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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Seventh straight $3M handle at Big M; Rockeyed Optimist dominates

by James Witherite, Meadowlands Media Relations

East Rutherford, N.J. -- The beat goes on at The Meadowlands, as a bustling on-track crowd and simulcast punters from across North America combined to wager $3,283,111 on Saturday (February 20) evening's 14-race program.  This marks the seventh consecutive program at The Meadowlands drawing at least $3 million in all-sources handle, with the streak having begun on January 29.

The evening's featured $20,000 upper-level pace saw Rockeyed Optimist ($3.40) brush aggressively to the lead on the backstretch, subsequently drawing off to a four-length win over his six rivals in 1:49.3.  Tim Tetrick settled the 5-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding just off pacesetters Sweet Beach (Anthony Napolitano) and Shooter's Dream (Corey Callahan) through a :27.2 initial quarter before taking charge with nine-sixteenths to go.  After clearing, Rockeyed Optimist found himself uncontested on the lead through middle splits of :55.3 and 1:23.  Off the corner, Tetrick urged Rockeyed Optimist to accelerate away, and the response was instant.  The odds-on favorite kicked on to a decisive win over All Week (John Campbell), who rallied up the pegs to narrowly take second at 41-1 in a photograph with Aslan (Andy McCarthy) and 2014 Little Brown Jug winner Limelight Beach (Yannick Gingras).

Steve Elliott trains Rockeyed Optimist, now a 16-time winner, for the partnership of Perretti, Berkner, the A & B Stable, and Battaglia.  For Tetrick, the win was one of two on the card.  Brett Miller led all drivers with a hat trick, while Joe Bongiorno, Corey Callahan, and Jim Marohn, Jr. joined Tetrick with driving doubles.

While one individual captured the seventh-race 20¢ Jackpot High 5 for $39,302, the final-race High 5 saw multiple winners.  Thus, $106,314 will carry into next Friday evening's final-race Jackpot High 5.

Earlier in the day, a trio of horseplayers punched their tickets to the 2017 National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas, as Lucas Van Zandt (first place, $10,240 prize winnings), Paul Vinges (second, $5,120), and Bart Fooden (third, $2,560) took top honors in the NHC qualifying event at The Meadowlands.

Live racing returns at The Big M on Friday, February 26, with first post slated for 6:35 p.m. Eastern time.