East Rutherford, NJ – Derby Day qualifiers came an hour early at 9:00 on an overcast morning with an unusual wind at their backs in the homestretch and the temperature around 60 degrees.
The day opened with a powerful field of 3YO trotting colts that included last year’s divisional champ, world record holder and winter book Hambletonian favorite Walner and he could not have looked better.
Driver Tim Tetrick took Walner back to fifth early on as Devious Man (Andy Miller) and King On The Hill (Jimmy Takter) took turns on the lead through fractions of 28.1, 56.3 and 1:25.4. Tetrick moved Walner to the outside into the final turn, picked up live cover from Long Tom (Marcus Melander) then fanned off that and stormed by to win by a couple under no encouragement while closing the 1:53.1 mile with his individual final quarter slightly better than the on the board 27.2.
Linda Toscano conditions the imposing son of Chapter Seven for Ken Jacobs.
The lightly raced Sweet Chap won race two for trainer/driver Trond Smedshammer, leading all the way in 1:57.3 / 28.1 over a closing Brown Bear (Brian Sears) and Eastern Promise (John Campbell).
The royally bred $230,000 yearling purchase That’s All Moni won her second qualifier in 1:56.1. Trainer Jimmy Takter did the driving today and settled the filly just off the lead then trotted a 28 last quarter to hold off stablemate Feed Your Head (Yannick Gingras) who finished strong. Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld share ownership of the Cantab Hall three-quarter sister to the mythical Snow White.
The parade of stars continued with Ariana G’s (Gingras) impressive 1:55.1 / 27.2 win. Yannick drove Ariana G into an early seat Caviart Wonder (Andy McCarthy) led through a 58.2 half then set her rolling around the turn to a clear lead and she widened as she pleased to the wire. Caviart Wonder and Hillarmbro (Smedshammer) followed her in.
Last year’s PASS 3YO colt trotting Cufflink Hanover continued on the course to his four-year-old season with a winning 1:55.2 effort for Andy Miller. He led all the way and held of the close of Jewel’s In Hock (Campbell) within himself.
New York bred sophomore filly pacer Robin J (Campbell) was a winner at second asking for the Toscano / Jacobs connection, sitting just off the pace then charging by on her own for Campbell to win in 1:54.4 / 27.1. Awash (Gingras) and Queen To Me were next in behind the winner.
Toscano struck again with another NY stakes filly when World Apart (Andy Miller) tracked down She’s Watching (Gingras) in the shadow of the wire to win in 1:54.2 the final quarter a wind aided 26.2. She’s Watching gave a good account of herself in her first start since last July and Caviart Ally (McCarthy) was third.
Dealt A Winner (Brain Sears) won the last of the qualifiers in 1:53 with a 27 flat end to the mile. Rockeyed Optimist was a good second with a pair of 3YO’s, Lindythefourteenth and Odds On Delray were next across the line.
It’s an all-day affair at The Meadowlands with Derby festivities already under way and the Cutler Memorial and Graduate pace highlighting the live race card at 7:15 p.m.