By Nick Salvi for The Meadowlands
East Rutherford, N.J. - Friday night at the Meadowlands celebrated the remarkable career of Cat Manzi with that Hall Of Famer meeting fans then joining friends and family for a night at the races.
On the track, the night featured the eliminations for the top freshman trotting stakes of the 2014 Championship Meet, the Peter Haughton Memorial colt stake and the Merrie Annabelle for the fairer sex.
The Peter Haughton required a single elimination of ten colts after three of the top seasonal earners accepted a bye into next week’s $355,500 final. The first seven in the official order of finish would move on.
Centurion ATM was the 1:54.2 winner here for trainer driver Ake Svanstedt. The SJ’s Caviar colt settled in fourth early as his stable-mate Amicus and The Bank took turns on the lead through early splits of 28.2 and 57.2. Ake steered Centurion ATM over into the passing lane as the field trotted ‘round the final bend and as he headed The Bank, that one went offstride, leaving the winner to an open length lead.
At the wire it was Centurion ATM trotting home in :28 flat to be clear by three and a half lengths over Uncle Lasse with Cruzado Dela Noche third. The winner is co-owned by European interests Courant AB and Knutsson Trotting.
Trainer / driver Svanstedt has had a clear impact on the scene this summer, his first in the US after moving his entire operation from Sweden. With his experience in Europe primarily training older horses, Ake has adjusted quickly to the American emphasis on early speed and clearly will be a player throughout the stakes season.
The eliminated horses were The Bank, Broken Record and True Blue Stride. Joining the qualifiers for next Saturday’s Hambletonian Day final will be Canepa Hanover, Guess Who’s Back and Honor And Serve.
Lock Down Lindy won the first of two Merrie Annabelle eliminations for the potent Tony Alagna / Scott Zeron combination in a personal best of 1:55. Zeron held the first crop Lucky Chucky filly behind cover from the three eighths forward as race favorite Gatka Hanover cut the mile after working hard to get the lead. Fanning wide in the drive, Lock Down Lindy went by willingly as Zeron rode along confidently through her personal sub 28 final quarter for the half-length score. Gatka Hanover held the place with Love Me Madly third. Lilu Hanover and Wordie Hanover took the final spots for next Saturday’s $352,500 final.
The winner is owned by Mystical Marker Farms, Crawford Partners, Joe Sbrocco and In The Gym Partners who bought the filly from Love Lockdown for $60,000 last fall in Lexington.
The wickedly fast Mission Brief won the second elim in the dominant, front end style she has displayed for the past few weeks, this time in a track record 1:53.2. The Muscle Hill filly has a remarkable turn of foot and can carry that high speed, tacking a 27.3 final stanza on the record mile and was five lengths clear of the field at the wire with driver Gingras saying whoa the whole way.
Jolene Jolene was second and Onda Di Mare third while Livininthefastlane and Sarcy both moved up a position into the final by the disqualification of Flirting Filly from fourth for a pylon violation.
Mission Brief’s dam is Breeders Crown winner Southwind Serena. Trainer Ron Burke as Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi, J&T Silva and Our Horse Cents Stables were compelled to pay $150,000 for the filly as a yearling last fall in Kentucky. She certainly looks like a bargain at this point.
Yannick reported post-race, “She was much more rateable this week. She’s figuring things out and I’m figuring her out. She’s got it all.”
The twelfth race was the $20,000 second leg of the Ima Lula series for mare trotters aged four years and Classic Martine was a courageous winner in 1:51.2. Bee A Magician asserted herself from rail position and insisted on the lead early for Brian Sears, forcing leavers NF Happenstance and Classic Martine to take a tuck toward the 26.4 quarter. Sears was able to give his charge a nice breather in the middle half as Tim Tetrick moved Classic Martine to the outside for a long, uncovered grind.
When the two met in mid-stretch, it was Classic Martine with more and she edged clear late, tacking a 26.4 final quarter on the mile, which was a mere fifth of a second from Bee A Magician’s world record of a fortnight ago. The winner has now won six of eight starts for earnings of $195,732 and has the five-eighths mile world record of 1:51.2 on her resume this season. She is trained in the Chris Oakes stable for Hauser Bros Racing, Susan Oakes, Conrad Zurich and Ed Gold.
The night began with the well-bred three year old trotting colt Royal Ice taking advantage of an absolutely delightful evening to break maiden in a dazzling 1:51.3. Only Hollywood Heyden might be able to intelligently address the topic, but it’s fairly safe to say that was the fastest any trotter has ever left the maiden ranks.
The meet’s leading driver Yannick Gingras was aboard for the first time on the son of Muscle Hill from The Ice Queen and he just went to the front and improved his position to an eventual eight length victory. Trond Smedshammer trains the colt (who may have just become an instant Hambletonian contender) for Marc Goldberg.
An added bonus after race two was the second leg of the Racing Under Saddle series with seven trotters facing starter Danny Dale for a $10,000 purse. Stephanie Werder has come from her native Sweden to compete in the series, which culminates with a $28,000 final next Friday and she rode her mount O U Gus to a 1:59.4 win in tonight’s race.
Stephanie sat just behind the lead of Chinese Cuisine and Tina Duer and was patient when one of last week’s winners, Flowing James and Tara Hynes moved swiftly toward the lead and sat quietly until an opening appeared mid-stretch for the win.
Live racing resumes tomorrow night at 7:15 with the John Cashman Memorial FFA trot eliminations headlining the card. Find tomorrow’s entries, tonight’s results and video replays by visiting The Meadowlands website.