Hightstown, NJ — As trainer Marcus Melander prepared In Range for his rookie season, he was uncertain what he had in the 2-year-old trotter. The colt was a good-looking $185,000 yearling buy from a successful family but did not stand out among Melander’s other horses.
But when it came time to race, In Range went from indifferent to inspired. He has four wins and a second in five starts as he heads to Saturday’s (Sept. 5) $253,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship for 2-year-old male trotters at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
In Range and driver Tim Tetrick are 3-1 on the morning line, the second choice behind the Ake Svanstedt-trained entry of Captain Corey and Fly Light at 2-1. Captain Corey, undefeated in three races this season, and In Range will be meeting for the first time.
“It’s not going to be easy to beat Captain Corey, but I don’t feel defeated before the race,” Melander said. “I’m very confident in my horse and hope he can step up a little more. But it’s a good field, it’s not just Captain Corey in there. Captain Corey is going to be the favorite but they’re 2-year-olds, you never know. It will be an interesting race.”
Pocono hosts the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championships and consolations for 2-year-olds, with a first-race post time of 12:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. Harrah’s Philadelphia hosts the finals and consolations for 3-year-olds on Sunday, with first post at 12:40 p.m. (EDT).
In Range is a son of Bar Hopping out of Ilia. He was purchased at last November’s Standardbred Horse Sale and his family includes Grand Circuit stakes winner Long Tom, who was trained by Melander, and state-bred stakes winner Tight Lines.
“It’s a good family and he’s a good-looking horse,” said Melander, who trains In Range for owners AMG Stable Inc., Kenneth Kjellgren, Tomas Hans Asell, and Rick Wahlstedt. “We really liked him.”
In Range started his career with a win in a division of the Pennsylvania All-Stars before back-to-back scores in preliminary legs of the sire stakes. He finished second to Fly Light in a sire stakes division at The Meadows, where he was third in a 1:00.1 half and unable to overtake the winner despite a :27.1 final quarter, but bounced back to defeat Fly Light in a sire stakes split at Pocono.
“Honestly, he didn’t feel like a horse that would win four out of five,” Melander said. “He never had a bad training day, he did exactly what he was supposed to do, but he’s a really laidback and lazy horse. I didn’t really know what to expect. He never did anything wrong at home, there were just a couple other ones that shined more than he did.
“He didn’t really step up until we brought him to The Meadowlands to qualify. Since then, he’s been completely different on the racetrack. He’s still lazy at home but on the racetrack he’s all business.”
In Range, whose laidback demeanor is the only trait he shares with three-quarter brother Long Tom, won his most recent outing in gate-to-wire fashion after racing from primarily off the pace in his earlier starts. All four of his victories have come by a minimum of one length.
“He’s so handy,” Melander said. “He doesn’t waste energy on other stuff. He knows what he’s doing and he’s perfect in hand for Tim. He’s very easy to work with and be around.
“Tim has been doing a good job with him, letting him come from off the pace and teaching him. The last time, it was time for him to try to leave, and he was really good out there. He’s definitely been learning. Tim has been prepping him good.
“He’s a really nice horse. I can’t say one bad thing about him.”
The favorites in the remaining Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championships for 2-year-olds are male pacer Southwind Gendry, female trotter Flawless Country, and female pacer Grace Hill. For Saturday’s complete Pocono entries, click here.