This Week: Zweig Memorial and Zweig Memorial filly trot, Vernon Downs, Vernon, N.Y.; Gold Cup and Saucer final, Red Shores Racetrack & Casino, Charlottetown, PEI; Artiscape, Roll With Joe, and Miss Versatility, Tioga Downs, Nichols, N.Y.; and Prix d’Ete, Hippodrome 3R, Trois Rivieres, Quebec.
Schedule of events: A busy week of Grand Circuit action kicks off on Saturday (Aug. 17) at Vernon Downs with the $330,000 Zweig Memorial for 3-year-old open trotters and the $135,000 Zweig Memorial Filly Trot for 3-year-old filly trotters. There will also be a $35,000 consolation in the filly division.
Saturday’s Grand Circuit action will also be featured by Red Shores Racetrack & Casino, which will host the C$60,000 Gold Cup and Saucer final for older pacers.
On Sunday (Aug. 18), Grand Circuit racing will be contested at Tioga Downs with the $175,000 (est.) Artiscape for older pacing mares, the $175,000 (est.) Roll With Joe for older pacing males, and a $40,000 (est.) leg of the Miss Versatility for older trotting mares. Also on Sunday, Hippodrome 3R will contest the C$200,000 Prix d’Ete for 4-year-old pacers.
Last time: Just when one thought they had seen it all, a first quarter in :24.4, a favorite who looked hopelessly beaten in the stretch, came a Phoenix out of the ashes as Lather Up showed what the heart of a champion can do even when a victory seemed out of the question.
With a final time of 1:47.2, Lather Up turned in a stunning performance to capture the 26th edition of the $330,000 Dan Patch Stakes at Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Friday (Aug. 9). After equaling the world record with a 1:46 performance three starts ago, Lather Up continued his record-setting trend with a 1:47.2 final time to equal the overall track record at Harrah’s Hoosier Park and Dan Patch Stakes record set by Sweet Lou in 2014.
The sparks were flying early as Lather Up surged away from the wings of the gate from post four but was forced to settle for a spot along the rail in third as Filibuster Hanover, with Yannick Gingras in the bike, was a step quicker and grabbed the front from post five. Scott Zeron also gave Jimmy Freight marching orders but with everyone on a mission to the front, eventually settled for a pocket trip.
As the field straightened away down the backside, driver Montrell Teague gave Lather Up the green light and he quickly ranged up to grab command just before the half in :53.3.
The scorching pace continued as Lather Up led the field through the third station in 1:21.3 but Brian Sears and McWicked were on the attack first-over with Always A Prince and Trace Tetrick in tow. McWicked powered past Lather Up and appeared to be the winner but Lather Up wasn’t finished. In a remarkable rally, Lather Up used a :25.2 final quarter and the inside passing lane to quite literally, pace away from the field. Lather Up finished 2-1/2 lengths to the good while McWicked held on gamely for second. Endeavor and Sam Widger came flying late to round out the trifecta. As the heavy 1-5 favorite, Lather Up returned $2.60 to his backers at the betting windows.
For Lather Up, he recorded his fourth consecutive victory and eighth win from 11 seasonal starts. The 4-year-old homebred son of I’m Gorgeous-Pocket Comb is owned by Gary and Barbara Iles. It was recently announced that a 50 percent interest of Lather Up was sold to a group headed by Taylor Made Sales and Stallions.
Dexter Dunn hails from Down Under in New Zealand and traveled to the United States less than a year ago. He had never been to MGM Northfield Park, but arrived on Saturday (Aug. 10) full of confidence to drive race favorite Bettor’s Wish in the $400,000 Carl Milstein Memorial. He went to the gate on the heels of losing two straight photos in the $682,650 Meadowlands Pace and $285,362 Cane Pace.
Bettor’s Wish started from post three and went to the lead around the initial turn. He set pedestrian fractions of :28.2 and :57. Dunn urged Bettor’s Wish in the third quarter and he responded, posting times of 1:24.1 and 1:50.3. The colt pulled away by 3-1/2 lengths from his closest competitor, Captain Victorious (Yannick Gingras).
Bettor’s Wish (Bettor’s Delight-Lifetime Star) is owned by the partnership of trainer Chris Ryder, Bella Racing Ltd, Fair Island Farm and Bettors Wish Partners. Saturday’s victory was the 11th lifetime score for Bettor’s Wish. The win makes the Ryder trainee harness racing’s newest millionaire, pushing his earnings to $1,096,600.
Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website.
Grand Circuit Standings: In 2019, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2019 Grand Circuit awards.
Here are the leaders following this past weekend:
Drivers: 1. Tim Tetrick – 721; 2. Yannick Gingras – 536; 3. David Miller – 414; 4. Dexter Dunn – 404; 5. Andrew McCarthy – 309.
Trainers: 1. Ron Burke – 663; 2. Tony Alagna – 282; 3. Jim King Jr. – 274; 4. Marcus Melander – 249; 5. Ake Svanstedt – 221.
Owners: 1. Fashion Farms – 182; 2. Burke Racing Stable – 127.1; 3. Weaver Bruscemi – 114.6; 4. Courant Inc. – 107.5; 5. Jo Ann Looney-King – 101.2.
Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will be taking place next week at Yonkers Raceway, Woodbine Mohawk Park, and Tioga Downs. Yonkers will contest eliminations for the Messengers Stakes and Yonkers Trot, the second legs of the Pacing and Trotting Triple Crown, along with eliminations in the companion Lady Maud and Hudson Filly Trot. Woodbine Mohawk Park will contest the Nassagaweya and Eternal Camnation for 2-year-old pacers, along with eliminations in the Canadian Pacing Derby for older pacers and the Maple Leaf Trot for older trotters. Tioga Downs will offer Reynolds Memorial divisions for 2-year-olds.