by Paul Ramlow, publicity director, The Grand Circuit (USTrotting.com)
Harness Racing This Week: Graduate Series final, Meadowlands Pace and Mistletoe Shalee eliminations, and W.N. Reynolds Memorial 3-year-old colt and filly trots, Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, N.J.; Hanover events for 3-year-old colt and filly pacers, Balmoral Park, Crete, Ill.; and Sheppard eliminations, Yonkers Raceway, Yonkers, N.Y.
Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit schedule continues to be a busy one and this week the spotlight shines on three racetracks, beginning with the Meadowlands. The stakes heavy Saturday card features the $250,000 Graduate Series final for 4-year-old totters; the $62,406 W.N. Reynolds Memorial for 3-year-old colt trotters; two divisions in the $59,206 W.N. Reynolds Memorial for 3-year-old filly trotters; a pair of $50,000 Meadowlands Pace eliminations for 3-year-old male pacers; and a single $25,000 Mistletoe Shalee elimination for 3-year-old pacing fillies.
Saturday Grand Circuit action also includes the $40,000 (est.) Hanover Colt Stakes for 3-year-old colt pacers and the $40,000 (est.) Hanover Filly Stakes for 3-year-old filly pacers, both at Balmoral Park, and two $25,000 eliminations at Yonkers in the Lawrence B. Sheppard for 2-year-old colt pacers.
Complete entries for the races are available at this link.
Last time: This past weekend’s Grand Circuit action was highlighted by four lucrative events on the Sun Stakes Saturday (July 4) program at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
Wiggle It Jiggleit captured the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old male pacers by 1-1/2 lengths over Artspeak in 1:48.2. Wiggle It Jiggleit has won 13 of 14 career races for owner George Teague Jr. Inc., trainer Clyde Francis and driver Montrell Teague. His only loss came June 20 in the North America Cup, where he was defeated by Wakizashi Hanover by three-quarters of a length.
On Saturday in the Hempt, Wiggle It Jiggleit took the lead following a :26 opening quarter-mile, fought off a first-over challenge from Pierce Hanover on the backstretch, and then pulled away down the stretch. Artspeak finished second, followed by In The Arsenal and Wakizashi Hanover
Wiggle It Jiggleit, a son of Mr Wiggles-Mozzi Hanover, gave George Teague Jr. his fourth Hempt trophy. He trained 2011 victor Custard The Dragon, 2009 winner Johnny Z and 2008 champ Badlands Nitro. With the triumph, Wiggle It Jiggleit pushed his career earnings to $607,242.
Pinkman rebounded from his first loss of the year by posting a gate-to-wire win in Saturday’s $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters, holding off stablemate Uncle Lasse by a head in a world-record 1:51.3.
Pinkman (Explosive Matter-Margie Seelster), last year’s Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter, and driver Yannick Gingras got the lead with a :27.1 opening quarter-mile and then controlled the race from there, going to the half in :56.2. Centurion ATM made a first-over bid on the backstretch, getting within a head of the leader, but was unable to get to the front. In the stretch, the Jimmy Takter-trained Pinkman held off Uncle Lasse to his inside to post his fourth victory in five starts this season. Pinkman’s time was the fastest-ever mile by a 3-year-old gelding trotter on a five-eighths-mile track. Crazy Wow finished third followed by Centurion ATM.
For his career, Pinkman has won 10 of 13 races and earned $924,300 for owners Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding, Joyce McClelland, and Herb Liverman.
The $500,000 Ben Franklin free for all pace turned out to be as thrilling as a front-end win can be as Luck Be Withyou held on by the shortest of noses over Domethatagain in 1:49.
Domethatagain, driven by Simon Allard, left from the rail off the gate, but Luck Be Withyou and George Napolitano Jr. took command before the turn from post nine. Luck Be Withyou led through a quarter in :26.2 and the half in :55. He kept on chugging through three-quarters in 1:21.4. He was a length clear at the top of the stretch, with only Domethatagain coming at him up the rail. It took a long look at the photo before Luck Be Withyou was declared the winner, with favored State Treasurer third.
Luck Be Withyou, by Western Ideal–Trim Hanover, is trained by Chris Oakes. He has won five of 10 starts this year and earned $313,710.
What was a wide-open race on paper became a wide-open finish as Bettor Be Steppin and Corey Callahan got up to win the $300,000 James Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old pacing fillies in 1:50.4.
The race was heated from the start as The Show Returns gunned to the lead from post nine for driver Tim Tetrick. Favored Stacia Hanover (Scott Zeron) cleared to the lead in a first quarter in :26, with the outer flow setting up going to the half. Bettor Be Steppin wasn’t a part of that forward flow, however, as she was shuffled back to last.
Wicked Little Minx (Brett Miller), a 50-1 longshot, came first-over with Sassa Hanover (Yannick Gingras) third-over through a half in a swift :54.1. They paced through three-quarters in 1:21.4 before the leaders began to struggle and the closers came closing. Momas Got A Gun (Jim Morrill Jr.) was sitting third on the rail and somehow found room inside. She stuck a head in front before Single Me (Brian Sears) and Bettor Be Steppin came from way out. From the far outside, Bettor Be Steppin stuck a nose in front of Single Me at the wire. Momas Got A Gun finished third by a neck.
The win was the fourth in seven starts this year for Bettor Be Steppin (Bettor’s Delight–Two Steppin’ Sally). She has banked $198,316 in 2015 for trainer Joe Holloway and owners Val D’Or Farms, Rojan Stables and Ted Gewertz.
Complete recaps of the weekend races are available at the Grand Circuit website.
Grand Circuit Standings: In 2015, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farm is the sponsor for the 2015 Grand Circuit awards.
Here are the leaders following the past weekend:
Drivers: 1. Yannick Gingras – 253; 2. Brian Sears – 243; 3. Tim Tetrick – 213; 4. David Miller – 182; 5. Jason Bartlett – 173.
Trainers: 1. Ron Burke – 365; 2. Jimmy Takter – 195; 3. Jeff Bamond Jr. – 188; 4. Ray Schnittker – 177; 5. Rene Allard – 158.
Owners: 1. Bamond Racing – 165.5; 2. Burke Racing – 95; 3. Weaver Bruscemi – 86.8; 4. Ray Schnittker – 72.4; 5. George Teague Jr. Inc. – 70.
Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will be taking place next weekend at The Meadowlands and Yonkers Raceway. The massive Meadowlands card will feature the Meadowlands Pace final, the William Haughton Memorial, the Hambletonian Maturity, the Stanley Dancer Trot, the Del Miller Memorial, the Mistletoe Shalee final, the Golden Girls and a leg of the Miss Versatilty. Yonkers will host the final of the Lawrence B. Sheppard for 2-year-old pacing colts.