Day At The Track

Melady's Monet favored in first feature

07:54 AM 07 Jan 2018 NZDT
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Melady’s Monet, harness racing
Melady’s Monet seen here winning at The Meadowlands
Lisa Photo

YONKERS, N.Y. – Millionaire trotter Melady’s Monet seeks to start the 2018 season of live harness racing at Yonkers Raceway the way he ended 2017’s, with a win in the featured Open Handicap. After a summer break, Melady’s Monet returned to the races in November and made short work of a pair of $25,000 overnights at Yonkers before finishing third in consecutive Open Handicaps. He captured the final feature of the year December 17 and trainer Kevin McDermott expects the 9-year-old to improve on the Opening Day card January 7.

“He’s been ok, he hasn’t been as good as he was last year. He was 100 percent better in his last start,” McDermott said. “He always goes good fresh, a couple weeks off doesn’t hurt him, so actually I think he’ll come in better than his last race.”

Despite a limited racing schedule last year than saw him compete from March to July and then again from November through the end of the season, Melady’s Monet still posted seven victories and another five placings, good for $159,600. The homebred gelding’s owners, Luca and Ester Balenzano of Melady Enterprises LLC, only like to see him race about 20 times per year. The Balenzano’s horse-first approach to racing makes training rewarding for McDermott.

“When we gave him time off, we just gave him time off. Nothing ever happened to him,” McDermott explained. “He was getting assigned the eight hole in 12-horse fields and they just didn’t want to do that. They’re great owners. They’re so loyal to the horse and they want what’s good for the horse. That’s what you want, you want people that love horses.”

McDermott kept Melady’s Monet on schedule during live racing’s holiday hiatus despite the frigid temperatures afflicting the northeast United States.
“He doesn’t miss any days, he has to jog or train every day,” he explained. “The weather has been really tough down here lately, but he trained (Wednesday), he trained very good, so I don’t expect him to be short this week.”

Although he is a quiet horse in the barn, Melady’s Monet can get hot on the racetrack. Through trial and error, McDermott has tailored the son of Revenue and Keystone Melady’s training regime.

“He goes in the field every day before he jogs, even in the snow because he has to get out,” McDermott explained. “We don’t jog him in the jog cart, he ponies all week, tows alongside another horse. That keeps him quiet because he’s a very high-strung horse, so we just try to keep him relaxed. Most of the time at Yonkers, I don’t even warm him up because he gets so wound up before the race. I just let Jason (Bartlett) warm him up in the post parade.”

Melady’s Monet will start from an assigned post eight as the 3-1 morning line favorite in Sunday’s $50,000 Open Handicap Trot. Regular reinsman Bartlett will drive. Carded as part of the French simulcast, eight other rivals will contest the 1 ¼-mile feature, including Cash Me Out and Tight Lines.

“The eight hole is going to be a tough spot, but we’ll try our hardest,” McDermott said. “You hope Jason can somehow work himself into a four or five hole and perfect scenario come second- or third-up and hope he goes by them.

“One thing about Melady’s Monet, he is 100 percent better from behind,” McDermott continued. “When he’s on the lead, he waits on other horses. He loves chasing horses. When he’s first-up, second-up, third-up, when he’s going past other horses late, he’s a lot better that way.”

Although Melady’s Monet has never won at the 10-furlong distance in four tries, he has finished second twice, including as the runner-up to Bee A Magician in the $250,000 Invitational Trot on the 2016 International Trot undercard. McDermott thinks the added distance will play to the gelding’s strengths.

“I think the more distance the better for that horse because he’s always coming at the wire,” he said.

The 2018 season of live racing at Yonkers begins Sunday, January 7 with a first post time of 11:30 a.m. Bettors should note the half-mile racetrack no longer features a passing lane. For entries for Sunday’s races, click here.

By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

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