Grand Circuit heads to Freehold

This Week: Dexter Cup elimination, Freehold Raceway, Freehold, N.J.

Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit at Freehold on Saturday (April 24) features a single $38,529 Dexter Cup elimination for 3-year-old open trotters.

Ten horses entered the Dexter Cup on Wednesday. Two of them, Ambassador Hanover for trainer Ake Svanstedt, and Sunny Crockett, trained by Julie Miller, accepted a bye and will advance to next week’s final. As a result, the top six finishers in the elimination will move on to the final.

Complete entries for the Saturday Freehold races can be found by clicking here.

Last Time: This Is The Plan was able to overcome starting from the outside post eight with a blitz off the gate and then never let anybody get close to him after that in winning Monday night’s (April 19) $514,000 MGM Borgata Pacing Series final at Yonkers Raceway in 1:50.4. This Is The Plan, driven by Yannick Gingras and one of three in the final sent out by trainer Ron Burke, was dispatched at odds of 11-1.

This Is The Plan won Monday night’s (April 19) $514,000 MGM Borgata Pacing Series final. Chris Brokate photo.

This Is The Plan was able to go from six-wide early on the bend to leading over stablemate Rockapelo by the time they entered the backstretch for the first time. Everybody else then got down to the cones except for Backstreet Shadow, who was left on the outside as the first quarter rang up in :26.4.

On the second turn, 6-5 favorite Western Joe, who had landed in fourth, flushed Hesa Kingslayer N out of third, and they made some progress towards This Is The Plan at the :55.1 half, but then the pace dramatically quickened past that marker as Gingras stepped on the accelerator and This Is The Plan responded by opening up a gap on the rest of the field in a third quarter that went on the board in :27.

After building up that advantage on his pursuers, This Is The Plan was not about to relinquish it, as he paced home in :28.3 to seal the deal by 1-1/2 lengths over Rockapelo, who went off at 13-1. Mach N Cheese saved ground on the inside and finished third at 32-1.

A 6-year-old gelding by Somebeachsomewhere, This Is The Plan is owned by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, J&T Silva- Purnel & Libby, and Larry Karr. This Is The Plan is now a 16-time winner in his career and the winner’s share of the purse made him harness racing’s newest double millionaire, as his lifetime earnings now stand at $2,073,700.

The betting was focused on two mares in Monday’s $232,800 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series final, but in the end it would be 6-1 shot Machnhope that would get the job done in game fashion, overtaking Blue Ivy near the wire to score in 1:52.2 for driver Andrew McCarthy.

Machnhope won Monday’s $232,800 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series final. Chris Brokate photo.

The action was hot and heavy at the outset as four horses left the gate, including favored Alexa Skye from post six, but the even-money choice would have to be content with a tuck in the four-hole as George Brennan, behind Snobbytown, circled Blue Ivy on the first turn and drove past Machnhope to take charge.

Tyler Buter, driving 3-2 second choice Blue Ivy, may have been outsprinted early, but the two quickly seized control well before the :27.1 opening quarter. From there, Buter and Blue Ivy kept the pace somewhat lively, hitting the half in :55.3 before feeling any heat.

Todd McCarthy and Alexa Skye got off the pylons at the half and quickly flushed Machnhope’s cover. What looked like a perfect trip for the favorite at that juncture didn’t turn out that way, though, as while Machnhope moved towards the pacesetter, Alexa Skye stalled and couldn’t stay on her cover.

With Blue Ivy still in control at three-quarters in 1:23.4, the second choice looked in position to win, but Machnhope, under steady urging by Andrew McCarthy, kept grinding her way towards the leader. The field got a bit crowded in deep stretch as Snobbytown searched for room but was unable to find any.

Machnhope showed her tenacity near the wire, securing the victory for trainer Noel Daley, who shares ownership in the 6-year-old daughter of Mach Three with Deo Volente Farms, Tom Pontone, and L. A. Express Stable. Snobbytown settled for third behind Blue Ivy, with Alexa Skye holding fourth on the line.

It was the fourth win in 11 tries this year for Machnhope and her 30th career victory. She also pushed her 2021 earnings to $184,115 and her lifetime bankroll to $521,394.

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 4-19-21):

Drivers: 1. Andrew McCarthy – 69; 2. George Brennan – 64; 3t. Todd McCarthy – 60; 3t. Yannick Gingras – 60; 5. Austin Siegelman – 56.

Trainers: 1. Ron Burke – 144; 2. Todd Buter – 50; 3. Noel Daley – 47; 4t. Jeff Cullipher – 40; 4t. Sheena McElhiney – 40.

Owners: 1. Renee Bercury – 50; 2t. Burke Racing Stable – 41.1; 2t. Weaver Bruscemi – 41.1; 4. Jesmeral Stable – 40; 5. Eric Prevost – 38.

Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will take place next week at Freehold Raceway and The Meadowlands. Freehold will host the Dexter Cup final for 3-year-old open trotters and the Lady Suffolk for 3-year-old filly trotters. The Meadowlands will offer the first leg of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old open pacers.

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