Dover Downs hosts Matron Stakes for three-year-olds

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Ted Black

November 15th, 2017

With the harness racing season rapidly winding to a close and several of the sport's top honors still very much up for grabs, Dover Downs may be one of the sites that helps clarify some of the muddled picture in several three-year-old divisions when it hosts a quartet of lucrative Matron Stakes on Thursday.

Since the addition of slots over 20 years ago, Dover Downs had consistently offered a bevy of quality stakes in the fall, beginning with the Matrons and ending later this month with the $300,000 Hap Hansen Progress Pace for three-year-old pacing colts, a race that could eventually determine that division champion. Several other sophomore groups have already been decided, but Thursday's card could clear the picture in the others.

Thursday's fourth race is the $186,600 Matron Stakes for three-year-old filly trotters and it is clearly one race that will not impact the division champion. Idle Ariana G, the obviously choice for division honors among this group and the leading contender for trotter of the year and harness horse of the year, has bypassed this event and the other remaining eight starters will not shed a tear in her absence.

Among the leading contenders in this Matron division include Ice Attraction (Ake Svandstedt), who brings a 6-5-1 slate and more than $385,000 banked from 19 starts this year; Dream Together (Daniel Dube) who drew the rail and is one of two trainees in here for Luc Blais and Thats All Moni (Yannick Gingras), an overshadowed member of the Jimmy Takter barn who is seeking to finally earn her share of the spotlight with stablemate Ariana G absent.

Then two races later on the card in the $200,000 Matron Stakes for three-year-old trotting colts & geldings, Devious Man (Andy Miller) will look to vault to the head of the class in this wide open division when he leaves from post two for trainer Julie Miller and brings a 4-7-3 slate and lofty $980,000 bankroll from 16 starts this season. Devious Man has been second seven times this year, including the Hambletonian Final and Kentucky Futurity Final and could be in contention for division honors with a win here. He has already secured the less-awarding title of Maryland-bred harness horse of the year for 2017.

Seeking to overcome post eight and perhaps ascend to the head of the class in this spot is What The Hill (David Miller), the recent Breeders Crown hero perhaps best known for being disqualified from first and placed ninth for a belated race infraction. Trained by Ron Burke, What The Hill has won eight of 16 starts and earned nearly $800,000 and he is the leader of this division right now, but a win could cement that status. Another setback at the hands of Devious Man, however, could prove decisive.

Five of the other six starters in this Matron have earned at least $300,000 this year, including Dover Dan (Corey Callahan), Bill's Man (Tim Tetrick), Top Flight Angel (Daniel Dube) and Snowstorm Hanover (Matt Kakaley). Only Two AM (Tyler Buter), who has earned a 'paltry' $175,000 this year on eight wins from 13 starts, has failed to reach the $300,000 plateau. The eight starters have combined earnings of nearly $4 million this year.

Two races later on the card, another contentious group will clash in the $180,000 Matron Stakes for three-year-old filly pacers and several of them are among those looking to overtake the idle Blazin Britches for the division title. Idyllic Beach (Gingras) brings a 4-5-4 slate and $460,000 bankroll from 17 starts for Takter; Bettor's Up (Doug McNair) sports a 6-4-1 slate and $400,000 bankroll from 16 starts, Obvious Blue Chip (Scott Zeron) has won six of 17 starts and banked $380,000; Maryland-bred Tequila Monday (Brett Miller) brings an 8-6-2 slate and $390,000 banked from 21 starts for trainer Chris Oakes; Agent Q (David Miller) brings a stout $600,000 banked on nine wins from 16 starts and Caviart Ally (Andrew McCarthy) sports a 7-6-3 slate and $670,000 bankroll from 19 starts for trainer Noel Daley but will have to overcome post eight.

Then two races later in the $210,000 Matron Stakes for three-year-old colt pacers, Downbytheseaside (Chris Page) will seek to overtake the idle Fear The Dragon for division honors when he leaves from post seven for trainer Brian Brown who also conditions the current division leader. Downbytheseaside began the season with a sharp score in the Art Rooney final at Yonkers and has raced well in most of the open stakes this summer and fall, but he could need a win here to enhance his 11-5-2 slate and $1.35 million bankroll from 19 starts.

Looking to upend Downbytheseaside and perhaps join the short list of contenders for divisional honors include Filibuster Hanover (Gingras), hero of the diluted Little Brown Jug; New York Sire Stakes hero and Jug runner-up Funknwaffles (Callahan); Rock N Tony (David Miller), Mike's Z Tam (Pat Lachance); Boogie Shuffle (Tetrick) and Miso Fast (Kakakley), another well-traveled sort who has attended most of the major dances for this division all season. Like the sophomore colt split earlier, this Matron event is comprised of a field with combined earnings of nearly $4 million.