Walner is back.
Derby Day qualifiers at the Meadowlands came an hour earlier at 9 a.m. on an overcast morning with an unusual wind at the horses’ backs in the homestretch and the temperature around 60 degrees.
The day opened with a powerful field of 3-year-old trotting colts that included last year’s divisional champ, world record holder and winter book Hambletonian favorite Walner and he could not have looked better.
Driver Tim Tetrick took Walner back to fifth early on as Devious Man (Andy Miller) and King On The Hill (Jimmy Takter) took turns on the lead through fractions of :28.1, :56.3 and 1:25.4. Tetrick moved Walner to the outside into the final turn, picked up live cover from Long Tom (Marcus Melander), then fanned off that and stormed by to win by 1-3/4 lengths under no encouragement while closing the 1:53.1 mile with an individual final quarter of :26.3.
Linda Toscano conditions the imposing son of Chapter Seven for Ken Jacobs.
The lightly raced Sweet Chap won race two for trainer/driver Trond Smedshammer, leading all the way in 1:57.3/:28.1 over a closing Brown Bear (Brian Sears) and Eastern Promise (John Campbell).
The royally bred $230,000 yearling purchase That’s All Moni won her second qualifier in 1:56.1. Trainer Jimmy Takter did the driving today and settled the filly just off the lead, then trotted a :28 last quarter to hold off stablemate Feed Your Head (Yannick Gingras) who finished strong.
Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld share ownership of the Cantab Hall three-quarter sister to the mythical Snow White.
The parade of stars continued with Ariana G’s (Gingras) impressive 1:55.1/:27.2 win. Yannick drove Ariana G into an early seat as Caviart Wonder (Andy McCarthy) led through a :58.2 half, then sent her rolling around the turn to a clear lead and she widened as she pleased to the wire. Caviart Wonder and Hillarmbro (Smedshammer) followed her in.
Last year’s PASS 3-year-old colt trotting champ Cufflink Hanover continued on the course to his 4-year-old season with a winning 1:55.2 effort for Andy Miller. He led all the way and held off the close of Jewel’s In Hock (Campbell) within himself.
New York bred sophomore filly pacer Robin J (Campbell) was a winner at second asking for the Toscano/Jacobs connection, sitting just off the pace then charging by on her own for Campbell to win in 1:54.4/:27.1. Awash (Gingras) and Queen To Me were next in behind the winner.
Toscano struck again with another New York stakes filly when World Apart (Andy Miller) tracked down She’s Watching (Gingras) in the shadow of the wire to win in 1:54.2, the final quarter a wind aided :26.2. She’s Watching gave a good account of herself in her first start since last July and Caviart Ally (McCarthy) was third.
Dealt A Winner (Brian Sears) won the last of the qualifiers in 1:53 with a :27 end to the mile. Rockeyed Optimist was a good second with a pair of 3-year-olds, Lindythefourteenth and Odds On Delray, next across the line.
It’s an all-day affair at The Meadowlands with Derby festivities already underway and the Cutler Memorial and Graduate pace highlighting the live race card at 7:15 p.m.
from Meadowlands Media Relations