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Friday, May 1, 2015

Four-Year-Old Racing

Jeff Gural’s campaign to promote four-year-old racing kicks into high gear during May. On Sunday the Miami Valley Trot and the Chip Noble Pace will offer attractive top dollar vehicles for new grads; however, there were few takers from that class. Last year’s Trotter of the Year, Shake It Cerry, will seek redemption against her older sisters, after being pummeled by them in the Meadows Maturity. And Dan Patch winner Color’s A Virgin will try her luck against a stouter field of mares than the ones she crushed at Hoosier Park in her first two outings.

The word “maturity” has come to be associated with stakes races for four-year-olds, but the Meadows Maturity Mare drew only two from that class, Shake It Cerry and longshot Sweetie Hearts. The same goes for tomorrow’s S&G Maturity, which drew three new grads; NYSS whiz Gural Hanover; early season success, Rose Run Parker (Jailhouse Jesse); and the Yankee Glide gelding, Madewell Hanover.

A week from Sunday the newly configured Confederation Cup at Flamboro Downs will cater exclusively to four-year-old pacers. Meadowlands Pace winner and world record holder He’s Watching, who finished second to Lady Shadow in a qualifier at Mohawk this morning, leads the list of those eligible. Burke Racing’s low profile success All Bets Off, who won the inaugural edition of the Milstein as well as the Messenger and Matron, is also staked to the new attraction at Flamboro Downs. He and Luck Be Withyou, another nominee, will face six tough older pacers in Saturday’s Van Rose Invitational at Pocono Downs. Big Boy Dreams, a $265,000 purchase from the Burke Brigade by Rene Allard and friends was acquired specifically to compete in races like the Confederation Cup and Prix D’Ete. He’s currently embroiled in a controversy over his eligibility to the Graduate Series at Tioga and The Meadowlands.

The first leg of the Graduate pacing Series will be held at Tioga on Memorial Day. Twenty-nine made sustaining payments. Division champ McWicked and North America Cup and Tattersalls Pace winner JK Endofanera, who qualified in a swift 1:50.2 for Yannick Gingras at The Meadowlands this morning, both passed on the Confederation Cup, but each has been nominated to the Graduate Series. McWicked is also one of 28 four-year-olds staked to the $200,000 Prix D’Ete on August 23 at the Hippodrome. He’s Watching, All Bets Off, Big Boy Dreams, Limelight Beach and Somewhere In LA are eligible to all three. JK End is skipping both Canadian races.

The most intriguing member of last year’s sophomore pacing class, Tattersalls Pace and Bluegrass winner Always B Miki, has not signed up for the Confederation Cup or the Graduate Series, although he is staked to the Prix D’Ete. The near millionaire son of Always A Virgin, who is now in the Takter barn, had surgery on his left hind long pastern after being scratched from the Breeders Crown. That may be a factor in him skipping the early four-year-old exclusives. He was expected to be back in action by March 1.

The early season exclusive options for newly minted aged S&G trotters aren’t as plentiful as they are for the pacers. They do have the Graduate Series, which commences on Memorial Day at Tioga. There are 27 staked to it, including division champ Father Patrick, who looked sharp qualifying at The Meadowlands this morning; Trotter of the Year, Shake It Cerry; Erskine, Galt and ISS winner, EL Titan; and Datsyuk, who beat Patrick in the Tompkins Geers. Nuncio’s relocation to Europe leaves a large void.

Legs of the Graduate Series for pacers and trotters will run through June, culminating in a $250,000 final for the pacers on Friday, July 3, and for the trotters on Saturday July, 11. By then the four-year-olds should be ready to roll with their elders.

Joe FitzGerald

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