375,000 Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids 1. Later Dudes-Brian Brown-David Miller-8-1 2. Capt Midnight-Tony Alagna-Andrew McCarthy-4-1 3. Catch The Fire-John Ackley-Mike Wilder-3-1 4. The Greek Freak-Ron Burke-Matt Kakaley-5-1 5. No Lou Zing-Nancy Takter-Josert Fonseca-7-1 6. Sweet Truth-Ron Burke-Yannick Gingras-12-1 7. Chief Mate-Tony Alagna-Scott Zeron-20-1 8. Captain Barbossa-Tony Alagna-Brian Sears-6-1 9. Elver Hanover-Ron Burke-Chris Page-10-1 by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

On Saturday,harness racing trainer Julie Miller will experience her Hambletonian present. One night earlier, maybe she will get a glimpse at her Hambletonian future. Miller sends out Big Oil in the first of Saturday's two $50,000 Hambletonian eliminations at The Meadowlands. The top-five finishers from each elim advance to the $1 million final for 3-year-old trotters Aug. 8 at The Big M. On Friday, she will watch Venerate in the lone $20,000 elimination of the Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-old male trotters at The Meadowlands. The top-seven finishers will join bye recipients Locatelli, Spy Booth, and Type A in the final, also Aug. 8. Big Oil is 10-1 on the morning line in his Hambletonian elimination. Andy Miller will drive the colt, who starts from post four. Back Of The Neck is the 2-1 favorite, followed by Amigo Volo at 7-2, Beads at 9-2, and Dan Patch Award winning filly Ramona Hill at 5-1. Ready For Moni is the 5-2 favorite in the second elimination. "I'm proud just to be in the race, first of all," Miller said. "I think that's a really deep group. I think it's the tougher (elimination) but it's going to be even tougher next week, so we might as well get it figured out this Saturday. I just hope we have a little luck. Actually, a lot of luck." Big Oil, a son of Father Patrick out of former Miller standout and world-record-setter Cee Bee Yes, won two of eight races last year and hit the board a total of six times. He finished in a dead-heat for win with Real Cool Sam in a division of the International Stallion Stakes at Red Mile in 1:52.1, a clocking that was the second fastest of the year for a 2-year-old male trotter. This season, Big Oil opened with wins in a conditioned race and division of the Pennsylvania All-Stars before finishing third behind Back Of The Neck and Third Shift in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial. "I've been trying to manage him and get ready for this race," Miller said. "I just hope I've got my I's dotted and my T's crossed. I think he's special, but of course because he's mine, I think that way. I just hope I've got him the best he can be and he can leave it all on the racetrack. "When Andy gets behind him and they start to go, he gives 110 percent. He's handy, it's not like he's got to be raced from behind or he's got to be up front or he's got to have this or that. He has a good relationship with Andy and when Andy asks, he's going to deliver." Big Oil, a homebred owned by Jason Allen, Doug Allen, and Ron Allen, also owns a big personality. "No matter what is going on, he never loses his zest for life," Miller said. "He has this whinny where he doesn't open his mouth, it's like an internal one; it's the weirdest thing I've ever seen. He's got such a personality. Anybody that comes in the barn, everybody knows him. He makes sure his presence is felt. He's just a fun horse in that respect." Prior to last year, Miller posted three consecutive top-three finishes in Hambletonian finals. In 2018, Met's Hall finished second to Atlanta. In 2017, Devious Man was third-placed-second and a year earlier Sutton was a fast-closing third, beaten only a neck, in the race won by Marion Marauder. As for the Haughton elim, Venerate won his only start this year, a 1:55.1 triumph in a conditioned race at The Meadowlands on July 17. The colt is 7-2 on the morning line, second choice behind 3-1 Caruso from Hall of Famer Joe Holloway's stable. "He's just been a pleasure," Miller said. "He doesn't realize what he's doing yet and it's fun to see his development. He's a big good-looking colt. People always ask me, 'Who is that?' He's eye-catching on the track." Venerate is a son of standout French sire Love You out of Peaceful Kemp. He sold for $90,000 at last fall's Lexington Selected Sale and his family includes 2014 Hambletonian winner Trixton as well as Dan Patch Award winners Andover Hall and Conway Hall. He is owned by Pinske Stables and Andy Miller Stable Inc. Carter Pinske had the colt in Florida for the winter before sending him north to Miller's stable in New Jersey. "We went down a couple times to train with Carter and we were really impressed with him," Miller said. "As luck would have it, he is Kentucky sired, which starts (its sire stakes series) after this race, so we really just babied him along. I was happy with his race, for him to get stretched out a little to see what we've got. I think he deserves a chance in (the Haughton)." In addition to the Haughton elimination on Friday, there are two $20,000 elims of the Jim Doherty Memorial for 2-year-old female trotters. Insta Glam, 2-for-2 on the Pennsylvania stakes circuit for trainer Nancy Takter, is the 7-5 favorite in the first; New Jersey Sire Stakes champion Altar, from trainer Per Engblom's stable, is the 8-5 choice in the second. Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EDT) Friday and Saturday at The Meadowlands. For Friday's complete entries, click here. For Saturday, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA     

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