Progress Pace wraps up 2021 Grand Circuit season

This Week: Progress Pace final, Dover Downs, Dover, Del.

Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit returns to Dover Downs this Wednesday (Nov. 24) for the $310,000 Progress Pace final for 3-year-old open pacers.

This will be the final stake for the 2021 Grand Circuit season.

Complete entries for the race are available at this link.

Last time: Niki Hill (Always B Miki-Road Bet) and driver Dexter Dunn proved again she is the best in the 2-year-old filly pacing division by commanding the win in the $359,450 Three Diamonds on Saturday (Nov. 20) at The Meadowlands. The time for the mile was 1:50.4.

Niki Hill won the $359,450 Three Diamonds in a dazzling 1:50.4 at The Meadowlands. Lisa photo.

Just after the first turn, Always Gonna B You (David Miller) fired fast to get the lead, but was rough gaited and broke stride, scattering the field. Joyride Hanover (Todd McCarthy) took advantage of the rumble to get the lead while Find Happiness (Brian Sears) charged first over only to give in to Treacherous Dragon (Tim Tetrick) as the busy first quarter went in :27.1.

Zooming past all of the shuffling, Niki Hill began her path to victory with Treacherous Dragon following and Dont Fence Me In (Scott Zeron) going first up as the half was clocked in :55.4.

It was all Niki Hill from there. The juvenile began to draw away around the second turn, easily dismissing Dont Fence Me In and eating real estate in the stretch with a three-quarters in 1:24.2 and an unchallenged win by 1-3/4 lengths in 1:50.4. Treacherous Dragon held for second and Dont Fence Me In was for show.

Trainer Chris Ryder said, “(Dexter) asked her for some kick in the stretch, just spoke to her briefly, and he said she had plenty left. She just took off; whenever he asked her, she just gave him more.”

Ryder expected a big mile out of her in the Three Diamonds, even though she had a skin problem the last two weeks. “Sometimes that can knock a horse,” he said, “but she’s a champion. It’s so rewarding when you get a horse like this. She’s done so much for us and I can’t say enough good about her.”

Tom Hill owns Niki Hill. She has earned $904,557 this season, winning nine of 10 starts.

Lyons Sentinel redeemed herself after a tough defeat in the Breeders Crown to win the TVG Mares Pace at The Meadowlands. Lisa photo.

After coming up a half-length short of Rocknificent in the Breeders Crown, Threelyonsracing’s Lyons Sentinel no doubt redeemed herself in Saturday night’s $175,000 TVG Mares Pace at The Meadowlands, unleashing a long first-over attack en route to a 1:49.1 score and eclipsing $2 million in career earnings in the act.

Tim Tetrick floated the 4-year-old daughter of Captaintreacherous forward from the outside wing of the starting gate, but was forced to tuck in sixth amid a contested pace that saw Peaky Sneaky (Dunn) protect inside position for the early lead before yielding to Rocknificent just after a :26.1 first quarter. Up the backstretch, Zeron rated Rocknificent through a :54.2 half before Lyons Sentinel began her long uncovered bid on approach to the far turn.

After failing to flush cover out of midfield, Lyons Sentinel switched into another gear with three-eighths to go, accelerating forward to press the pace to three-quarters in 1:22.2 before grinding to the lead in the final 150 yards. Despite Rocknificent’s game effort up the pegs, Lyons Sentinel edged away to win — for the 22nd time in her career — by three-quarters of a length. Gia’s Surreal (James MacDonald), who stalked the front flight throughout, angled off the pegs in upper stretch and chased stoutly for a narrow second over the game Rocknificent.

“She just came back like the champion she is,” said Jo Ann Looney-King, who shares the training duties of Lyons Sentinel with her husband, Jim King Jr. Of the first-over grind, Looney-King continued, “It worked tonight, because she’s just a good horse.”

While the Kings plan for Lyons Sentinel to return to the races as a 5-year-old, they believe that a 10-for-19 campaign in 2021 cements their champion mare as the queen of her division.

“I would be thrilled to get Pacing Mare of the Year,” Looney-King concluded. “I don’t ask too much, but if she’s not the best pacing mare out there, I don’t know who is.”

Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website.

Grand Circuit Standings: In 2021, 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 2021 Grand Circuit awards.

Here are the leaders (through the races on 11-20-21):

Drivers: 1. Dexter Dunn – 1,428; 2. Yannick Gingras – 1,173; 3. Tim Tetrick – 1,110.5; 4. David Miller – 1,065; 5. Andrew McCarthy – 828.5.

Trainers: 1. Ron Burke – 1,291; 2. Tony Alagna – 818.5; 3. Nifty Norman – 730; 4. Ake Svanstedt – 705; 5. Brett Pelling – 669.

Owners: 1. Burke Racing Stable – 258.7; 2. Crawford Farms Racing – 224.7; 3. Weaver Bruscemi – 222.3; 4. Courant Inc. – 219; 5. Threelyonsracing – 212.

Looking ahead: The 2021 Grand Circuit season will conclude after this week; the 2022 Grand Circuit schedule will be released in February.

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