Gia’s Surreal looks for better luck in MatchmakerMarch 16, 2023,
Hightstown, NJ — After missing the first two rounds of the 2022 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series because of a hoof issue, Gia’s Surreal will be looking to put her best foot forward when this year’s six-week event for older female pacers begins Friday (March 17) at MGM Yonkers Raceway.
Gia’s Surreal failed to advance to last year’s Matchmaker final despite finishing third, second, and first in the remaining three preliminary rounds. Needing to be in the top eight in the series standings, she was 13th and dropped into the event’s $75,000 consolation race, which she won by three-quarters of a length over Lit De Rose in 1:53.
On Friday, she starts from post three with Jason Bartlett driving for trainer Ed Hart in the third of three $40,000 first-round Matchmaker divisions as this year’s Grand Circuit season gets underway. She is the 3-1 morning-line favorite.
“She’s doing real well, acts really good,” Hart said. “She’s a really nice mare. She fits in with everybody (in the series), for sure. Hopefully we get lucky this year.”
Gia’s Surreal, a daughter of So Surreal-Nancy Irene owned by James Graham, Edward Peron, and Lee Winters, hit the board in 17 of 24 races last year and earned $289,266. In addition to her two wins in the Matchmaker, her five victories in 2022 included the Forest City Pace. She was second in the Clara Barton and third in the Dayton Distaff Derby, Roses Are Red, Perfect Sting, Cleopatra Invitational, and Allerage Farms Mare Pace.
For her career, the 7-year-old Gia’s Surreal has won 31 of 109 races and earned $796,893.
“She’s just a tough mare,” Hart said. “She’s a little tough to deal with in the barn, she can get cranky once in a while, but she’s just as tough on the track. She’s a big hard-trying mare. She’s been that way for a number of years now.
“Last year, she started out in the Matchmaker and kept racing all year long. That’s tough. There are not many at this level who can do it.”
Gia’s Surreal made her seasonal debut in last week’s Open Handicap for fillies and mares at Yonkers. She finished fifth as defending Matchmaker champion Drama Act nipped Racine Bell, last year’s Matchmaker runner-up, by a nose. Braxton Boyd drove Gia’s Surreal, with Bartlett behind Racine Bell.
Lifetime at half-mile Yonkers, Gia’s Surreal has hit the board in 13 of 17 starts, with seven wins.
“She gets around any track just fine,” Hart said. “She’s got very good gate speed; she can make a trip. I think she’s poised pretty well, actually.”
In addition to Gia’s Surreal, Hart will send out Lydeo in the first Matchmaker division. She will start from post six with Scott Zeron in the bike and is 20-1 on the morning line. The division features Drama Act, the 2-1 favorite, and Racine Bell, the 3-1 second choice.
Last year, Lydeo won the Ruby Cook Memorial Pace final at Hollywood Casino at The Meadows, and hit the board four times in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes series. She earned $110,332 in 15 races for owners Randy Bendis, Reed Broadway, and Pollack Racing.
This season, the 4-year-old mare has three second-place finishes in four starts.
“She had a good year at 3 in Pennsylvania,” Hart said. “She’s going to have to step it up a little bit against these tougher old mares now. Sometimes it’s a tough transition, but we’ll see. She’s a really nice mare. She’s nice to be around, nice on the track, and tries hard.”
Mabalene N is the 3-1 favorite in the second Matchmaker division. She will start from post two with Bartlett driving for trainer Shane Tritton.
Racing begins at 7 p.m. at Yonkers. For free TrackMaster past performances, visit the Standardbred Owners Association of New York website here.