By Ray Cotolo, for The Red Mile
LEXINGTON, KY— Night two of the Grand Circuit meeting at The Red Mile was highlighted by four divisions of the $289,000 Bluegrass Stakes for 2-year-old colt trotters, which were contested on Thursday, Oct. 1.
Milligan’s School sat a pocket trip after failing to clear the lead into the first turn, and slid up a seam in the stretch to draw off to a 2-length win in 1:56.3 in the opening Bluegrass round. Holding the top spot through fractions of :29.3, :58.3, and 1:28 was Dominion Beach. Into the far turn, Waitlifter K supplied a challenge from first over, while Metatron had an opportunity to fan off the cones and prepare for a wide stretch drive. While in control, Dominion Beach drifted slightly off the pylons, which prompted Milligan’s School to trot by to his inside. Metatron was the fiercest closer down the center of the track, but could not out-sprint Milligan’s School and Andy Miller at the finish. Waitlifter K held on for third, while Make Or Miss got fourth.
Sent off the 6-5 favorite, Milligan’s School, a $4.40 winner, is owned by Stroy Inc. and trained by Julie Miller. The earner of $128,494 in 10 starts this season was bred by Richard and Joyce McClelland.
“That’s still pretty fresh on my mind, what happened the other night [his break on Sept. 11 at The Meadows],” Julie Miller said. “When we were sitting in the two hole here I said ‘Come on, let’s make sure we take advantage of this big opportunity.’ It was a misfortune [the break], but we bounced back tonight. That’s all you can do.”
“I’ve been really pleased with this horse,” Miller also said. “From the word go, he’s just done everything I’ve asked. Andy [Miller] gets along with him great, and I expect a lot of good things from him.”
The second split was claimed by Taco Tuesday, who benefitted from a patient drive and battled home to finish narrowly in front of Hollywood Highway in a 1:58.2 mile. Runner-up Hollywood Highway set the tempo for most the mile, putting up fractions of :30.2, :59.4, and a third-quarter in 1:29.1 thanks to the pressure of first-over Desert Runner. Taco Tuesday tracked Desert Runner two-wide into the far turn, tipping wide into the stretch. Desert Runner held the lead shortly during the stretch, while Hollywood Highway continued to battle for control, and Taco Tuesday edged into a length of the battle. Into the final sixteenth, he got a neck in front of Hollywood Highway to pull off a 12-1 upset. Finishing third was Desert Runner, and fourth was Honor Above All via disqualification of Coughlin for a lapped-on break.
Sired by Cantab Hall, out of the Yankee Glide mare Be My Baby, the James Wilhite-bred colt is owned by Lindy Farms of Connecticut, R. Rudolph, and F. Baldassare, trained by Frank Antonacci, and driven by Andy Miller. Taco Tuesday, in his maiden-breaking score, pushes his seasonal earnings to $39,565 in six starts.
“If you watch how we are with our two-year-olds, we don’t race them very early,” Frank Antonacci said. “This guy I had staked to the Peter Haughton, so I really thought a lot of him all winter. Then you fall into some bad grooves and make some baby mistakes, and it doesn’t take long to be in October and have $7,000 on your card.”
“He just got into a couple of bad spots where he got too aggressive,” Antonacci said in response to the colt’s history of breaking. “When you’re trying to race horses and get them back mentally, it’s a little challenging sometimes. But it was nice to have Andy [Miller] qualify him last week [at Lexington]. Obviously it paid off tonight.”
The pocket trip resulted in victory again in the third division, with Lagerfeld stalking tempo-setter Southwind Flash before pouncing out of the pocket in progress to a 1 1/4 length victory in 1:57.4. Southwind Flash passed the quarter in :30.3 and the half in 1:00.4 before being challenged by Mavens Way, who broke into the first turn due to interference by Sutton, also off stride. Mavens Way broke before three-quarters, leaving a gap for Lagerfeld to edge out of the pocket. Timed in 1:29.4, Lagerfeld began his bid in the final quarter of a mile. By the final eighth, his nose emerged in front of Southwind Flash and the margin gradually grew as the 6-5 favorite hit the line in front. Claiming the third and fourth spots were Brownie Hanover and Kanthaka.
Trained by Jimmy Takter, the son of Yankee Glide, out of Yankee Paco mare Southern Senorita, paid $4.60 to win. He’s owned by Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding, and Herb Liverman. Lagerfeld has now earned $279,709 in eight starts this season, with this win being his third.
“He got the perfect trip,” Jimmy Takter said. “He got a little lucky with a couple of horses breaking in the first turn, but it’s a tricky track tonight and last night was the same. It’s maybe slightly better today, but it’s very sticky at the rail and a lot of horses have a problem to find some legs there.”
“It’s normally like that when it’s a very windy day with two-year-olds,” Takter also said in regards to the benefit of coming off the pace. “It’s always tough to cut the mile, and on the backside there’s a very tough wind. We got a perfect trip, but I don’t want to take anything away from this horse. He almost made $300,000 and he’s a great potential colt.”
In a wire-to-wire performance, 7-2 third choice Dupree was a winner in 1:57.3 over 1-2 favorite Bar Hopping, who began to challenge for the lead heading into the far turn. Dupree set fractions of :29.3 and :59.4 before being confronted by Bar Hopping first over. The two were stride for stride through a 1:30 third quarter before Dupree edged away from Bar Hopping after he drifted off the turn. Bar Hopping could not recuperate the lost ground off that turn and solely chased Dupree to the line while holding off third-place finisher Cloud Nine Hanover and fourth-place finisher Celebrity Pilatus.
Owned by Knutsson Trotting Inc. and Courant A B, the Andover Hall colt out of the Muscles Yankee mare Hustle N Muscle paid $9.40 to win. This was his second win out of seven starts this season, with the victory pushing his seasonal earnings to $114,031. He is trained and driven by Ake Svanstedt.
“He’s a real nice horse,” assistant trainer Bernie Noren said. “We’ve always had high thoughts for him and today he showed up as the horse we thought he was gonna’ be. I think he likes the big track, but he raced really good last time [in the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes final]. He was sick before that, but he’s come back and we gave him two races, and now he’s getting back to himself again.”
Grand Circuit action resumes tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 2, with three divisions of the $243,000 Bluegrass 2-year-old filly pace and the $292,200 Bluegrass 2-year-old colt pace. Post time is 7:00pm.