by Carol Hodes, for the New Jersey Sire Stakes
East Rutherford, NJ — The New Jersey Sire Stakes season opens with the first of three preliminary rounds of competition for 3-year-old pacing fillies on Friday, May 16, and pacing colts and geldings on Saturday, May 17, both at the Meadowlands.
A total of 19 3-year-old fillies have been divided into two divisions (races two and four), vying for purses of $38,900 and $39,500, while 23 colts and geldings, split into three divisions (races five, 10 and 11) carry first round purses of $27,000 to $27,600.
The entrants represent the stallions Artiscape, McArdle, Life Sign, Western Ideal, Red River Hanover, Cam’s Card Shark and Artsplace.
Mr Nice Guy (Western Ideal), who captured the $84,000 Matt’s Scooter Final, brings a four-race winning streak into Saturday’s fifth race. The Nat Varty trainee is owned by the Between The Pipes Stable.
Meant To Be Me (McArdle), the Linda Toscano protégé who captured the $266,950 Matron Final last November 11, makes his 2008 debut in the same division. He races for the ownership of Louis Marciante and Amante Standardbred Inc.
Dax Hanover (Cam’s Card Shark), from the barn of trainer Tom Fanning, has finished in the money in 11 of 13 starts this year, winning his last two in-a-row for Harmony Oaks Racing Stable, William Wiswell, VIP Internet Stable LLC and Hal Glestein.
One of his 10th race rivals is Fred Monteleone’s Dontloseyourdayjob (Life Sign), who makes his first start of the year. He was third in the 2007 Matron and sixth in the Breeders Crown Final.
The third division, race 11, features the 2008 return of Genuwine (Cam’s Card Shark), who won the $85,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes Final at Freehold on September 22. The multi-stakes winner completed his 2007 campaign with seven wins, three seconds and two thirds from 13 starts and earnings of $164,579, taking a mark of 1:50.2 at Lexington’s Red Mile. Owned by Ronald Michelon, he is trained by Erv Miller.
His competition includes the George Teague-conditioned and co-owned Rudy Rednose (Red River Hanover), who has four wins and a third in five starts this year, and Incredible Matt (Artsplace), who has two wins and two thirds from seven starts for trainer Mark Ford and owners Dean Davis and James Snyder.
Among the fillies racing on Friday night is Erma La Em (Cam’s Card Shark), who has finished in-the-money in all eight starts this year. The Steve LeBlanc trainee is owned by Joseph Barbara.
Good News Lady (Western Ideal) and McArts N Crafts (McArdle) are both making their return to action since wrapping up their 2-year-old seasons in the Breeders Crown on November 16.
Good News Lady, trained by Jimmy Takter for Christina Takter, Brittany Farms and Val D’Or Farms, was fourth in the Breeders Crown, banking more than $230,000.
McArts N Crafts, trained and owned by Haralabos Giannoulis, earned $280,556 in 2008, finishing on-the-board in seven of 10 outings. She was ninth in the Breeders Crown.
Three preliminary rounds of New Jersey Sire Stakes will be held for each of the 3-year-old pacing divisions — May 16-17, June 6-7 and June 13-14 — to determine the fields for the finals, each of which carry a purse of $175,000.
This year, for the first time, the New Jersey Sire Stakes program will crown all of its 3-year-old pacing and trotting champions at the Meadowlands on one night — June 20 — with purses totaling $700,000.
“This super night of racing at the Meadowlands will feature the top New Jersey-sired 3-year-olds and represent the single largest payday for the New Jersey Sire Stakes program,” said Christopher Castens, NJSS executive director.
The New Jersey Sire Stakes records for 3-year-old pacers are currently held by the Life Sign filly Apple Krisp (1:49.4 on June 18, 2004), the Pacific Flight colt Artistic Fella (1:49.1 on June 24, 2006) and the Die Laughing gelding Die Lute (1:49.3 on July 2, 1999).
The first round of New Jersey Sire Stakes competition for 87 eligible 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings and 58 3-year-old trotting fillies is scheduled for May 26 and 28, respectively.