Plainville, MA – When the Grand Circuit makes its midsummer stop in Massachusetts on Sunday (July 26), the top three aged mares currently competing in the sport, all who are multi-million dollar winners, will be on hand to compete in the $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot and $100,000 Clara Barton Distaff Pace at Plainridge Park.
The much anticipated third round of the year between Atlanta and Manchego will take place in the Spirit and little separates the two coming into the race after each claiming one win in head-to-head competition.
In their first meeting in the $40,000 Ms. Versatility at the Meadowlands on June 19, Atlanta and Manchego got away third and fifth, respectively, before Yannick Gingras pulled Atlanta and Dexter Dunn followed with Manchego. Atlanta cleared past the quarter and Manchego took control from her by the half.
The pair remained one-two until they hit the stretch when Gingras tipped Atlanta and methodically gained ground on Manchego as both drivers heavily urged their mounts. When they hit the wire, they were side-b- side and it took a photo to separate them by a nose, with Manchego getting the nod in 1:50 flat. The win time is the fastest trotting mile of the year to this point.
The second meeting came two weeks later on July 4 in the $170,900 Cutler Memorial, also at the Meadowlands. Atlanta and Manchego both gunned the gate and sprinted away in tandem from the field of 11 to a very hot first quarter of :25.4. Manchego was finally able to clear at that point but Atlanta was right on her back.
Chin Chin Hall (Brian Sears) engaged Manchego past the half and pushed her through a 1:23.1 third quarter and around the far turn. Atlanta, who was sitting in the pocket, was able to get out at the top of the lane and tip three-deep turning for home. Atlanta drew even with Manchego in deep stretch and eventually was able to run her down at the wire to win by only a half-length in 1:50.1. That time is the second fastest trotting mile of the year (tied with Guardian Angel As).
Despite this marquee match up, the 2020 Spirit Trot field has other very strong competitors who can definitely have an effect on the outcome of the race, making this a very good wagering event.
Lindy The Great (Andy Miller) has yet to win this year but has suffered bad luck in the draws with two consecutive eight holes, forcing him into two hellacious overland trips. However, he has still performed outstanding despite those disadvantages finishing second and third in those races. In the Cutler, he was beaten only 1-1/4 lengths by Atlanta and Manchego after being parked out the entire mile.
Manchego’s stablemate Eurobond (Tim Tetrick) is coming off a powerful 1:51.2 win at Harrah’s Philadelphia on July 5 and seems to be peaking at the right time for this race. He has a lifetime best outing of 1:50.1 last year at the Meadowlands and clearly has the ability to contend with these.
Joey Bats (Andrew McCarthy) could be a big sleeper here after finishing only 2-3/4 lengths behind the favorites in the Cutler. He has a favorable draw (post one) and McCarthy has already pulled an upset in this stake when he followed fast fractions and snuck up the inside to win 2017 Spirit with JL Cruze at 60-1.
Shartin N will make her second trip to the Commonwealth to defend her crown after she won the inaugural Barton in 2019. In that race, Tim Tetrick put Shartin N on the point and went gate-to-wire, uncontested and under a strong hold to win in 1:49.1, smashing the all-time Plainridge track record.
This year Shartin N started out winning two straight and taking an early season’s mark of 1:50 at Dover Downs before being sidelined with a foot injury. After 18 days off she returned to the Meadowlands on July 18 in the $172,850 Dorothy Haughton Memorial and put in a huge effort, falling short by only a neck.
In a first-over trip engaging the front-running Kissin In The Sand (Yannick Gingras), Shartin N took the lead in mid-stretch but tired in the final strides to finish second behind Major Occasion A (Dexter Dunn) who rallied gamely up the pylons. With that start under her belt, she remains the horse to beat on Sunday and Tetrick will have her on her toes.
Kissin In The Sand was pushed extremely hard every step of the mile in that Haughton start and still tired only late. In her first outing of 2020, she scorched the Meadowlands, going gate-to-wire in a lifetime best 1:47.4, which is also the fastest pacing mile of the year to date.
Shartin N’s stablemate Soho Burning Love A (Jordan Stratton) won back-to-back races in 1:48.4 and 1:48.1 before finishing third in the Haughton, right between the two morning line favorites. This mare has paced home in :25.4 three times this year and will be in a position to upset.
Another mare to watch is Trillions Hanover (George Brennan) who has also exhibited great closing speed. With four solid races in her last four starts, there is not much separating her from the favorites at the end of the day with a favorable trip.
Kissin In The Sand, Soho Burning Love A and Trillions Hanover will give Shartin N all she can handle in this very short, six-horse field.
The all-time track record on the trot at Plainridge Park is 1:51.3 set by JL Cruze and 1:49.1 on the pace by Shartin N. Both marks look to be under assault on Sunday.
Post time for the first race is 2 p.m. Post time for the Clara Barton Pace is 3:20 p.m. and the Spirit of Massachusetts Trot is 3:40 p.m.