While many Americans were headed to the beaches or their back yards for cookouts during the long, July 4th holiday weekend that began last Thursday, harness racing fans were keenly focused on a trio of tracks that had plenty of potential equine fireworks to offer.
On Sunday afternoon at Harrah’s Philadelphia, a five-eighths mile oval in Pennsylvania commonly referred to as ‘Chester’ after opening as Chester Downs the previous decade, Shartin N (Tim Tetrick), the nation’s top rated standardbred in the weekly Top 10 poll, put that status on the line in the $30,000 Great Northeast Open Series for pacing fillies and mares just past the midway point of the Harrah’s card.
Sent out as the 1-9 favorite in that event, Shartin N settled into third briefly as Reclamation (Yannick Gingras) led the field by the opener in 27.3, but the odds-on choice brushed to command passing the grandstands the first time and rolled by the half in 55.1, raced unpressed by three-quarters in 1:22.3 then held safe Reclamation under confident handling to score by nearly a length in 1:49.
A six-year-old Tintin In America mare trained by Jim King, Jr., Shartin N recorded her eighth straight victory and ninth win in 10 starts this year to push her seasonal earnings past $520,000. Runner-up in the voting for champion pacer and horse of the year behind McWicked in 2018, Shartin N now owns 35 wins and $1.65 million banked in 47 career tries and maintained her top spot in this week’s poll.
Later that same evening Ocean Downs, a half-mile harness racing oval in Berlin, Maryland, five miles west of popular seaside resort Ocean City, offered a pair of stakes for three-year-olds and a bevy of competitive overnight events for pacers of all ages.
Just before the midway point of the Sunday card at Ocean Downs, Q’s Cruise (Frank Milby) just lived up to his role as the tepid 2-1 favorite in the $10,000 Open Handicap for older pacers when he overcame a long, first over bid to wear down defending Open hero Sicily (Victor Kirby) then just outlasted the late surge of Slick Tony (Russell Foster) to score by a neck in 1:51.3.
A five-year-old Yankee Cruiser gelding trained by Jim King, Jr. of Shartin N fame, Q’s Cruise now owns a 5-3-3 slate and $83,000 banked from 19 starts this year and sports a 17-9-11 and over $291,000 earned from 59 career tries. Slick Tony was sharp in defeat for owner-breeder-trainer George “Ronnie” Leager and the four-year-old No Spin Zone stallion owns a 24-9-6 slate and $465,000 banked from 55 career tries.
Then two races later in the $25,000 Maryland Standardbred Race Fund event for three-year-old filly trotters, Mary’s A Keeper (John Wagner) used her inside post and early speed to gain command in a 29.1 opener, maintained an honest tempo on an uncontested lead then out-sprinted the pocket-sitting Bossy Hilly (Jonathan Roberts) for a two-length score in 1:58.3 as the 9-5 second choice.
A sophomore daughter of Lockkeeper trained by Arlene Cameron and co-owned by Wagner and Syl King, Jr., Mary’s A Keeper recorded her second win in five starts this year and now owns a 3-4-2 slate and over $50,000 banked from 12 career tries. She took her lifetime mark of 1:55.2 at Rosecroft Raceway earlier this spring in a Maryland Sire Stakes elim but made several breaks in the $70,000 MDSS final.
One race later in a non-winners of $7,501 last five starts class for older pacers, Movin’ On Up (Jim Morand) easily lived up to his billing as the 4-5 favorite when he quarter moved to command, rolled by the half in 56.4 and by three-quarters in 1:25.1 then held safe Disturbia (Russell Foster) to score by two lengths in 1:54.
A four-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding trained by Les Givens for owner Leroy Fisher of Berlin, Movin’ On Up notched his second straight score, his third win in last four tries and now owns a 6-2-4 slate and $52,500 banked from 21 seasonal outings. Movin’ On Up now boasts an 8-8-6 slate and nearly $100,000 banked from 40 lifetime tries and may have earned a berth in the $10,000 Open Handicap with this win.
Two races later in the $29.000 MDRF event for three-year-old colt pacers, Trump That Rusty (Eddie Davis, Jr.) overcame an extended first over trip to overhaul 3-5 favorite Owzitgoin (Montrell Teague) for a length victory as the 9-5 second choice in 1:55. A sophomore son of Rusty’s For Real trained by Dylan Davis, Trump That Rusty now owns a solid 4-5-1 slate and $40,000 banked from 10 seasonal starts and should be a major factor in the upcoming $70,000 mDSS final for this division.
One night earlier at the Meadowlands, the famed New Jersey mile oval hosted a pair of lucrative Graduate finals for four-year-olds of both gaits as well two eliminations for the Meadowlands Pace for three-year-old colt pacers.
Right at the midway point of the Saturday night card in the first of four consecutive stakes, Atlanta (Gingras) continued to remain perfect on the season and display a newfound dimension when she rallied second over behind Fiftydallarbill (Corey Callahan) then fanned widest of all to eventually overhaul pacersetter Six Pack (Ake Svandstedt) at the wire in 1:49.1, the fastest trotting mile in the history of the track.
A four-year-old daughter of Chapter Seven trained by Ron Burke, Atlanta notched her sixth straight victory to start the season and now owns 18 wins and nearly $1.5 million banked from 30 lifetime tries. Hero of the Grade I, $1 million Hambletonian last summer against the boys, Atlanta has continued to tackle male rivals this season and moved closer to leader Shartin N in the top 10 poll.
Then one race later in the first of two eliminations for the Meadowlands Pace, Captain Crunch (Scott Zeron) just lived up to his role as the 4-5 favorite when he quarter moved to command, cruised by the half in 55.2 and raced unpressed by three-quarters in 1:22.4 then held safe the inside late bid of even-money second choice Workin Ona Mystery (Tetrick) to score by a half-length in 1:48.3.
A sophomore son of Captaintrecherous trained by Nancy Johansson, Captain Crunch already boasts the $750,000 North America Cup final to his credit and now will be seeking to take down the Meadowlands Pace final as well next week. He sports four wins and $460,000 banked from five starts this year and now owns 10 wins and almost $1.1 million earned from 15 career tries.
Workin Ona Mystery finished with plenty of pace and will certainly be a factor in the Meadowlands Pace final. Third as the 7-5 choice in the North America Cup final last month, Workin Ona Mystery owns a 3-1-1 slate and $170,000 banked from five starts this year and eight wins and $270,000 earned from 11 lifetime outings for trainer Brian Brown.
Then one race later in the second Meadowlands Pace elim, Bettor’s Wish (Dexter Dunn) easily lived up to his billing as the 1-2 favorite when he brushed to command down the backside, strolled by the half in 55.3, met token pressure through the far turn and by three-quarters in 1:23.2 then sprinted clear of Best In Show (Bob McClure) in the lane to a three-length score in 1:49.1.
A sophomore son of Bettor’s Delight trained by Chris Ryder, Bettor’s Wish already boasts a win in the $300,000 Art Rooney final at Yonkers Raceway and was an unlucky second in the North America Cup final. He certainly looms a major player in the Meadowlands Pace final and will be among the top three betting choices along with the top two finishers in the first elim.
Then one race later in the $250,000 Graduate final for four-year-old pacers, Lather Up (Montrell Teague) benefited from a pocket trip as favored Always A Prince (Brian Sears) carved out insane fractions of 25.3, 52 flat and 1:19.1 through the first three calls, angled out turning for home then overhauled the leader and outlasted the late surge from This Is The Plan (Gingras) and Backstreet Shadow (Tetrick) to score in 1:46 flat, equaling the fastest mile in the history of harness racing.
A four-year-old I’m Gorgeous stallion trained by George Teague, Jr. of Rainbow Blue and Wiggle It Jiggleit fame for owner-breeders Gary & Barbara Iles, Lather Up notched his fifth win in eight starts this year and now owns 20 victories and $1.3 million banked from 33 career outings. Perhaps more importantly he can now lay claim to being the fastest pacer in the history of the sport.