The Meadowlands - As the 2017 Championship Meet at The Meadowlands draws to it's August 5 conclusion, the stakes action increases to a fever pitch.
Friday night brings with it elimination races for the track's top freshman trotting races, the Peter Haughton and Jim Doherty Memorials.
The Peter Haughton drew fourteen declarations, necessitating a pair of seven colt elims, the first of which comes in race six while the Doherty fillies number 16 and race in the ninth and tenth.
Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter has entered six of his freshmen trotters in the Haughton and sends out the top three morning line choices in the first division, led by the $350,000 Muscle Hill yearling purchase You Know You Do. The colt breezed through his Meadowlands morning trials and a PA All Stars division before tasting defeat in a PASS at Harrah's in his latest start.
You Know You Do races for the partnership of Howard Taylor, Order By Stable, Bud Hatfield, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld and leaves form the rail for driver Yannick Gingras.
The second division (race eight) contains a really talented bunch of trotting colts that include NJSS champ You Need Stones from the Ronnie Burke barn and PASS winner Met's Hall, the slight ML choice for the Millers.
You Need Stones had his way with three other Jersey-breds throughout the sparsely attended sires stakes but he did that in very impressive fashion. He trotted to a fast 1:55.2 in each of his last two starts with 27 and change last quarters in both, compelling his connections to take a crack against open company. You Need Stones gets introduced to a new driver in Tim Tetrick on Friday and starts from post six for owner / breeders Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi and Larry Karr.
Met's Hall has also won all of his races, including two stakes in Pennsylvania the most recent in track record time of 1:55.1 at Harrahs. The sharp looking Cantab Hall colt is owned by Stroy Inc and the Andy Miller Stable, trained by Julie and driven by Andy Miller.
Trainer George Ducharme has enjoyed remarkable success with trotters including a Hambletonian win in 2013 with Royalty For Life. This year George brings his filly Hey Livvy to The Meadowlands as the favorite in the first Doherty division (race nine). She's a speedy Donato Hanover lass the Ducharme and long-time owner (and a partner on Royalty For Life) Paul Fontaine paid the bargain price of $35,000 for at the Lexington sales last fall. Brian Sears drives Hey Livvy from post six.
Takter and Gingras team up again in the second Doherty split with the unbeaten Muscle Hill filly Manchego (PP #2). In a field of fast, talented fillies Manchego is the fastest thus far with a 1:54.4 win a PA Sires action at Pocono. She's been perfect through all five of her public appearances for owners Black Horse Racing, John Fielding and Herb Liverman but faces her toughest test to date on Friday.
The top five official finishers from all eliminations will move on to next week's rich finals on Hambletonian Day.
The undercard has several interesting contests led by a powerful field of Open trotters in race two that includes the return of 2015 Hambletonian winner Pinkman, 2016 Breeders Crown champ Flanagan Memory and speedy import Tuonoblu Rex as they prepare for the upcoming Cashman Memorial.
Open pacing mares are also on the card in anticipation of the Lady Liberty stake. Golden Girls winner Nike Franco N leads seven others in the $20,000 seventh race.
Just when it seemed things just couldn't get any better they did with Friday's Christmas In July promotion where gift cards will be awarded to lucky sweepstakes winners.
For the horseplayer Friday is a "Must Pay" night on the fifth race Jackpot Super Hi 5 carryover of $35,864. For the uninitiated that translates to a $35,864 head-start in that pool which will grow quickly with new money.
Post time is 7:15 p.m.