Stablemates get nod as Pace favorites

Ken Weingartner

Hightstown, NJ — Nijinsky will have the opportunity on Saturday to become the 11th horse in history to win both the North America Cup and Meadowlands Pace. His stablemate, Legendary Hanover, will be among the horses with the opportunity to stop him.

Undefeated in six races this year, Nijinsky will head to the $650,000 Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-olds at The Meadowlands as the 2-1 morning-line favorite. Nijinsky won his Pace elimination this past Saturday by three-quarters of a length over Funtime Bayama in 1:47.3, equaling the fastest time for an elim in Pace history.

Legendary Hanover, who finished fifth in the North America Cup, is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line after capturing his Pace elim by 1-1/4 lengths over Mirage Hanover in 1:48. The colt, who received the 2023 O’Brien Award for best 2-year-old male pacer in Canada, has three victories and two seconds in six races this season.

Nijinsky and driver Louis Roy will start Saturday from post three. Legendary Hanover and driver James MacDonald will leave from post six. Both horses are trained by Anthony Beaton, who is making his Meadowlands Pace debut.

Undefeated in six races this year, Nijinsky and trainer Anthony Beaton will head to the $650,000 Meadowlands Pace as the 2-1 morning-line favorite. USTA/Ken Weingartner photo.

“It’s extremely special,” Beaton said. “Like I said going into the NA Cup, we’re going in with two legitimate shots. Some people are lucky to get one shot in their life, and I’ve got two great shots. I’m very fortunate. I really appreciate the ownership group trusting me to take care of these horses.”

Nijinsky won the North America Cup in June by 1-1/2 lengths over Captain’s Quarters, who also is a Meadowlands Pace finalist. Of the five horses to accomplish the Cup-Pace double this century, three were named Horse of the Year in Dan Patch Awards voting — Gallo Blue Chip, Rocknroll Hanover, and Tall Dark Stranger — while the other two, Well Said and Captaintreacherous, were named Pacer of the Year.

Last year, Nijinsky hit the board in six of 10 races, but found his way to the winner’s circle only once.

“We always had some issues leaving the gate,” Beaton said. “He’s always showed the high speed for home, but when we were never in the races, he just couldn’t get there in the end. He was just too far out of it a lot of times.

“(I’m impressed with) how he matured from 2 to 3, and his handiness now. Now, Louis can leave a little bit with him and there doesn’t seem to be an issue. Being in the races, he can show off his stuff and get the accolades that he deserves.”

In his elimination, Nijinsky took the lead heading into the last turn, then fended off a challenge from Funtime Bayama to remain unbeaten this season.

“What makes my horse so easy to drive, you just need to be alert on the track and he’s going to allow you to do whatever you want in the race with him,” driver Roy said.

He added about the Pace final, “It’s not going to be a one-horse race. Funtime Bayama went a crazy trip. Legendary Hanover, we always know he’s a really fast horse and he was given the right trip (in his elim). It’s going to all come down to the draw and whatever happens on the track.”

Nijinsky, a son of Bettor’s Delight-Pirouette Hanover who has earned $554,890 in his career, is owned by West Wins Stable, John Fielding, and Mark Dumain.

West Wins Stable and Dumain also own Legendary Hanover, along with Eric Good. The son of Huntsville-Lillian Hanover has hit the board in 13 of 15 career races, winning nine and earning $402,209.

Legendary Hanover has hit the board in 13 of 15 career races, winning nine and earning $402,209. USTA/Ken Weingartner photo.

“He finally got a half-decent trip (in his elimination), which is something he’s needed for a while. He’s been doing a lot of the heavy lifting,” Beaton said. “He deserves the accolades he’s getting (after the elim) because he has done a lot of work and he’s raced very well each start. It almost seems like some people were losing faith in him because he wasn’t winning those races, but I never lost faith in this horse.

“I’ve said it in the past, he may be one of the best horses that I’ve ever trained myself. He’s a big, strong, powerful horse. He’s so professional. He’s almost too smart for his own good. You could have a baby almost jog him, he’s so relaxed. It’s nice to go to the barn and jog a horse like that, it kind of sets you up for a good day. It’s nice to have that nice horse, mild mannered, just a sweetheart to jog. He brightens your day.”

In his elimination, Legendary Hanover settled in third, where he remained heading into the stretch. He paced his last quarter in a blistering :24.4 to earn the victory.

“It was my job to find a nice trip for him,” driver MacDonald said. “Unfortunately, in the big ones, I haven’t been able to map them out for him, but I’m hoping (in the final) I can get the job done.

“He’s just a great horse. He can do anything. He finishes like a freight train, he’s great on the front, he can rough it first-up if you’ve got to. Hopefully, I can work something out for him in the final. Some people maybe got down on him, but Tony and I and his ownership group have never given up on him. We think the sky is the limit still for him.”

Racing begins at 6:20 p.m. (EDT) at The Meadowlands. For free TrackMaster programs for the Big M, click here.

Post time for the Meadowlands Pace, which is race 11 on the program, is 10:43 p.m.

Below are the post positions, horses, drivers, trainers and morning-line odds:

PP – Horse – Driver – Trainer – Odds
1 – Its Saturday Night – Andrew McCarthy – Nifty Norman – 20-1
2 – Funtime Bayama – Dexter Dunn – Andrew Harris – 7-2
3 – Nijinsky – Louis Roy – Anthony Beaton – 2-1
4 – Mirage Hanover – Tim Tetrick – Jake Leamon – 9-2
5 – Gem Quality – Yannick Gingras – Chris Ryder – 10-1
6 – Legendary Hanover – James MacDonald – Anthony Beaton – 3-1
7 – Captain Albano – Todd McCarthy – Noel Daley – 5-1
8 – Captain Luke – Scott Zeron – Tony Alagna – 15-1
9 – Captain’s Quarters – Jody Jamieson – Herb Holland – 8-1
10 – Number Cruncher – Jordan Stratton – Erv Miller – 20-1

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