by Nick Salvi
The inaugural $150,000 Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff (a Grand Circuit event) will be the featured first race on a special Meadowlands Mother’s Day matinee card beginning at 12:40 p.m. on Sunday, May 8. Nine of the continent’s finest trotters with collective career earnings in excess of $12 million comprise the field.
The idea for the Elitlopp Playoff was conceived last August when Directors Christer Haggstrom and Markus Myron of Solvalla Racecourse visited The Meadowlands for Hambletonian week. During their stay, they met with Jeff Gural, Jason Settlemoir and Sam McKee to discuss ways the Elitlopp and Meadowlands trotting stakes may better compliment one and other.
After much discussion and considerable effort on the part of both organizations, a brand new international racing bridge was created. Solvalla officials will be on hand Sunday to present the winner with an invitation to compete in the Elitlopp on Sunday, May 29 at Solvalla Racecourse in Stockholm, Sweden.
The idea to memorialize the great Mack Lobell, a two-time winner of the Elitlopp, with the race title was submitted by a racing fan via the Harness Racing Fan Zone.
The talented field includes Bee A Magician, the undefeated Horse of the Year in 2013 and at $3.7 million and currently the third leading money winning female trotter of all-time. The six-year-old daughter of Kadabra has won 42 of her 66 career starts for owners Mel Hartman, Herb Liverman and Dave McDuffee.
“Queen Bee” has perhaps never looked better than her first 2016 start, an easy 1:52 win with her final quarter charted in 26.1. She has been trained throughout her illustrious career by R. Nifty Norman and her regular driver Brian Sears will handle the duties from post 7 on Sunday.
JL Cruze was the rags to riches story of 2015. Plucked from the 2014 Harrisburg fall sale for a mere $37,000 by trainer Eric Ell on behalf of owners Ken Wood, Bill Ditmar and Steve Iaquinta, JL Cruze started the season by winning his way through the winter series program at The Meadowlands and never stopped. By year’s end he had annexed the $250,000 Graduate Series final in a world and Meadowlands track record 1:49.4 and the $443,000 Hambletonian Maturity on his way to over $600,000 in earnings and Trotter of the Year recognition.
JL Cruze has returned in fine form as well, winning all three 2016 starts in 1:53.2 or faster and was absolutely vicious in a 1:53 qualifier on Saturday. He starts from the rail for Hall of Fame driver John Campbell, who was aboard for all of last year’s successes.
The race also includes two of Sweden’s most accomplished expatriate trainers in Jimmy Takter and Ake Svanstedt.
Shake It Cerry has drawn the far outside post nine for trainer Takter. A winner of $2.4 million for Solveig’s Racing Partners, Shake It Cerry was crowned Trotter of the Year in 2014 while winning virtually every major stake at ages two and three. Hall of Famer Dave Miller is her driver.
Svanstedt trains and drives Resolve, winner of the TVG FFA Championship final and over $700,000 last year for owner Hans Enggren. The Muscle Hill five-year-old has drawn post five for the race.
Meadowlands leading trainer Ron Burke sends out a triumvirate of accomplished trotters. From post two is DW’s NY Yank (Matt Kakaley) who is just $5,000 away from a million dollars in his career for Burke Racing, Howard Taylor and Weaver Bruscemi. 2014 New York Sires Stakes champ Gural Hanover (Yannick Gingras from post six) races for Burke, Weaver Bruscemi, Little E and Panhellenic while multiple 2015 Grand Circuit stakes winner Crazy Wow (Tim Tetrick) begins from post eight for Our Horse Cents, JT 45, J&T Silva and Deo Volente Farms.
Wind Of The North is in and he actually made the trip over for last year’s Elitlopp during a successful 2015 campaign where he collected over a quarter million dollars for owners Jenny Bier and Joann Dombeck. He comes in from Pompano Park where he’s had a successful start to his season, winning two of three for trainer Daryl Bier who has enlisted George Brennan to drive on Sunday.
Obrigado continues to live a fairy tale, emerging from virtual obscurity despite championship seasons in Maine at two and three to a respected national presence. He picked up over $400,000 with his Crawford Farms FFA at Vernon Downs win the seasonal highlight for trainer Paul Kelley who owns the six-year-old Boy Band gelding with Linwood Higgins, SRF Stable and Stable 45. Mark MacDonald is the driver.
The first seven Meadowlands races on Sunday’s card will be simulcast to Sweden, with races 1-6 (all trots) constituting the V64 Pick-Six wager for that day and the seventh being the $25,000 Open Pace with Takter trainee Always B Miki among the entrants.
The Meadowlands tiered dining room Pink has a delightful Mother’s Day buffet planned and the fan favorite Diamond Dig promotion is also scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Make your reservations soon for this special matinee card.
Horses for the $150,000 Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff below: