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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     

Ake Svanstedt believes Back Of The Neck has got it all, which is everything a harness racing horse needs in the Hambletonian. Back Of The Neck is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the first of Saturday's two $50,000 Hambletonian Stakes eliminations at The Meadowlands. The colt is a nose from being unbeaten in three races this season and will start from post one with Scott Zeron in the sulky for trainer Svanstedt. The top-five finishers from each elimination advance to the $1 million Hambletonian final Aug. 8 at the Big M. Elim winners draw for post one through five for the final. The Hambletonian is racing's premier event for 3-year-old trotters. Svanstedt will send out a total of four horses in the eliminations, with Third Shift joining Back Of The Neck in the first, followed by Jula Trix Treasure and Moon Bridge in the second. First post is at 7:15 p.m. (EDT) and the Hambletonian eliminations are races six and eight on the 13-race card. Back Of The Neck, trained by Marcus Melander in 2019, won three of nine races last year, including a division of the W.N. Reynolds Memorial and an elimination of the Willliam Wellwood Memorial. He finished third in the Wellwood final. This year, the colt was second in a 3-year-old open before winning divisions of the Reynolds and Stanley Dancer Memorial, both in 1:52. All three starts were at The Meadowlands. "He has won with power left every time," Svanstedt said. "He feels good and he trains good. I think he's in good condition. "He is a strong horse. He has a big engine and is good gaited. I think he has a good head also. I think he has everything. But for a horse to have a chance to win the Hambletonian, they must have everything. They must have the power, they must have the speed, and they must have the heart. They must want to win." Back Of The Neck raced on the lead in his first start in 2020, but from off the pace in his most recent outings, winning with strong stretch drives. "Scott said he was grabby the first time, but the last two races he hasn't been grabby," Svanstedt said. "It was no problem to back off. He is very nice to drive and he can come home very fast." Zeron is already a two-time winner of the Hambletonian at the age of 31. He won in 2018 with Atlanta and in 2016 with Marion Marauder, who went on to sweep the Trotting Triple Crown (Hambletonian, Yonkers Trot, Kentucky Futurity). Back Of The Neck is owned by Howard Taylor, Judy Taylor, and breeder Order By Stable. The colt is a son of French star Ready Cash out of Big Barb. Ready Cash also sired the favorite in the second Hambletonian elimination, Ready For Moni. Third Shift heads to his Hambletonian elim off a second-place finish behind Back Of The Neck in the Dancer. In his other two starts this season, he won a division of the New York Sire Stakes and a division of the Empire Breeders Classic. Last year, the son of Chapter Seven-Overnight Command won three of eight races, including the New York Sire Stakes championship. He will start from post two in his Hambletonian elim, with Svanstedt driving. "I think Back Of The Neck is a better horse, but Third Shift is not so bad," said Svanstedt, who owns Third Shift with Mellby Gard Inc. "I raced him (on the lead) last time, drove him tough, because I wanted to stretch him out before the Hambo. I think he can do better." Svanstedt also will drive Jula Trix Treasure in the second Hambletonian elimination. Jula Trix Treasure, by 2014 Hambletonian winner Trixton out of Victory Treasure, won a division of the Reynolds on July 11 in 1:51.2, which is tied for the second-fastest victory time by any of the 17 horses entered in the Hambletonian. For his career, he has won four of 10 races for owner Jula Racing. He enters his Hambletonian elim off a fifth-place finish in the Tompkins-Geers Stakes last week. He will start from post three and is 6-1 on the morning line. "The last race he wasn't a hundred percent gaited and lost ground in the last turn," Svanstedt said. "We're going to do some small changes to try to make his gait better. He's always been strong and comes home good. He's a fighter." Moon Bridge, who will have Andy Miller in the sulky, has a win and a second in three starts this year. His triumph came in his most recent race, July 17, by 12-1/4 lengths in 1:52.2. The Hambletonian elim will be his first Grand Circuit race of the season. Last year, he won two of eight races, including the Ontario Sire Stakes championship. Moon Bridge, a son of E L Titan-Classic Belle, will start Saturday from post nine and is 20-1. He is owned by Esa Lahtinen, Janne Korpi, and Jussi Hietalahti. "He's good gaited and he always does the job," said Svanstedt, who won the 2017 Hambletonian with Perfect Spirit as the result of What The Hill's disqualification for interference. "I think he's as good as he can be. We'll see how far he can go." Eliminations for the Aug. 8 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old filly trotters were unnecessary, but eight Oaks finalists will be in action in an open for 3-year-old filly trotters. Also in action will be Meadowlands Pace champ Tall Dark Stranger in the Tompkins-Geers Stakes for 3-year-old male pacers. For complete entries, click here.  Ken Weingartner, for the USTA     

Sister Sledge might not have attracted overwhelming attention heading into this year's Hambletonian, but as one of two harness racing fillies in Saturday's (Aug. 1) eliminations at The Meadowlands, she should find plenty of eyes on her now. The Ron Burke-trained Sister Sledge has won three of four races this season and 11 of 16 lifetime. She has hit the board in every start, finishing worse than second only once, on her way to $622,058 in purses. Sister Sledge finished second to Ramona Hill in Dan Patch Award voting for best 2-year-old female trotter of 2019. Ramona Hill also was entered in the Hambletonian, which is the sport's premier race for 3-year-old trotters. This is the first time multiple fillies will take on the boys in the Hambletonian since Act Of Grace and Continentalvictory in 1996, and only the second time since 1983. Continentalvictory won the 1996 Hambletonian and was the last filly winner until Atlanta in 2018. Sister Sledge is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line in the second of Saturday's two $50,000 Hambletonian eliminations. She will start from post two in a nine-horse field. Ready For Moni, trained by Nancy Takter, is the 5-2 favorite after winning his only start of the season, a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial on July 18, in 1:51.4. The top-five finishers from each elimination advance to the $1 million Hambletonian final Aug. 8 at The Meadowlands. "We're in a very good spot," Burke said. "(Post two) gives her options. It's going to be tough, but I at least like where we're starting." Burke decided Tuesday morning to put Sister Sledge up against the boys in the Hambletonian, rather than entering the fillies-only Hambletonian Oaks, but it was something he had been considering all year. "I don't think the Hambo is any tougher than the Oaks," Burke said. "I think if you graded the races out, they would be equal. If anything, I thought the fillies were a tad tougher. So even if you say they're even, one race goes for $1 million and the other goes for ($600,000). It doesn't take a lot of brain work to realize that if I can race for a million in basically the same class, I'm going to go for the million. "I think there are a lot of very nice horses (in the Hambletonian) but I don't think anyone is tons better than the others. So, I'll take my shot. It wasn't like you were going to go to the Oaks and just go a training mile around there. They're going to go too. Hopefully, we get past the elimination. I like the decision I made. Even if it doesn't work out, in my mind, I put time into it and thought it out and I had reasons for what I did." Another factor was the return to Hambletonian eliminations being contested the week prior to the final, rather than the single-day format for elims and final in recent years. "If there had been two heats, it would have been a different decision," Burke said. In the build up to this year's Hambletonian, several fillies were mentioned as possible contenders to challenge the boys, with Ramona Hill, Sorella, Hypnotic AM, and Panem among that group. Sister Sledge was not. "I don't know where she fell out of favor," Burke said. "To me, she was the best filly last year; you could rate her or Ramona Hill. This year, everyone is talking about different horses. We beat all them last year and all we've done basically this year is win. If you look at her lines, she's consistently good. Even when she's been beat, there have been excuses. I think she's classy. I think she deserves the shot." Sister Sledge, a daughter of Father Patrick out of Behindclosedoors, won her first two races this season at The Meadows, both Grand Circuit stakes, by a total of 10 lengths. She finished second by a quarter-length in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at Harrah's Philadelphia before winning a division of the Tompkins-Geers Stakes by 4-3/4 lengths in 1:51.2 at The Meadowlands last weekend. "We've gone where her races are," said Burke, who trains the filly for Burke Racing, Jason Melillo, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby, and Weaver Bruscemi. "She's a Pennsylvania-bred, I'm not going to race her at The Meadowlands every start. I've got to make money with her. The money was in Pa., knowing I would come (to The Meadowlands) the week before the Hambo. "She's been great. Maybe she didn't get around Philly great, but she was great at The Meadows and, to me, she has every right to improve off that (last start). She's only been (at The Meadowlands) one week and she needed to stretch. I think you'll see her be better." Among the 17 Hambletonian entrants, Sister Sledge's 1:51.2 mile is tied for second fastest this year. Ramona Hill holds the fastest win time in the group, 1:50.3. Ramona Hill is 5-1 in the first Hambletonian elimination, starting from post seven in the eight-horse field with Andy McCarthy driving for trainer Tony Alagna. Back Of The Neck, trained by Ake Svanstedt, is the 2-1 favorite. Amigo Volo, last season's male 2-year-old Breeders Crown champion, is 7-2 and Beads is 9-2. Last year, Ramona Hill won six of seven races, capped by her victory from post 10 in the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old filly trotters at Woodbine Mohawk Park. She has raced twice this year, finishing third in her debut before winning the Del Miller Memorial with her 1:50.3 score from post 10 on July 18 at The Meadowlands. "I have a lot of confidence in Ramona Hill; she'll get me where I need to go," McCarthy said. "When you have a horse that you know whatever happens, I know I'm going to leave fast enough to either make the front or get close and we can figure it out after that, it does make you feel better no matter what the draw is. "Pulling up after that mile (in the Del Miller), and it doesn't happen very often, but I actually got goosebumps. Hats off to the horse. I've just got so much respect for her. She's just a game, tough horse, and will do whatever you ask her to do. And she enjoys it." Ramona Hill, a daughter of Muscle Hill out of Lock Down Lindy, is owned by Brad Grant, Crawford Farms Racing, Robert LeBlanc, and In The Gym Partners. Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at The Meadowlands. The Hambletonian eliminations are races six and eight on the 13-race card. Eliminations for the Aug. 8 Hambletonian Oaks were unnecessary, but eight Oaks finalists will be in action in an open for 3-year-old filly trotters. Also in action will be Meadowlands Pace champ Tall Dark Stranger in the Tompkins-Geers Stakes for 3-year-old male pacers. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

A total of 17 three-year-old trotters have entered the harness racing $1M Hambletonian on August 8. There are 15 colts along with two fillies, Ramona Hill (Tony Alagna) & Sister Sledge (Ron Burke) have opted to try the open competition. There will be two $70,000 eliminations carded for this Sat., Aug. 1 and posts will be drawn on Meadowlands Facebook at 1:30 p.m today. There are a total of 12 filly trotters entered for the 50th edition of the Hambletonian Oaks. All 12 will go directly to the $500,000 final slated for Saturday, August 8. Post positions for the Oakes will be drawn during the race card Saturday, Aug. 1 at the Meadowlands. Habletonian Oaks by Ken Weingarter, for the USTA  

Hightstown, NJ - When Reflect With Me races in Friday's (July 24) $100,000 Nadia Lobell for 3-year-old female harness racing pacers, she is likely to be something she has not been in her most recent starts - the favorite. Reflect With Me brings a three-race win streak to Harrah's Hoosier Park for the Nadia Lobell. She closed 2019 with a victory in the Breeders Crown final for 2-year-old filly pacers at odds of 27-1 and opened this season with a win in a conditioned race at 7-1. Last weekend at The Meadowlands, she captured the Mistletoe Shalee Stakes by three-quarters of a length over Lyons Sentinel at 8-1. She starts Friday's Nadia Lobell from post four in a seven-filly field, with Andy McCarthy driving for trainer Tony Alagna. Reflect With Me is the 7-5 favorite on the morning line. "She's been terrific," McCarthy said. "Tony has done a great job getting her to where she's really slick gaited now. When we first started back, there were a couple small issues, she was running in a little bit, but he's fixed her up that way now. She might not be the strongest filly in the country, but she is probably one of the fastest, that's for sure." Reflect With Me's 1:49 win in the Mistletoe Shalee is the season's fastest time for a 3-year-old filly pacer. She has paced her final quarter mile in :25.1 and :25.2 in her two starts this year. "She can do it any way you want, but I do think she's better if you try to trip her out a little bit," McCarthy said. "I definitely think she's better off the pace than toughing it out, she's got such high speed that it just works out better for her that way. She's not going to bully her way around the racetrack, but if she's close at the head of the stretch she's got a good chance of out-sprinting them." Reflect With Me is a daughter of Captaintreacherous out of Remember When. She is owned by breeder Brittany Farms and Brad Grant. For her career, Reflect With Me has won seven of 13 races, missed the board only once, and earned $575,122. In addition to last year's Breeders Crown, her victories in 2019 included divisions of the Champlain Stakes and Eternal Camnation. "I had quite a bit of faith in her coming back this year," McCarthy said. "I figured she would come back good, it was just a matter of how good the others ones came back. I think every filly is going to get her turn this year. I think it's pretty exciting." Priceless, the 2019 Indiana Sire Stakes champion trained and driven by Brandon Bates, is the 3-1 second choice in the Nadia Lobell. Priceless finished fourth in the Mistletoe Shalee. Gai Waterhouse, making her seasonal debut, is 9-2 for trainer Domenico Cecere and driver Michael Oosting. She was the 2019 Kentucky Sire Stakes champ. Racing begins at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) at Hoosier Park. The Nadia Lobell is race No. 7, with an estimated 8:18 p.m. post time. For Friday's complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

Howard Taylor's horses are keeping him up at night, but only for the best of reasons. Taylor, a longtime owner who has experienced his share of success over the years, is enjoying a month to remember and hoping the good times continue as the calendar advances. Among Taylor's July highlights: Trotting mare Atlanta winning the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial over rival Manchego, 3-year-old pacing colt Tall Dark Stranger capturing the Meadowlands Pace after a dramatic stretch duel with rival Papi Rob Hanover, 3-year-old trotting colt Back Of The Neck winning consecutive stakes to stamp himself a prime contender for the Hambletonian, and a sparkling debut from 2-year-old female pacer Somethingbeautiful, who is a half-sister to Taylor's stakes-winner Shnitzledosomethin. "I can't even believe it, it's like everywhere I look," said Taylor, who this year is third in purses among North American owners. "It's almost an embarrassment of riches; I'm on Cloud Nine. "I don't want to go to sleep at night because I'm afraid that when I get up it will be a dream." This weekend, Taylor will watch Captain Groovy compete in the first of three seven-horse eliminations for the Delvin Miller Adios for 3-year-old pacers at The Meadows. The top-three finishers in each elim advance to the Aug. 1 final. Captain Groovy, trained by Ray Schnittker and driven by Mark MacDonald, will start from post six in his elimination. The race includes The Greek Freak, who brings a three-race win streak to the event, and Meadowlands Pace finalist Roll With JR. Last year, Captain Groovy started his campaign with four consecutive wins -- three in divisions of the Pennsylvania Stallion Series and the other in a division of the Pennsylvania All-Stars. He was winless in his remaining five races, with three coming on the Grand Circuit, but was third in a division of the International Stallion Stakes at Lexington's Red Mile. Captain Groovy opened this season with consecutive victories in conditioned races, including a 1:48 score over older horses on June 20 at The Meadowlands. That time is tied for second fastest among all 3-year-old pacers this year. He then finished second in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at Harrah's Philadelphia and fourth in a PASS split last week at The Meadows. "Last year, he started out like some sort of a monster," Taylor said. "Ray did the right thing, he put him in the Stallion Series to get him some education and not stretch him out expecting he would be real good at the end of the year. Then he sort of flattened out, but when he went to Lexington he raced real well. "We turned him out sort of fresh, and when we brought him back this year, I couldn't believe how good he was. The second start, he came first up against some good older horses and blew them away. I was in shock. I'm just hoping it's not a repeat of last year. I don't know what to think about that horse. He's made me a liar every day, both ways." Captain Groovy is a son of Captaintreacherous and first foal out of Lets Groove Tonite. He sold for $90,000 at the 2018 Lexington Selected Sale and in addition to Taylor is owned by Schnittker, Ted Gewertz, and Mary Kinsey Arnold. Taylor has never owned an Adios winner, with his best finish of second coming in 2010 with Versado. Captain Groovy's driver, MacDonald, won the Adios in 2012 with Bolt The Duer. "(Captain Groovy) has got the speed to go with anyone," Taylor said. "I'm hoping for the best. When he's on, he's as good as any. I'm hoping this is a good week." The second elimination of the Adios features Meadowlands Pace runner-up Papi Rob Hanover as well as Pace finalist Captain Barbossa and recent PASS division winners Sea Of Life and No Lou Zing, who has won three consecutive starts since a second-place finish in his seasonal debut. In the third elim, 2019 Ohio Sire Stakes champion and world-record-holder Elver Hanover will look to rebound from his first loss in 11 career races against a field that includes 2020 New Jersey Sire Stakes champ Rockin The Aces and Meadowlands Pace finalists Capt Midnight and Catch The Fire. Racing begins at 12:45 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at The Meadows. The $25,000 Adios eliminations are races five, eight and nine. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Under most circumstances, trainer Nancy Takter would have watched the stretch drive of this past Saturday's Meadowlands Pace and been overcome with a sinking feeling. In those instances, though, she would not have been watching Tall Dark Stranger. Tall Dark Stranger and driver Yannick Gingras captured Saturday's $636,650 Meadowlands Pace in dramatic fashion, giving up the lead to rival Papi Rob Hanover in the stretch before fighting back to win by a neck in 1:47.2. Few people - including Gingras, co-owner Buck Chaffee, and Takter's father Jimmy - thought Tall Dark Stranger would be the winner as the horses began their battle on the final turn. Takter, however, was undaunted as the scene unfolded. "Usually when a horse kind of halfway clears, your heart sinks," Takter said. "I never got that feeling. I never had the feel that I was the loser. It was the weirdest thing ever. I watched the stretch and I had so much confidence in Tall Dark Stranger and knew he would come back. "What a champion he is. He just doesn't want to lose. He's just a great horse." Takter won her first Meadowlands Pace in her second try. In 2019, she finished fourth with favorite Captain Crunch. She also gave the Takter family its first Pace trophy; Jimmy sent out 10 horses in the event for 3-year-old pacers with a best finish of second with Vintage Master in 2009. As is a Takter tradition, the winner's blanket was placed on a bronze horse statue near the entrance of the family's central New Jersey farm. "There have been a lot of great blankets out there, so it was about time that one got on," the 39-year-old Takter said. "When I was growing up, a little kid, Meadowlands Pace night was always a big event. My dad didn't have a lot of pacers at that time, but I remember all these great horses and we would talk about them. I knew it was special to win the Meadowlands Pace." Tall Dark Stranger was the 2019 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male pacer. For his career, he has won 11 of 12 races and earned $1.05 million for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms, and Howard Taylor. The colt, a son of Bettor's Delight out of Precocious Beauty, is Gingras' second Meadowlands Pace winner. Gingras got his first Pace victory with A Rocknroll Dance in 2012. "I have a connection with Tall Dark Stranger that makes it a little different than with A Rocknroll Dance," said Gingras, who has driven Tall Dark Stranger in all his qualifiers and races as well as spent time with the horse at Takter's stable. "Then, you have the expectations. A Rocknroll Dance was 9-2 and things worked out on that day, but you don't have the pressure. "Tall Dark Stranger, he's the champ, he's the one that has to be dethroned. He was 1-2 (odds), it was a lot of pressure. And I know Papi Rob Hanover is a great horse. I knew he would show up. Everyone saw Allywag Hanover, he's super fast too. You put all that together, to be able to get the job done, in that fashion too, is a great, great feeling." Papi Rob Hanover and Allywag Hanover both looked poised to defeat Tall Dark Stranger after the latter went for the lead in a :25.4 opening quarter-mile, then reached the half in :53.2 and three-quarters in 1:20.4. Around the last turn, Papi Rob Hanover pulled even with Tall Dark Stranger, with Allywag Hanover following Papi Rob Hanover's cover. "When Papi Rob came, I really didn't feel like I was a winner there," Gingras said. "I thought I was beat. I knew (Allywag Hanover) was in a perfect spot; I thought I was in trouble with both of them. I thought I would be second or third at that point. I just kept trying to keep my horse alive and he just fought. "Halfway down the stretch, I thought I had a chance. Maybe like a hundred feet before the wire, I knew I had (Papi Rob Hanover) even though I wasn't back in front of him yet. I knew I was getting to him and I had time to get him too. It felt pretty good then. "Tall Dark Stranger is a winner and he knows what he has to do to get the job done. He has the desire to dig down deep and give you that little more that's needed." After winning eight of nine races last season, Tall Dark Stranger is 3-for-3 in 2020 and has two sub-1:48 miles already this year. His 1:47.2 clocking in the Meadowlands Pace ranks tied for eighth best by a 3-year-old pacer in history. Gingras believes the horse's strong start this year is in part due to the way he finished last season. Tall Dark Stranger's connections decided to quit with the colt following his win in the Breeders Crown rather than pursue nearly $600,000 in purses in the Matron Stakes and Governor's Cup. "They could have kept on going last year, but they quit with him after having a great year with him," Gingras said. "They decided they were going to focus on trying to put all the chances on our side for his 3-year-old season, and it paid off. They got rewarded for their patience. I think the credit goes to them and Nancy for doing a good job bringing him back." Tall Dark Stranger's next start is expected to be in the Tompkins-Geers Stakes on Aug. 1 at The Meadowlands. Then comes the Cane Pace the following Saturday at The Big M. In the meantime, Takter will savor the Pace triumph. "I was a little disappointed about last year, so it was nice to come back and get it done this year," she said. "It's a very special accomplishment." by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

Hightstown, NJ — Hambletonian Maturity winner Gimpanzee remained No. 1 in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll, but Meadowlands Pace champion Tall Dark Stranger moved within single digits of the harness racing season’s early leader. Gimpanzee, an undefeated 4-year-old trotting stallion, picked up six first-place votes compared to last week, giving him 24, and increased his points by 17 to 327. Tall Dark Stranger got 10 first-place votes this week and added 80 points to his total from Week 1, taking over the No. 2 position in the rankings. He was followed by Miss Versatility Series third-round winner Manchego, idle Atlanta, and W.R. Haughton Memorial winner Dancin Lou, who was unranked last week. Other newcomers in the top 10 were Del Miller Memorial winner Ramona Hill at No. 7, Stanley Dancer Memorial division winner Back Of The Neck at No. 9, and Meadowlands Pace runner-up Papi Rob Hanover at No. 10. The Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll does not determine Horse of the Year. The members of the U.S. Harness Writers Association vote on all Dan Patch Award division winners plus Trotter of the Year, Pacer of the Year and Horse of the Year. Rankings based on the votes of harness racing media representatives on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown Standardbred Poll: Week 2 – 7/21/2020 Rank Name (First Votes) A/G/S Record Earnings Points Pvs 1 Gimpanzee (24) 4th 4-4-0-0 $401,200 327 1 2 Tall Dark Stranger (10) 3pc 3-3-0-0 $336,785 318 3 3 Manchego 5tm 4-3-1-0 $93,975 245 4 4 Atlanta (1) 5tm 3-2-1-0 $115,450 241 2 5 Dancin Lou 4ph 5-3-0-2 $254,661 128 — 6 Hurrikane Emperor 4ph 4-3-0-1 $158,750 121 5 7 Ramona Hill 3tf 2-1-0-1 $126,465 111 — 8 Shartin N 7pm 3-2-1-0 $83,416 88 7 9 Back Of The Neck 3tc 3-2-1-0 $96,145 75 — 10 Papi Rob Hanover 3pc 3-0-2-1 $160,705 67 — ALSO: Ready For Moni 26; Reflect With Me 22; Hypnotic AM 21; Bet On Becky 19; Backstreet Shadow, Captain Corey 13; Tattoo Artist 12; Kissin In The Sand 11; Allywag Hanover 9; Action Uncle, Yanks Dugout 6; American Courage, Charlie May, Elver Hanover 5; Party Girl Hill, Splash Brother, Workin Ona Mystery 4; Bllack Hole, Our Majordan A, Sorella, Winella Hanover 3; Indictable Hanover, Southwind Amazon 2; Major Occasion A, Odds On Sarasota, Plunge Blue Chip 1. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Major Occasion A and driver Dexter Dunn got an inside trip the entire mile to spring a 50-1 upset over Shartin N in Saturday's (July 18) $172,850 Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older female harness racing pacers at The Meadowlands in a stakes record 1:48.1.   Shartin N, the sport's defending Horse of the Year and 3-5 favorite, was second, and Soho Burning Love A was third in the event formerly known as the Golden Girls.   Starting from post one, Dunn sat second with Major Occasion A as Kissin In The Sand led the field to an opening quarter of :26.1 and half of :54.2 before getting pressure from Shartin N, who was fourth throughout the first half of the race. Kissin In The Sand and Shartin N matched strides at three-quarters in 1:21.1 and battled into the stretch, where Major Occasion A found room along the pylons to scoot to a neck victory.       "It's a surprise, but she's actually been racing really, really good," Dunn said. "Her last quarters have been 25 (seconds); she just hasn't been handling the last turn. They changed her hobbles and she paced a lot better. We got a good trip, obviously, but she has been racing really good. It was a lucky trip, but she's a nice mare."   Major Occasion A is trained by Richard "Nifty" Norman and owned by Enzed Racing Stable. The 6-year-old daughter of Art Major and Fake Occasion has won four of 11 races this season and $158,110. She has won 19 races lifetime and $331,490.   by Ken Weingartner, for The Meadowlands Derick Giwner contributed to this report.  

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Judy Taylor has sometimes given her son, Howard, a tough time about the harness racing horses they have owned together. That appears to be about to change.   The Taylors and breeder Stefan Balazsi's Order By Stable own Hambletonian hopeful Back Of The Neck, who won Saturday's (July 18) $142,250 first division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters in 1:52 at The Meadowlands.   Howard Taylor, a Philadelphia attorney, is among the owners of 2018 Hambletonian winner Atlanta, as well as a number of other prominent horses.   "(My mom says,) 'You have all these good horses. I've never had one,'" Howard Taylor said. "I said, 'Every time I buy a horse for you, I own part of it too, I'm not trying to give you a bad horse. But it just never worked out that way. Now it has.'"   Driven by Scott Zeron, Back Of The Neck used a second-over trip to rally in the stretch for his second win in three races this year. Back Of The Neck, trained by Ãke Svanstedt, saw stablemate Third Shift hold the lead after the first quarter before Amigo Volo took control at the half.   After Zeron moved with Back Of The Neck from fourth, Svanstedt came first-over with Third Shift heading around the final turn. Back Of The Neck, the 4-5 favorite, won by 2-1/4 lengths over Third Shift, with Big Oil finishing third.       "He was really handy today, really relaxed, which is good," Zeron said. "He's progressively getting smarter and smarter on the track. Every start is just leading up to the Hambletonian in my eyes, so today it was like leave, let him sit, see how he feels in the hole. I was able to sit in longer than I thought I could because of the pace.   "When I moved him over, and Ãke pulled the two-hole, it was even better. Down the lane, he just finished strong. He was very well within himself."   A son of French trotting star Ready Cash out of Big Barb, Back Of The Neck has won five of 12 starts lifetime, good for $207,375.   Another son of Ready Cash won the second division of the Dancer. Ready For Moni was fifth at the half-mile point before following Chesnut Hill's cover around the final turn and using a three-wide move in the stretch to win in 1:51.4 as the 5-2 second choice in his seasonal debut.   Hollywood Story was second and Beads finished third. The winning margin was one length.       "I couldn't have scripted it any better," winning driver Yannick Gingras said. "It's his first start of the year and I wanted to somewhat take it easy on him. It couldn't have worked out any better. He's great. I think he's ready for it. He's going to get next week off, I'm pretty sure, and he's ready for the [Hambletonian]."   Ready For Moni, trained by Nancy Takter, is owned by John Fielding, Lindy Farms of Connecticut, Herb Liverman, and Bud Hatfield. He is out of Nothing But Moni, whose dam was the two-time Horse of the Year Moni Maker. He has won five of nine career races and $352,575. His top triumph last year came in the Kentucky Sire Stakes final, and he was second in the Valley Victory.   The Hambletonian Stakes, the sport's top event for 3-year-old trotters, is Aug. 8 at The Meadowlands. Eliminations will be held Aug. 1.   by Ken Weingartner, & Derick Giwner, for The Meadowlands

Shartin N, the 2019 Horse of the Year, returns to harness racing action Saturday (July 18) in the $172,850 Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older female pacers at The Meadowlands Racetrack after missing a start because of a minor foot issue. The 7-year-old mare, unbeaten in two outings this season, was scratched from a conditioned race July 5 at Harrah's Philadelphia. Prior to the brief setback, Shartin N won an invitational for fillies and mares at Dover Downs on March 4 and an open handicap for fillies and mares at Yonkers Raceway on June 30. Her victory at Yonkers, where she lost a shoe during the race, came from post eight. "It's unfortunate she had to be scratched, but it was something that was easily taken care of," trainer Jim King Jr. said. "She's had a good week. She had a good group to train with - Soho Burning Love, Bettor Joy, Donttellmeagain - and showed her dominance. That was good because those are some pretty good ones." Shartin N is owned by Richard Poillucci, Jo Ann Looney-King, and driver Tim Tetrick. She has won 36 of 45 career races and $2.07 million since arriving in the U.S. from New Zealand. King has been more than pleased with what he's seen from Shartin N in her limited action this year. "Oh my goodness, I don't know how she could have done it any better," King said. "Both times coming from off the pace and doing her job. It is special to have a horse like her. In so many ways, she's just ordinary, another horse. But in so many other ways, she's not." Shartin N will start the Dorothy Haughton Memorial (formerly the Golden Girls) from post two and is the 8-5 morning-line favorite. Her training partners/stablemates Soho Burning Love A and Bettor Joy N also are in the race, with the former at 4-1 and the latter at 15-1. Kissin In The Sand, who has a 1:47.4 win from two starts, is the 7-2 second choice and Caviart Ally, last season's Breeders Crown Mare Pace winner, is 5-1. The Dorothy Haughton Memorial (race 10) is part of a stakes-laden slate at The Big M. Following is a look at the other stakes events on the card. First race post time is 6:30 p.m. (EDT). Race 2 - $40,000 Miss Versatility for trotting mares (third leg of series) Manchego, the season's fastest trotter thanks to her 1:50 win in the first round of the series, is the 4-5 morning-line favorite. She won her first two races of the campaign before a half-length setback to Atlanta in the Cutler Memorial on July 4. Plunge Blue Chip is the 4-1 second choice. Race 3 - $253,500 Del Miller Memorial for 3-year-old filly trotters Empire Breeders Classic winner Hypnotic AM is the 3-1 favorite, followed by W.N. Reynolds Memorial champ Sorella at 7-2 and returning Dan Patch Award winner Ramona Hill at 9-2. Sorella is No. 2 in Meadowlands announcer/analyst Ken Warkentin's Road to the Hambletonian rankings and Hypnotic AM is No. 5. Race 4 - $142,250 Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters (division) Amigo Volo, coming off a win in a division of the Pennsylvania All-Stars and ranked No. 1 in the Road to the Hambletonian, is the 3-1 favorite. Big Oil, also a PA All-Stars winner, is 7-2 followed by returning Dan Patch Award winner Real Cool Sam at 4-1 in his seasonal debut. Six of the eight male trotters in the Road to the Hambletonian ratings are in this race: Amigo Volo, Back Of The Neck (No. 3), Real Cool Sam (4), Third Shift (6), Big Oil (7), and Synergy (10). Race 5 - $142,250 Stanley Dancer Memorial (division) Reynolds division runner-up Beads is the 3-1 favorite. EL Ideal, third behind Beads in their Reynolds split, is 7-2 and seasonal debuting Ready For Moni is 9-2. Beads and Ready For Moni are in the Road to the Hambletonian rankings, at eighth and ninth, respectively. Race 6 - $194,400 Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old filly pacers JK First Lady, coming off a 1:49.4 qualifier win, is the 3-1 favorite. She was third by a neck in her only start, June 26. Rocknificent, who won a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes her last time out, is 7-2 and returning Dan Patch Award winner Lyons Sentinel, who was second to Rocknificent in the PASS, is 4-1 from post nine in an 11-horse field. Race 7 - $391,300 William R. Haughton Memorial for older male pacers Dancin Lou, who won a preliminary leg of the Graduate Series and was third in the final, is the 3-1 favorite. Roll With Joe Stakes champ Backstreet Shadow is 7-2 with Roll With Joe runner-up None Bettor A at 9-2. Race 8 - $464,900 Hambletonian Maturity for 4-year-old trotters A 13-horse field going 1-1/8 miles. Gimpanzee, 3-for-3 this year and fresh off a victory in the Graduate Series final, is the 3-1 favorite from post 13. Forbidden Trade, the 2019 Hambletonian winner, won a conditioned race last week at The Meadowlands and is 7-2. When Dovescry, who won the 2019 Hambletonian Oaks, is making her seasonal debut and is 9-2. Race 9 - $636,650 Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-old male pacers Tall Dark Stranger is the 7-5 favorite. Read more here. Race 11 - $123,100 William R. Haughton consolation Sintra is the 3-1 favorite followed by Geez Joe at 7-2 and Western Joe at 9-2. For Saturday's complete Big M entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

A little more than 50 years ago, Buck Owens cautioned country music listeners to beware a tall dark stranger. Decades later, the warning could apply to Saturday's Meadowlands Pace. Tall Dark Stranger, the 2019 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old harness racing colt pacer, is the 7-5 morning-line favorite in the $636,650 Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-olds at The Meadowlands Racetrack. The colt, who won last week's single elimination by a half-length over Captain Kirk in 1:48.1 over a "good" surface, starts from post five with Yannick Gingras driving for trainer Nancy Takter. Racing begins at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. Post time for the Meadowlands Pace, which is race nine on the stakes-filled card, is 10:05 p.m. Tall Dark Stranger is undefeated in two races this season. He opened his campaign with a 1:47.4 win against older horses on June 27 at The Meadowlands. Over the previous five years, only seven 3-year-old pacers have won with faster miles. "He's a fast horse, but he's not just fast," Gingras said. "He's a great horse. He can do anything you want, race him any way you decide to race him. He's strong, he's got a great gait, he's got all the qualities. Those are the things that make the difference between a fast horse and a great horse." Tall Dark Stranger is a son of Bettor's Delight out of Precocious Beauty. He is owned by Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms, and Howard Taylor. Last year, the colt won eight of nine races, finished second in his loss, and earned $717,514. He will try to join Huntsville (2017), He's Watching (2014) and Captaintreacherous (2013) as recent Dan Patch Award returnees to win the Pace. "He's come back great," Gingras said. "I couldn't be any happier, really. His first start he was vicious and the same thing again last week. I don't think he could be coming into the final in better shape. "Last year at times he could be a little bit grabby. He knew really early on what his job was to do, but sometimes he wanted to do a little bit too much. He's a little more manageable this year. If anything, he's a little bit lazy. Leaving the gate last week, in a good way, I had to ask him. He knows what he's out there to do and that it's my job to guide him and he's letting me do my job." Tall Dark Stranger was guaranteed a starting spot in posts one through six by virtue of his elimination win. "For me, I've always felt it's tremendously important to try to win the elimination," Gingras said. "Of course, you don't want to overuse your horse, but I have no problem racing my horse to take the outside posts out of the equation. I feel there is great value to it. These horses can go those miles. He left pretty good last week, but I got a decent middle half and then sprinted home. I don't think he will be worse for wear after that last start. "I like where I drew. You can see what happens. Of course, you've got to go forward. Everybody knows I'm not going to back out of the gate, you're not getting away seventh or eighth in this race, with Tall Dark Stranger that's not happening. You're going forward out of the gate, but you have options. You can see what the outside horses are doing, you can see what the inside horses are doing, and I can race any which way. Post five gives me all the options in the world." Gingras is looking for his second Meadowlands Pace victory. He won with A Rocknroll Dance in 2012. Takter is seeking her first Pace trophy. Last year's Matron Stakes and Governor's Cup winner Papi Rob Hanover, with David Miller driving for trainer Brett Pelling, is the 4-1 second choice on the Meadowlands Pace morning line. Papi Rob Hanover starts from post nine, which is his most favorable starting spot yet this season. He finished third from post 10 in the Pace elim and was second from post 10 in his seasonal debut. Allywag Hanover, also from the Pelling Stable, is the 9-2 third choice. Allywag Hanover advanced to the Pace final courtesy of a bye based on seasonal earnings. Allywag Hanover is 3-for-3 this year and won in 1:48 on July 4 at The Meadowlands. Pelling is the winningest trainer in Pace history, with four victories. Tim Tetrick will drive Allywag Hanover and is looking for his sixth Pace win. John Campbell holds the record with seven. Trainer Tony Alagna, who won the 2013 Meadowlands Pace with Captaintreacherous, has three horses in Saturday's final: Captain Barbossa (10-1), Capt Midnight (15-1), and Captain Kirk (15-1). Capt Midnight finished ninth in the elimination, from which the top eight horses advanced to the final, but drew into the race when Chief Mate was scratched on Tuesday. In addition to the Meadowlands Pace, Saturday's racing includes two $142,250 divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters, the 11-horse $253,500 Del Miller Memorial for 3-year-old female trotters, the 13-horse $464,900 Hambletonian Maturity at 1-1/8 miles for 4-year-old trotters, the 11-horse $391,300 William R. Haughton Memorial for older male pacers (as well as a $123,100 consolation), $172,850 Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older female pacers, the 11-horse $194,400 Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old female pacers, and the third leg of the Miss Versatility Series for older female trotters. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

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