This Week: Graduate Series fourth leg, The Meadowlands, East Rutherford, N.J., and Ben Franklin Pace, Earl Beal Jr. Memorial, Max C. Hempt Memorial and James M. Lynch Memorial eliminations, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Schedule of events: Grand Circuit action opens this week on Friday (June 21) at The Meadowlands with two $50,000 divisions in the fourth leg of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old open trotters.
The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono will host four sets of stakes eliminations on Saturday (June 22). There will be two $35,000 eliminations in the Ben Franklin for older pacers; a pair of $25,000 eliminations in the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for 3-year-old trotters; three $25,000 eliminations in the Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old male pacers; and three $20,000 eliminations in the James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old filly pacers.
Complete entries for the races can be found by clicking on this link.
Last time: Captain Crunch delivered a stunning Canadian record 1:47.2 performance to win the $750,000 Pepsi North America Cup on Saturday night (June 15) at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
Trained by Nancy Johansson, Captain Crunch and driver Scott Zeron blasted off the wings of the gate from post eight and claimed the top spot through a :26 opening quarter. Bettor’s Wish overtook the lead quickly entering the backstretch before Workin Ona Mystery, the 7-5 favorite, surged up to take control at the half in :52.4.
Captain Crunch was removed by Zeron going into the far turn and confronted Workin Ona Mystery at the three-quarters in 1:20.
In the stretch, Captain Crunch powered by to take the lead and held off a late push from Bettor’s Wish to win by three-quarters of a length in a track and Canadian record 1:47.2. Workin Ona Mystery finished third. Aflame Hanover, the longest shot in the race at 135-1, finished fourth.
“It feels unbelievable,” said Zeron following his first Pepsi North America Cup victory. “This has been the end-all, be-all for me. It’s completed my entire bucket list.
“We’ve got a lot of racing left to do, but I can’t say enough about how amazing this animal is. I didn’t want to be in that spot I was in in that race but at the same time he overcame it with just his greatness.”
A son of 2013 Cup winner Captaintreacherous, Captain Crunch came into the final off a break in his elimination. The sophomore pacer broke in the first turn after jumping a shadow, forcing him to grind out a fifth-place finish.
Trainer Johansson had last year’s Breeders Crown champion prepped perfectly for owners 3 Brothers Stables, Christina Takter, Rojan Stables and Caviart Farms.
Captain Crunch now has three wins in four starts this season and has won nine of 14 career outings. The Johansson trainee sports impressive career earnings of $1,050,806.
Complete recaps of the weekend 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 – 305; 2. Yannick Gingras – 157; 3. Jason Bartlett – 154; 4. Scott Zeron – 127; 5. Dexter Dunn – 124.
Trainers: 1. Jim King Jr. – 189; 2. Ron Burke – 187; 3. Tony Alagna – 106; 4. Rene Allard – 77; 5. Richard Banca – 71.
Owners: 1. Jo Ann Looney-King – 68.6; 2. Tim Tetrick LLC – 65.1; 3. Richard Poillucci – 55.1; 4. Brad Grant – 54.3; 5. J L Benson Stables – 53.2.
Looking ahead: Next weekend Grand Circuit action will be taking place at four different tracks. Pocono will have the finals for the Ben Franklin (older pacers), Earl Beal Jr. Memorial (3-year-old trotters), Max Hempt Memorial (3-year-old male pacers) and James Lynch (3-year-old filly pacers); Northfield Park will host the Cleveland Trotting Classic for older trotters; Tioga Downs will offer Tompkins-Geers stakes for 3-year-old colt and filly pacers; and The Meadowlands will feature the fourth leg of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old open pacers.