Hightstown, NJ — Jim Campbell will send two Breeders Crown champions and one Breeders Crown runner-up into action Saturday night at The Meadowlands.
Sandbetweenmytoes, who recorded the biggest upset in Breeders Crown history when he captured last year’s final for 3-year-old male pacers at odds of nearly 204-1, is among 16 horses entered in the first round of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old pacers. The group was divided into two eight-horse divisions, with Sandbetweenmytoes in the second.
The gelding is joined on the card by Campbell-trained stablemates Next Level Stuff, who won last year’s Breeders Crown for 3-year-old female trotters, and Crystal Fashion, who was second in the Breeders Crown Open Trot. Both are making their seasonal debuts.
Sandbetweenmytoes will start his Graduate division from post eight with driver Scott Zeron and is 6-1 on the morning line. He made his seasonal bow last Saturday at The Meadowlands, finishing eighth against older rivals in the Preferred Handicap. He was the only 4-year-old in the race, which was won by 8-year-old millionaire Sintra in 1:48.4.
“It’s hard to get a reading on him from that race because they went in (1):48 and he wasn’t ready to go in (1):48,” said Campbell, who trains Sandbetweenmytoes for breeder-owner Fashion Farms. “He’s in a tough spot, like any 4-year-old that comes back. He’s in with all other 4-year-olds this week, but the 4-year-old year is the toughest year for these horses that race at a high level because they’re racing against seasoned horses.
“To me it’s the biggest steppingstone, going from 3 to 4. You’ve got to pick and choose your spots.”
Sandbetweenmytoes has won eight of 26 career races and $516,532. His top victories also include an elimination of last year’s Little Brown Jug. The winner of the Little Brown Jug, Captain Barbossa, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the first Graduate division. Ruthless Hanover is the 3-1 favorite in the second.
Next Level Stuff, owned by breeder Runthetable Stables, is making her first start since winning her Breeders Crown at the end of October. She is one of two mares in Saturday’s $25,000 conditioned trot at the Big M, where she will leave from post eight with driver Tim Tetrick. She is 9-2 on the morning line. Five-year-old gelding Chin Chin Hall is the 3-1 favorite from post 10.
Last season, Next Level Stuff won seven of 13 races, finished second three times, and earned $481,361. She won four of her final five starts of the campaign.
“She sure finished on a fantastic note,” Campbell said. “And she’s coming back good this year. She was really good in both her qualifiers. Last week at The Meadowlands she had a lot of trot. She was locked in, which was a good thing in a qualifier. She finished up strong, that’s all we were looking for.”
Next Level Stuff won her first qualifier in 1:55.4 on April 13 and was third in her second, timed in 1:55 with a :27.2 last quarter.
“She’s in a tough spot this weekend but she’s got a stakes race (first leg of the Miss Versatility) next Saturday and we wanted to race her to get a race into her before that race,” Campbell said. “For the most part, we’re just trying to keep her against the mares, but it’s hard to find races where the trotting mares don’t have to race against (males). We’re just going to play it by ear and see what races come up for us and pick our spots.”
Crystal Fashion, a 6-year-old gelding, makes his seasonal debut in Saturday’s $30,000 Preferred Handicap Trot. He will start from post six in an eight-horse field and is 8-1 on the morning line with Jordan Stratton in the sulky.
For his career, Crystal Fashion has won 19 of 54 races and $2.02 million. He is owned by Fashion Farms.
“We’ve been happy with the way he’s come back,” Campbell said. “It’s tough for the first couple starts because they’re going against some horses that maybe have been racing all winter or have four or five starts into them. So, they have a little bit of an advantage.
“He’s got a long campaign ahead of him, so we’ll just take it one race at a time and get him back in shape.”
Crystal Fashion won one of 13 races last year and earned $295,472. He picked up a check in his final 10 starts.
“I was very happy with his year,” Campbell said. “He raced strong right to the end. I credit Jordan Stratton with some of that because he raced him very smart. Jordan and the horse click well together.”
Racing begins at 6:20 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at The Meadowlands. The Big M and TrackMaster have teamed to regularly provide free past performances for each race card. Past performances can be found here on The Meadowlands website.