Vernon NY - The Grand Circuit comes to upstate New York bringing harness racing's finest three-year-old colt and filly trotters to ply their trade in the $630,000 Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial on the Sunday, July 26 matinee card at Vernon Downs. This year's race serves as an important prep for the 2015 Hambletonian, a fortnight hence.
Hall of Fame horseman Jimmy Takter has entered four Hambo hopefuls from his armada of sophomore square-gaited stalwarts in the 41st edition of the Zweig. Pinkman, Canepa Hanover, Uncle Lasse and Whom Shall I Fear comprise the Takter presence and will race as an imposing coupled entry in the $370,000 Main Event (race nine) for colts.
Last year's top freshman trotter Pinkman (Yannick Gingras) eclipsed the $1 million mark in career earnings while winning a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial for owners Christina Takter, John & Jim Fielding, Joyce McClelland and Herb Liverman last week at The Meadowlands. He took the $500,000 Beal final in World Record time and is but a half-length from perfection in six tries this season.
Canepa Hanover (Takter) has flashed brilliance, specifically a pair of sub-1:52 wins this spring, but broke in the Goodtimes final and had missed a month before his well-meant third to Pinkman in the Dancer. He is the whole package, looks combined with the big pedigree and is diligently working off the $300,000 yearling sale promise made to owners Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld, Brixton Medical and Christina Takter.
Uncle Lasse's (Brett Miller) season would be unblemished, had he not suffered a head defeat at the hands of Pinkman in that Beal final. He's talented, consistent, fresh and ready for his push at the title for Solveig's Racing Partners and Goran Falk.
Whom Shall I Fear (John Campbell) cost the most, $475,000, and has accomplished the least to this point. He remains a work in progress for his eponymous ownership group.
The $76,000 consolation race for colts goes as the third with a couple of talented, well connected colts using it as their final exam before the August 8 Hambletonian.
Muscle Diamond (Campbell) was second to the aforementioned Pinkman in last year's Breeders Crown final and was considered to have a legitimate shot at the sophomore title by many winter book enthusiasts. Horse racing however, is fraught with peril and trainer Brett Bittle has been forced to react to a series of nagging issues with his star colt. With but a single start and a handful of qualifiers on Muscle Diamond's sophomore résumé, time is dangerously close to running out on this year's Hambo dreams for his owners, the Kellers and the Bittles.
Iron (Tim Tetrick) holds the hopes of another family steeped in Hambletonian tradition and this season has run the gamut of emotion for trainer Frank Antonacci. Handled carefully at two, Iron has shown the speed you need to win the classics but thus far not the grit. He needs a confidence builder, as do the connections, KR Breeding, Robert Rudolph and Frank Baldassare.
The $185,000 Zweig Filly trot will continue the saga of the enigmatic Mission Brief (Gingras). Her well documented transition from freshman to sophomore took a welcome positive turn in last week's Del Miller Memorial where she showed marked improvement in a narrow 1:52 defeat. Sunday's race will help her connections to make the difficult choice of Hambo or Oaks for their enigmatic prodigy. Part of a three-pronged Ron Burke entry, Mission Brief races for the interests of her trainer as Burke Racing along with Our Horse Cents, J&T Silva and Weaver Bruscemi.
The Harry M. Zweig Memorial honors the late Dr. Harry Zweig, a distinguished veterinarian, and his numerous contributions to the state’s equine industry. In 1979, by amendment to the pari-mutuel racing and wagering law, the New York State legislature created the Harry M. Zweig Memorial Fund for Equine Research to promote equine research at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. The Harry M. Zweig Committee was established for the purpose of administering the fund and is composed of individuals in specified state agencies and equine industry positions and others who represent equine breeders, owners, trainers, and veterinarians.
Also on the bill are the ever-popular Budweiser Clydesdales, available throughout the afternoon and slated to perform after the fifth race. Racing Under Saddle is on the program as well, they're off between races three and four.
Post time is 1:15 pm at the Downs on Sunday.