Nichols NY — Tioga Downs will be the focus of the Standardbred racing world on Sunday (Aug. 11) when the “Jewel of the Southern Tier” plays host to a pair of Grand Circuit stakes as well as the elimination races for the Empire Breeders Classic for pacing colts.
The best older trotting mares currently racing roll in for the $132,000 Joie De Vie stakes (race nine) where the fastest female trotter in racing history by virtue of her 1:49.1 Graduate final win, Atlanta, returns after a short freshening.
Atlanta dominated the first half of the season with six consecutive stakes wins before a tight loss in the Hambletonian Maturity. Since then her only public appearances have been on owner Michelle Crawford’s social media as she spent a few weeks being pampered at their horse resort in upstate New York. She’s back as the favorite to take the Joie De Vie with regular driver Yannick Gingras slated to drive from post six for trainer Ron Burke and partners Crawford Farms, Brad Grant and Howard Taylor.
In Atlanta’s absence, one of her chief rivals from last season, Manchego, has blossomed. After a bit of a slow start, Manchego has caught fire lately for trainer Nancy Johansson, most recently scoring a convincing 1:50 win in the Dr. John Steele Memorial setting up an interesting meeting between these two queens of the trot. She’ll start from post two for driver Dexter Dunn and owner Black Horse Racing.
The eight mare field is loaded with talent and includes world record holder (set right here at Tioga Downs) and multiple Breeders Crown winner Emoticon Hanover for the Hambletonian winning connections of Determination, Luc Blais and Bob McClure, 2018 Steele Memorial winner Dream Together (stablemate to Emoticon Hanover), international star and 1:49.4 Meadowlands winner Darling Mearas S, along with her Svanstedt stablemate and world champion millionaire Plunge Blue Chip, the always tough multiple stakes winning Custom Cantab and 2017 Kentucky Sire Stakes champion Top Expectations.
Six top trotting horses declared for the $148,000 Crawford Farms (race eight) and it is a well balanced, competitive field.
Mission Accepted (post four-Gingras/Burke) won last week’s Vincennes trot at The Meadowlands and his sharp gate speed allows him to be in position to succeed for owners Knox Services and David Wills.
Pinkman (post one-Dunn/Per Engblom) was a good second to Mission Accepted in that race and his story is a familiar one. The ageless 2015 Hambletonian winner perhaps doesn’t win as often as he once did but is closing in on $3 million for owners Christina Takter, John & Jim Fielding, Joyce Mc Clelland and Herb Liverman and he has the rail.
The balanced of the field includes Ontario star Run Director, Spirit of Massachusetts runner-up The Veteran, former Breeders Crown champ Fiftydallarbill and decorated New Zealand import Speeding Spur N.
Also on the bill are a pair of eliminations for next week’s $238,000 EBC final for 3-year-old male pacers.
Post time is 1 p.m. on Sunday and more information may be gleaned on the web.