Hightstown, NJ — Chris Ryder knows what it is like to race in the Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace — this year’s appearance with Bettor’s Wish will be the trainer’s seventh trip to the event’s final — but this time feels different.
Bettor’s Wish, who has won five of six starts this season, is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line in Saturday’s $682,650 race for 3-year-old pacers at The Meadowlands. The colt, with driver Dexter Dunn, heads to the final off a win in his elimination last weekend. The morning line favorite is Captain Crunch, who is 2-1 after also winning his elimination.
Captain Crunch, the 2018 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male pacer, won the North America Cup on June 15 at Canada’s Woodbine Mohawk Park, with Bettor’s Wish finishing second. Bettor’s Wish has finished third or better in all but one of his 18 career races, winning 10.
“Quite often in the past, I’ve been in the North America Cup and the Meadowlands Pace, and you get a bit nervous,” the 63-year-old Ryder said. “You think hard about it, what has to be done. You always question yourself as a trainer. But with this horse, I’m absolutely not doing that because he gives you confidence. That’s what Dexter says, and he’s right.
“He’s so reliable when he races. Every time he races, he shows you some brilliance. I’m not nervous, I’m going to enjoy it, because you don’t get in these spots very often. I’m just going to enjoy it and make the most of it.”
Ryder is among the owners of Bettor’s Wish, along with Bella Racing, Fair Island Farm, and Ken Solomon. The colt, by Bettor’s Delight out of Lifetime Star, was purchased for $20,000 at the 2017 Lexington Selected Sale and has earned $664,556 so far in his career.
“It’s just a good story,” Ryder said. “He was a cheap yearling, but when you look at his pedigree, it’s tremendous. He’s from the family of Life Sign and American Ideal; Three Diamonds is his fourth dam. But he was small and he wasn’t a (Captaintreacherous-sired yearling). That was the first year of the Captains and the money went to Captaintreacherous.
“He doesn’t look small when he’s racing,” Ryder added. “He’s got a big, long stride. And he’s always good down by the wire. We’re just pleased to have him.”
Bettor’s Wish won five times last year, all in Canada, and was second in the Battle of Waterloo and Ontario Sire Stakes championship. This season, his triumphs include the Art Rooney Pace.
“Honestly, he’s a little better than I thought he would be,” said Ryder, whose best Meadowlands Pace finish came in 2002 with runner-up McArdle. “He impresses me every time he races. He trains quite well, but plenty of horses train pretty good. When you go and race, he’s got that bit extra that you don’t always see when you race them.
“I like his speed and his versatility. He’s getting two-hole trips all the time and it’s not just luck. It’s because he can get himself where he needs to be.”
Bettor’s Wish will start Saturday from post four. Captain Crunch and driver Scott Zeron will leave from post one while Workin Ona Mystery, the 5-1 third choice on the morning line, and driver Tim Tetrick start from post nine. No other pacer in the 10-horse field is better than 10-1.
“This is going to be a tricky race,” Ryder said, adding with a laugh, “I said that about the North America Cup, and here I am saying the same thing again. Who knows?”
Saturday’s 13-race card at The Meadowlands features eight of the top-10 horses in this week’s Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll.
In addition to Captain Crunch (No. 3) and Bettor’s Wish (No. 5) in the Meadowlands Pace, No. 1 Shartin N is in the Golden Girls, No. 2 Atlanta is in the Hambletonian Maturity, No. 4 Greenshoe is in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial, No. 6 Lather Up is in the William R. Haughton Memorial, No. 9 Warrawee Ubeaut is in the Mistletoe Shalee, and No. 10 Hannelore Hanover is in the Miss Versatility.
For Saturday’s complete entries, click here.