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Harness racing trainer Marcus Melander is enchanted with Hypnotic AM, and it is easy to understand why. Now ready to begin her 4-year-old season, the trotting mare has earned $1.15 million in her 22-race career, winning 12 times and finishing off the board only once. Hypnotic AM launches her campaign Saturday in the first of two $30,000 divisions of the Miss Versatility Series for older female trotters at The Meadowlands. She is 7-2 on the morning line, third choice behind Breeders Crown champion Next Level Stuff at 5-2 and 2019 Hambletonian Oaks winner When Dovescry at 3-1. "She had a good winter and I'm very happy with how she's coming back," said Melander, who trains the homebred mare for Courant Inc. "She's always been a nice horse, from day one, honestly. You don't make over $1 million if you're not a good horse. She's always produced. I couldn't be happier with what she's done in her career." Hypnotic AM's career wins include the 2019 Jim Doherty Memorial, 2020 Empire Breeders Classic, two New York Sire Stakes championship, and a Kentucky Sire Stakes title. Last year, she finished second in the Hambletonian Oaks, Kentucky Filly Futurity, and Zweig Memorial for 3-year-old fillies. She was third in the 2019 Breeders Crown. "She maybe is missing that big, big win, but it's hard to complain about her," Melander said. "I thought she was very good in the Oaks, she just had a bad post (starting from the second tier, post 12). She's always right there." The daughter of Chapter Seven - Daydream AM S goes to the Miss Versatility's opening round off a 1:54.4 win in a qualifier April 24 at The Meadowlands. She will have regular driver Brian Sears in the sulky. "She had just one qualifier, but I think it's enough," Melander said. "We trained her a couple of times at The Meadowlands. She's not going to be in top form but she's a nice horse and she should be all right to race. "She can do everything you ask, and she is so professional out there. You can leave, you can sit behind a horse, she's so versatile. She has a lot of speed, she's strong. She's just a sweetheart." Next Level Stuff, who won the Breeders Crown for 3-year-old fillies last year, heads to Saturday's start off a second-place finish against mostly male foes in a high-level conditioned trot in her seasonal debut on May 1 at The Big M. The second division of the Miss Versatility features 2020 Hambletonian Oaks winner Sorella and New Jersey Sire Stakes champion Ab'sattitudexpress. Ab'sattitudexpress, trained by Lucas Wallin, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite after capturing the New Jersey Breeders Maturity last week. Sorella, who had five Grand Circuit victories last season for trainer Nancy Takter, is 3-1. She is making her seasonal debut. Saturday's 13-race card also includes the first starts of the year for Meadowlands Pace hopefuls Abuckabett Hanover and Exploit plus 4-year-old Grand Circuit stakes winners Fortify and No Lou Zing. Tattoo Artist, an O'Brien Award winner in 2020, is making his second start after a fourth-place finish in a division of the Graduate Series for pacers. Racing begins at 6:20 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at The Meadowlands. The Big M and TrackMaster have teamed to regularly provide free past performances for each race card. Past performances can be found here on The Meadowlands website. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

East Rutherford, NJ - Perfect Sting is predictably perched atop the first edition of Dave Little's weekly "Road to The Meadowlands Pace" after a 2-year-old season that saw him go undefeated in 10 starts. Rank Horse (Earnings – Mark) Driver, Trainer Owner(s) Dave Little’s Comments 1 Perfect Sting ($534,300 – 1:49.2)   D. Miller, J. Holloway Brittany Farms, Val D’Or Farms   Holloway student comes into 2021 with a target on his back after a season that saw him go perfect in 10 starts at 2. Has a pair of Meadowlands qualifiers under his belt with his first race set for May 16 in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. Holloway: “He’s as good as can be. I’m thrilled at the way he’s come back.” LAST RACE: 4/30 – M1 – Qualifier – 1st (1:52.3) 2 Southwind Gendry ($621,633 – 1:49.4)   Y. Gingras, R. Burke Burke Racing, Phillip Collura, Knox Services, J&T Silva- Purnel & Libby   His 3-year-old debut was a smashing success, taking a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes in a lifetime-best 1:49.4. Burke: “Couldn’t be happier with him. In reality, he’s been incredible. You don’t win in 1:49.4 wrapped up like that. that’s what good horses do. that’s a 1:47 mile in the summer.” Last Race: 5/1 – Mea – Pennsylvania Sire Stakes – 1st (1:49.4) 3 Summa Cum Laude ($488,445 – 1:50.2)   D. Dunn, R. Burke Burke Racing, Phillip Collura, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby, Weaver Bruscemi Ended his 2-year-old season on a high note, finishing in a dead heat with Perfect Sting in the Breeders Crown and winning the Kindergarten Classic before finishing third in the Governor’s Cup. Began his sophomore season with a fourth to Southwind Gendry at The Meadows. Burke: “He and Southwind Gendry will be in next week at Philadelphia. He’s a mile-track horse. It’s a tossup between the two of them on a mile track.” Last Race: 5/1 – Mea – Pennsylvania Sire Stakes – 4th (1:50.3) 4 Exploit ($389,470 – 1:50.4)   T. McCarthy, T. Alagna LeBlanc and Kribbs, Joe Sbrocco, In The Gym Partners, Joseph Barbera Pulled off a 35-1 surprise in the 2020 Metro at Woodbine Mohawk Park to pad his bankroll. Has a pair of Big M qualifiers in preparation for his 3-year-old season. Leaves from post 7 in the first race at The Big M Saturday in his 2021 debut. Alagna: “We’re looking for a good start, hoping everything sets up for him. Then, we’ll go in the Sire Stakes next week at Pocono. Everything is going according to plan.” Last Race: 4/30 – M1 – Qualifier – 4th (1:53.3) 5 Charlie May ($340,127 – 1:50.2)   B. Miller, S. Carter Don Tiger Ohio Sire Stakes champion won 7 of 9 starts a year ago and took his last two starts at odds of 1-20. Already has two qualifiers and three parimutuel starts under his belt this year. Carter: “He was sick on Monday [when fourth at Miami Valley]. My whole barn was sick. By the end of last year, Brett Miller told me Charlie is the caliber of horse who can go in The Meadowlands Pace.” Last Race: 5/3 – MVR – Ohio Sire Stakes – 4th (1:52.3) 6 Always A Miki ($331,261 – 1:50.2)   D. Dunn, N. Takter Christina Takter, Goran Anderberg, Herb Liverman, Rojan Stables The 2020 Governor’s Cup winner also did good things throughout the season on the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes circuit. Shows two qualifiers thus far this year. Takter: “I think he was pretty solid last year. He filled out and he loves to race. He’s drawn post 9 Saturday at Pocono [for his seasonal debut] for the Pennsylvania All-Stars, not an ideal spot given how speedy it is at Pocono.” Last Race: 4/24 – M1 – Qualifier – 4th (1:52) 7 Bayfield Beach ($267,626 – 1:52.4)   D. Miller, B. Brown Crossover Racing, Country Club Acres, Rich Lombardo Racing, Joe Sbrocco Missed cashing a check only twice a year ago from 13 starts. Got nailed on the money, settling for second in the 2020 Metro. Already has a pair of starts this year for Brown, who had a powerhouse pair of horses in 2017 with Downbytheseaside and Fear The Dragon. Brown: “He hasn’t been impressive yet. We started in the The Stallion Stakes last week just to give him an easier race. He’s right back in Friday [Race 1, Post 5 at The Meadows]. I expect him to be sharper this week.” Last Race: 5/1 – Mea – Pennsylvania Stallion Series – 3rd (1:52.3) 8 Lawless Shadow ($232,439 – Q1:51)   B. McClure, I. Moore Ian Moore, R G McGroup, Serge Savard, Frank Cannon Solid performer in Ontario a year ago was second in the Ontario Sire Stakes Final and third in The Metro in his final two outings of the year. Leaves from post 2 in race 2 Saturday at Scioto for his first outing of the year. Moore: “I’m very excited about him. He has filled out so well. I see maybe two starts in Ohio, then, come the 1st of June, if nothing is happening in Canada, we’ll head for The Meadowlands.” Last Race: 4/23 – SOTC – Qualifier – 1st (1:51) 9 Chase H Hanover ($245,079 – 1:51)   B. Sears, S. Cox Jason Ash, Scott Cox Racked up 4 wins and 5 seconds from 10 starts a year ago, highlighted by a win in a six-figure division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. Started his 2021 well, with a second-place finish to Southwind Gendry. Cox: “He’s gotten bigger over the last year. He’s a laid-back horse, and that’s what I like the most. I think he’ll be in the Sire Stakes a week from Sunday at Pocono.” Last Race: 5/1 – Mea – Pennsylvania Sire Stakes – 2nd (1:50) 10 Heart Of Chewbacca ($269,348 – 1:51)   D. Noble, R. Burke Dennis Owens, Norman Rae Racing Has registered 8 wins and 3 seconds from 11 lifetime starts. Ohio standout has won three in a row at Miami Valley, the most recent by 7¼ lengths at odds of 1-20. Burke: “He’s as good as either of my other ones. He does things other horses cannot do. I think this horse is special.” Last Race: 5/3 – MVR – Ohio Sire Stakes – 1st (1:51.2)   KEY PREP RACES MEADOWLANDS PACE ELIGIBLES IN CAPS – Supplements are permitted per the conditions of the race Date Stakes Site Winner Trainer Driver 2nd Horse 3rd Horse Time 5/1 Pa. Sire Stakes Pa. Sire Stakes Mea Mea LITERL LAD HANOVER SOUTHWIND GENDRY R. Burke R. Burke D. Miller Y. Gingras STONEBRIDGE REEF CHASE H HANOVER Water Sports Teen Sweet Angel Boy 1:51.1 1:49.4 5/8 Pa. All-Stars PcD             5/16 Pa. Sire Stakes PcD             5/28 N.J. Sire Stakes   M1             5/30 Pa. Sire Stakes   Phil             6/26 Pa. Sire Stakes Mea             7/2 Messenger YR             7/17 Meadowlands Pace M1                

Columbus, OH — Hall of Fame harness racing trainer Ron Gurfein, 80, died May 5, 2021. The following message was posted on Mr. Gurfein’s Facebook page this afternoon by his children, Lauren and Blake. “It is with profound sadness that we share that our dad, Ronnie Gurfein (a.k.a. “the Guru”), passed away earlier today. His was a long life filled with many joys, successes, and love. His wit was second to none and he had us laughing till his final moments. “Per his wishes, there will be a small family-only ceremony. We know he will be missed by many, so please stay tuned for information about a future celebration of his life and career. “In lieu of flowers or cards, we would appreciate donations in his name to Caring Across Generations — an organization dedicated to changing the way we care for older adults: https://go.caringacross.org/a/give.” Mr. Gurfein was one of the top conditioners of trotters and a 2006 inductee into the Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y. He opened up his stable in 1965, moved to Monticello Raceway in 1967 and spent the better part of the next two decades at the Mighty M. He toiled in relative obscurity through that time even though he won the 1982 Adios Stakes with Higher Power and also conditioned the likes of Hardesty ($367,426) and the world champion mare Franconia ($527,151). Mr. Gurfein moved to The Meadowlands in 1987 and five years later came up with an imposing trio of Imperfection, Baltic Striker, and Lady Starlet. He hit the pinnacle of the sport later that decade with horses such as Victory Dream and Beat The Wheel. The best horse of his career was the outstanding trotting filly Continentalvictory, who captured the Yonkers Trot and Hambletonian in 1996 on her way to earning Horse of the Year honors. Other top horses for Mr. Gurfein included 1999 Dan Patch Award divisional champion Self Possessed and 2003 Trotter of the Year Cantab Hall. Mr. Gurfein won the 1999 Glen Garnsey Trainer of the Year Award from the United States Harness Writers’ Association. From the USTA

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Saturday (May 1) night's handle at The Meadowlands was a sensational $4,451,363, to come within $100,000 of the harness racing track's biggest night of action during 2021. It's not a coincidence that the big action occurred on Kentucky Derby Day, which, for many fans, is their favorite day of the year to come out and play. Betting at The Big M was huge by a historical perspective not only last Saturday, but all of last weekend, when one compares the numbers to 10 years prior. During Kentucky Derby Weekend 2011, The Meadowlands' wagering menu offered only one bet with a low 15 percent takeout. Over the course of those 23 races, total handle was $3,304,912, good for an average per race of $143,691. This past weekend, those numbers exploded. For 26 races, the total handle was $7,967,639, by far the biggest weekend of play at the mile oval this year. The average wager per race was $306,447. As a point of comparison, to bet $3 million over a 13-race card, the average per race must be $230,769. "When our first race went off on Derby Day," said track Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir, "most of the top Thoroughbred tracks were still going and we still handled almost $400,000. The Derby went 25 minutes later and set the tone for the rest of our live program. The excitement in our building was simply electric all day and night." A look and the "now and then" of some of the track's more popular pools reveal huge gains. In 2011, there was one Pick-4 per card, and the handle was $75,000 Friday and $30,958 Saturday during Derby Weekend. There was no Pick-5 and the Pick-6 took in $880 and $747, respectively. Fast forward to last Friday and Saturday, when the track's 15 percent takeout bets took in big action. The Early Pick-4s had total play of $106,305 and $125,605, the Late Pick-4s $90,838 and $135,377, the Pick-5s $83,774 and $85,416 and the Pick-6s $46,618 and $19,733. "We have certainly learned to respond to the consensus of horseplayers," said Settlemoir. "They wanted lower takeouts and we gave them a wide assortment of wagers as low as 15 percent. They wanted more multi-race action, so we adjusted our wagering menu. Judging by our results this year, the horseplayers have responded in huge numbers to our product, and they love the fact that we are listening to them." As a result, three single-race pools exceeded $400,000 Saturday night, including race eight, when a 2021-best $498,525 was pushed through the windows. "We had a $100,000 win pool and a $150,000 exacta pool Saturday, which is simply extraordinary," said Settlemoir. "Before Gov. [Phil] Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature stepped in to give an enormous boost to New Jersey racing, these numbers would have been unthinkable. With their help, The Meadowlands and New Jersey have risen once again to be the most popular nighttime signal of any breed." LOW TAKEOUT, HIGH HANDLE: The Big M offers players six opportunities every night to make a score betting on the track's popular wagers that offer a low 15 percent takeout. They are: Race 1: 20-cent Pick-5 Race 3: 20-cent Survivor Pick-7 Race 6: 50-cent Pick-4 Race 8: 20-cent Pick-6 Race 10: 50-cent Pick-4 Race 13: 10-cent Hi-5/Pentafecta GUARANTEED GREEN: Every night, The Meadowlands promises big money on both editions of its signature wager, as each 50-cent Pick-4 sports a guaranteed pool of $50,000. Lately, the guarantees have led to some serious action, as 12 of the last 14 Pick-4 pools have gone past the $100,000 mark. NO MONEY, NO PROBLEM! Need a program but don't want to spend any green? The Big M has you covered, with free programs of every race of every race card. Just go to playmeadowlands.com to get your no-cost past performances. GET SOCIAL, NOT DISTANT: You can always check in with the team at The Meadowlands on Twitter. For early changes, racing information and staff selections, go to @themeadowlands or #playbigm. On race nights, stay in touch with the Big M's Dave Brower (@eedoogie), Dave Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover) and Jessica Otten (@JessicaOtten1). GET READY TO PLAY: For those who like to get a leg up on the action, go to playmeadowlands.com to see track oddsmaker and analyst Brower's selections and commentary. Click on the "handicapping" tab and go to "race reviews". Brower's input is generally available 48 hours before every card. THE SCHEDULE: Live racing continues every Friday and Saturday with a first-race post time of 6:20 p.m. Big M TV's live "Racing from The Meadowlands" pre-game show, which provides news, notes, features, staff selections and a look at that evening's marquee races, gets underway at 5:47 p.m. GET YOUR SPORTS ACTION: The Meadowlands is the home of the world's greatest harness racing. It is also the home of the best sportsbook in the country, and it's located on the first floor at The Big M. The FanDuel Sportsbook is available for players to get action on all of the major sports leagues, including MLB, the NBA and the NHL. Wagering on professional soccer, golf, tennis, and yes, ping pong is also on the menu. The sportsbook is open Sunday-Friday from 10 a.m.-midnight and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 a.m. The cash counter is open from 10 a.m.-11 p.m. From The Meadowlands  

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands will pick up the Graduate Series leg and Miss Versatility leg that were previously scheduled to be raced at Mohawk Park.   Also, in concert with the SBOA of NJ, The Meadowlands will add races for 3 year-olds to the Championship Meet schedule to accommodate horses left with reduced harness racing opportunities due to stakes schedule changes at Mohawk Park.   A short series for pacing mares has been placed in late May/early June while Open Trotting and Pacing events for older horses and geldings will be offered when there's a blank spot in their schedule.   Revisions and additions are listed below:   The leg of the Graduate Series for both trotters and pacers originally scheduled for Saturday, June 5 at Mohawk will be raced at The Meadowlands on the same date.   The Graduate leg for both trotters and pacers originally scheduled for Saturday, June 26 at The Meadowlands will now be raced on Saturday, June 19 at The Meadowlands.   The Graduate Series Finals will remain on Saturday, July 10 at The Meadowlands.   The leg of the Miss Versatility Series originally scheduled for Friday, May 28 at Mohawk will be raced on Saturday, May 29 at The Meadowlands.   A leg will be added to the Miss Versatility and raced on Saturday, June 12, expanding the series to now six legs.   The Miss Versatility leg scheduled for Friday, September 10 has been moved to Friday, September 3 at The Meadowlands to accommodate the relocation of the Armbro Flight eliminations on the 10th. The final remains on Jug Day at the Delaware County Fair.   Added to each Saturday during the month of June there will be separate overnight Open Pace classes for 3 year-old colt and filly pacers for a purse of $50,000 ($35,000 if there are divisions). These races will be written with preference to horses that are eligible to the Meadowlands Pace or Mistletoe Shalee and the North America Cup or Fan Hanover.   The same classes will be written for 3 year-old trotting colts and fillies on Friday, June 11 and Friday, June 25. Preference will be given to those horses paid into stakes at The Meadowlands.   A short overnight series will be offered for older pacing mares again with preference given to those paid into Meadowlands stakes. These races are scheduled for Saturday, May 22 and Friday, June 11 to race for $30,000; the top earners will race for $50,000 on Friday, June 18.   Opens for the older horses will be available weekly with the possibility of a few special events along the way.   Information will be updated on The Meadowlands web site soon.   "It's clear that many owners and trainers are affected by the situation in Canada. With the NA Cup and its companion stakes moved to September, there really aren't many options for the 3 year-olds to get races on a big track that they need to be in shape for our marquee stakes," said Meadowlands President Jeff Gural. "It seems like the right thing to do."   SBOA of NJ President Mark Ford had this to say, "I commend Jeff for recognizing the need for these races and I'm pleased we are able to join together and step up to help our horse people. It's a good time to be racing in New Jersey, with our overnight purses at the highest level they've been in years. Our members can have confidence that they will continue to have opportunities to race for purses that are as good as any in the business."   From the Meadowlands

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Wagering that topped the $4-million mark, two $50,000 divisions of the Graduate Series for 4-year-olds on the pace and a pair of top-notch $30,000 Preferreds - one on the pace and one on the trot - highlighted a huge night of racing at The Meadowlands Saturday. Betting bettered the $4-million plateau for the fourth time this year, as all-source play totaled $4,451,363 (average per race: $342,412), the second highest night of action at The Big M this year, to fall just $100,000 short of what was bet on Jan. 2. Three races saw total pools of over $400,000, with the eighth race the best of the night (and the year), at $498,525. Action for the weekend totaled $7,967,639, by far a 2021 best. On the track, continuing to get his campaign off to an extraordinary start was the Tony Alagna-trained Captain Barbossa, who took the first division of the Graduate in a lifetime-best 1:48.4 with Dexter Dunn in the bike. Poseidon Seelster, in search of his third straight win, was on the front end at three-quarters in 1:21.4, but after making moderate progress around the far turn, Captain Barbossa, who went parked for the final half-mile, found another gear mid-stretch to power his way to a 1¼-length win. Poseidon Seelster was second with Splash Brother third. CAPTAIN BARBOSSA REPLAY   "He got a pretty good spot early," said Dunn, "and once we got past the half, he was ready to go. He's such a nice horse, in the last 100 [yards] he was drawing away from them." Captain Barbossa, whose lone 2020 win came in the Little Brown Jug, upped his seasonal mark to two wins in two starts. He paid $3.40 to win as the 3-5 favorite. Ruthless Hanover, unseen since winning at The Big M on Dec. 5 in a sparkling 1:48.4, came back from an extended layoff to stop the clock in 1:48.4 again in the Graduate's second division. Driver Andy McCarthy was in no hurry early and did not move Ruthless Hanover to the front until after the quarter. The pair sailed down the road from there, using a :26 final panel to keep Warrawee Vital at bay by a safe head. Chief Mate was third. RUTHLESS HANOVER REPLAY   "His qualifiers were terrific," said McCarthy of the Tom Cancelliere trainee, "and you've got to be fully ready to go before facing these horses. He's just waiting for horses to come to him, and once they do, he takes off. We cut a pretty comfortable half [of :55.3]. He definitely had a lot more. He wasn't tired, that's for sure. I'm expecting good things." As the 6-5 public choice, Ruthless Hanover paid $4.60 to win. He's won four of his last five and seven of 13 lifetime. PROLIFIC PREFERREDS: Lindy The Great, who banked over $390,000 a year ago despite winning only once, upped his 2021 record to two wins in as many tries in taking the Preferred Handicap for trotters in 1:52.1. The Andy Miller-driven, Julie Miller-trained 7-year-old got roughed up a bit from post eight before making the lead at the half in :56.3, then kicked home in a final half of :55.3 to hold off the late-surging Mississippi Storm by a nose to up his career earnings to $1,069,199. He paid $3.60 as the 4-5 public choice. One week ago, Stars Align A became the fastest performer in harness racing this year with a clocking of 1:48, and the Jenn Bongiorno trainee proved that was no fluke by beating a field of Preferred pacers that included Ana Afreet N (who finished fifth in the six-horse field) and Sintra (fourth as the 3-5 favorite). Jenn's brother Joe put the 8-year-old Stars Align A on the point at the half in :55.2 before pacing a back half in a dazzling :53.3. He hit the finish in 1:49, two lengths in front of Colossal Stride A. Wheels On Fire was third. Stars Align A returned $7.60 to his backers as the second choice in the wagering. NON-BETTORS: Between races one and two, a pair of New Jersey Breeders Maturity Finals for 4-year-olds on the trot were contested. The Lucas Wallin-trained, Tim Tetrick-driven Ab'sattitudexpress sat a pocket trip behind lone foe Spoiled Princess before trotting past that one in the stretch on the way to three-quarter-length victory in 1:53.3 in the $30,000 event for mares. The daughter of Trixton - Abbie'sgotattitude now has nine wins from just 18 lifetime starts, good for earnings of $291,141. Back Of The Neck, a son of Ready Cash - Big Barb who is trained and driven by Ake Svanstedt, scored in the $40,000 dash for horses and geldings in 1:53.4 after leading at every call in the five-horse field. He's now eight-for-22 for his career and has earnings of $517,357. A LITTLE MORE: Dunn guided three winners on the card, to up his Big M leading dash-win total to 71. ... Jeff Cullipher had a training triple. He currently tops the conditioner standings with 41 victories. ... Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m. For full race results, click here. by Dave Little, for the Meadowlands  

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Talk about no respect. Machnhope, last seen winning the $232,800 Blue Chip Matchmaker at Yonkers Raceway on April 19, kept on rolling Friday night at The Meadowlands, taking the $30,000 harness racing featured Winners Over/Preferred Handicap for fillies and mares on the pace in wire-to-wire fashion despite going off as the fifth choice in the betting in the six-horse field. "I wasn't sure how to play it," said winning driver Andy McCarthy after being asked what was his thought process given how the extremely windy conditions favored speed all night long. "I didn't have a plan. I saw some of the horses to my inside weren't leaving, so I decided to step her off the gate." A Noel Daley trainee, Machnhope, a 6-year-old daughter of Mach Three-Hope For Life, was on the point out of the first turn and cut out fractions of :27.4, :55.4 and 1:23.1 on a night that saw eight winners lead from start to finish. A challenge came down the backside from Gia's Surreal, who won at The Big M on April 17, but Machnhope turned that one away off the far turn before sprinting clear of the field through the stretch on the way to a 2¾-length victory in 1:51.2. Sweet Lucy Lou rallied for second, with Major Occasion A, the 2-1 favorite, grabbing the show dough. MACHNHOPE REPLAY   "On a windy night like this," said McCarthy. "You have to follow the car out of posts five and six (Machnhope had the six) and let it break the wind for you. The Blue Chip was a tough series over there, but she's been terrific. She felt sharp tonight warming up. I figured she'd be good." Machnhope, in winning for the fifth time in her last seven starts, now has 31 victories from 105 career starts. Her bankroll stands at a gaudy $536,394 for owners Deo Volente Farms, T. Pontone, A Express Stables and Daley. She paid $12.20 to win after going to the gate at odds of 5-1. LONG LAYOFF, NO PROBLEM: With the COVID-19 shutdown continuing in Ontario, several drivers have moved their tacks temporarily to The Big M. One pilot, making his first appearance at the mile oval since 2016, was James MacDonald, who scored wire-to-wire in the first race with 3-5 favorite Majestic Virgin. Last weekend, two other Woodbine Mohawk Park regulars, Bob McClure and Doug McNair, recorded their first Meadowlands victories of the meeting. McNair added to his total by guiding a pair to victory lane Friday. FABULOUS FRIDAY: All-source wagering totaled $3,516,276, the biggest night of business at The Big M this year on a Friday. It marked the ninth consecutive card to see betting break the $3-million barrier. ... Favorites continue to score at a high rate, as over the last six race cards, 41 post-time choices have won the 78 races (53 percent). ... With a carryover of just under $10,000, the total pool in the 20-cent Pick-6 was $56,611. Those with winning tickets cashed in for $1,467.06 after odds-on choices took the first, second and sixth legs of the bet. ... Gates open at 9 a.m. at The Big M for Kentucky Derby Day. The first race at Churchill Downs goes at 10:30 a.m. The Derby, race 12 on the 14-race card, is slated for 6:57 p.m. ... Live harness racing resumes Saturday at 6:20 p.m. For full race results, click here. by Dave Little, for the Meadowlands

For the second straight week undefeated harness racing pacer Perfect Sting continued his prepping for the 2021 season with another impressive qualifying race victory at The Meadowlands Friday morning. The 2020 Dan Patch Award winning Two-Year-Old Colt Pacer of the Year, Perfect Sting went 10 for 10 and is now ready to debut his talent for the 2021 season. Competing in the 12th race, Perfect Sting and driver David Miller got away with the lead from post six by the opening quarter mile in a slow :29.1 over a fast track with a one-second allowance. Pirate Hanover (Andy McCarthy) then moved to the lead and cut the mile to the half in :57.3. That was went the action began to heat up as Miller came first-over with Perfect Sting, collaring Pirate Hanover by the three-quarters in 1:24.3. Then once on the lead by the top of the stretch, Perfect Sting used a mild :27.4 last quarter mile to win by one and three-quarter lengths in 1:52.3. Pirate Hanover was second with Magnum Moon (Scott Zeron) third. Trained by Joe Holloway for owner-breeders Brittany Farms and Val D’Or Farms, Perfect Sting is sired by Always B Miki from the great mare, Shebestingin. Also of note, the 2019 Hambletonian Oaks winner, When Dovescry, was victorious in the 8th race trot qualifier. The daughter of Muscle Hill from the Andover Hall mare Cedar Dove, sat in the pocket for driver David Miller as Refined (Todd McCarthy) cut fractions of :29.3, :59.2 and 1:28.4 before Miller came on the attack with When Dovescry. Heading the lead by the top of the stretch, those two battled head and head down the stretch and right to the finish wire with When Dovescry winning by a neck over Refined in 1:56.4. Gangster Hanover (Ake Scanstedt) was also in the photo finishing third.  Now trained by Brett Pelling, When Dovescry is owned by John Lengacher of Indiana. For full race results, click here. By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink

Harness racing trainer Jim Campbell will send two Breeders Crown champions and one Breeders Crown runner-up into action Saturday night at The Meadowlands. Sandbetweenmytoes, who recorded the biggest upset in Breeders Crown history when he captured last year's final for 3-year-old male pacers at odds of nearly 204-1, is among 16 horses entered in the first round of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old pacers. The group was divided into two eight-horse divisions, with Sandbetweenmytoes in the second. The gelding is joined on the card by Campbell-trained stablemates Next Level Stuff, who won last year's Breeders Crown for 3-year-old female trotters, and Crystal Fashion, who was second in the Breeders Crown Open Trot. Both are making their seasonal debuts. Sandbetweenmytoes will start his Graduate division from post eight with driver Scott Zeron and is 6-1 on the morning line. He made his seasonal bow last Saturday at The Meadowlands, finishing eighth against older rivals in the Preferred Handicap. He was the only 4-year-old in the race, which was won by 8-year-old millionaire Sintra in 1:48.4. "It's hard to get a reading on him from that race because they went in (1):48 and he wasn't ready to go in (1):48," said Campbell, who trains Sandbetweenmytoes for breeder-owner Fashion Farms. "He's in a tough spot, like any 4-year-old that comes back. He's in with all other 4-year-olds this week, but the 4-year-old year is the toughest year for these horses that race at a high level because they're racing against seasoned horses. "To me it's the biggest steppingstone, going from 3 to 4. You've got to pick and choose your spots." Sandbetweenmytoes has won eight of 26 career races and $516,532. His top victories also include an elimination of last year's Little Brown Jug. The winner of the Little Brown Jug, Captain Barbossa, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the first Graduate division. Ruthless Hanover is the 3-1 favorite in the second. Next Level Stuff, owned by breeder Runthetable Stables, is making her first start since winning her Breeders Crown at the end of October. She is one of two mares in Saturday's $25,000 conditioned trot at the Big M, where she will leave from post eight with driver Tim Tetrick. She is 9-2 on the morning line. Five-year-old gelding Chin Chin Hall is the 3-1 favorite from post 10. Last season, Next Level Stuff won seven of 13 races, finished second three times, and earned $481,361. She won four of her final five starts of the campaign. "She sure finished on a fantastic note," Campbell said. "And she's coming back good this year. She was really good in both her qualifiers. Last week at The Meadowlands she had a lot of trot. She was locked in, which was a good thing in a qualifier. She finished up strong, that's all we were looking for." Next Level Stuff won her first qualifier in 1:55.4 on April 13 and was third in her second, timed in 1:55 with a :27.2 last quarter. "She's in a tough spot this weekend but she's got a stakes race (first leg of the Miss Versatility) next Saturday and we wanted to race her to get a race into her before that race," Campbell said. "For the most part, we're just trying to keep her against the mares, but it's hard to find races where the trotting mares don't have to race against (males). We're just going to play it by ear and see what races come up for us and pick our spots." Crystal Fashion, a 6-year-old gelding, makes his seasonal debut in Saturday's $30,000 Preferred Handicap Trot. He will start from post six in an eight-horse field and is 8-1 on the morning line with Jordan Stratton in the sulky. For his career, Crystal Fashion has won 19 of 54 races and $2.02 million. He is owned by Fashion Farms. "We've been happy with the way he's come back," Campbell said. "It's tough for the first couple starts because they're going against some horses that maybe have been racing all winter or have four or five starts into them. So, they have a little bit of an advantage. "He's got a long campaign ahead of him, so we'll just take it one race at a time and get him back in shape." Crystal Fashion won one of 13 races last year and earned $295,472. He picked up a check in his final 10 starts. "I was very happy with his year," Campbell said. "He raced strong right to the end. I credit Jordan Stratton with some of that because he raced him very smart. Jordan and the horse click well together." Racing begins at 6:20 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at The Meadowlands. The Big M and TrackMaster have teamed to regularly provide free past performances for each race card. Past performances can be found here on The Meadowlands website. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

There may never be a good time for a major expose on horse racing, especially with the Kentucky Derby taking place this Saturday. But, nonetheless, the Washington Post today has a major story on the drugging taking place in both harness racing and thoroughbred racing. Here is the beginning of the story. Scott A. Robinson was in the market for revenge. A Lamborghini-driving horseman, he’d gotten rich selling farm animal supplements online. But he claimed he was owed money by a former business partner he’d met at New Jersey’s Meadowlands Racetrack. Then the track’s security chief offered to help, Robinson said, connecting him with a private investigation firm called 5 Stones Intelligence, which was known for its formidable federal connections. Robinson met them and agreed to pay $30,000 for their services, he said, hoping they could help prove his case. Eager for payback, Robinson wasn’t bothered when the investigators’ questions veered from his financial dispute with his partner to doping horses. Nor was he concerned when they brought him to a hotel suite where two FBI agents were waiting, and where the questions again veered toward doping. By around the third time he met with the agents, Robinson said he realized the person under investigation was him. To read the rest of the story, click here. Reprinted with permission from the Washington Post

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The Meadowlands will be the place for horse lovers of both harness racing and Thoroughbred action this weekend as 26 live harness races will be offered along with "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports", the 147th running of The Kentucky Derby, where fans can watch and wager on the "Run for the Roses" in one of the most impressive simulcast facilities anywhere, at The Big M. For those who want to get an early start on Derby Day, gates at The Meadowlands will open at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. The first of 14 races at Churchill Downs has a post time of 10:30 a.m. The Derby, which is race 12 on the card, has a post time of 6:57 p.m. There are many dining options for Derby Day at The Big M, but patrons should be aware that there will be a $10 general admission that day for those who will be attending the races while not taking advantage of any special dining opportunities. For complete information, go to playmeadowlands.com. Given the reduced racetrack capacity, those looking for a convenient way to bet on The Derby - and the Kentucky Oaks - can use the walk-up teller windows that will be available in Lot M off Berry's Creek Road. Both Friday, April 30 (Kentucky Oaks Day) and Saturday, May 1 (Kentucky Derby Day) the windows will be open from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Programs will be on sale. "We are delighted to host one of the greatest days in racing," said Meadowlands' Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. "With the earlier 6:20 p.m. post this year, we expect an incredibly exciting atmosphere at The Meadowlands for our live racing program on Derby Day." CARRYOVER CRAZY: It's a fact that Meadowlands fans love a carryover, and their next chance to jump into one with a sizeable pool comes this Friday (April 30). Last Saturday (April 24), no one hit the 20-cent Pick-6, creating a carryover of $9,992. That amount might seem unimpressive, but because that money is not subject to the already low 15 per cent takeout on the wager, betting figures to be fast and furious on Friday. The last time a carryover was offered on a P6 (April 10), a $9,019 carryover led to a total pool of $73,124, and those who correctly selected all six winners collected $877.14. Get all the information you need without spending a dime. Free program pages for every race of every Meadowlands card are available by going to playmeadowlands.com. PROLIFIC PAYOUTS: Last weekend saw chalk players sporting smiles on their faces, as 15 post-time choices scored over the 26 races (58%), but that didn't mean there weren't big payouts over the two race cards. On Friday, patient punters walked away with big green on the last race, as the 20-cent Pick-6 returned $3,162 and the 10-cent Hi-5/Pentafecta paid $6,825. Saturday's robust returns came in the 20-cent Survivor Pick-7 ($16,267) and the Hi-5/Pentafecta ($4,498). Total wagering on Saturday was $3,552,966, the eighth-straight card to see betting of at least $3 million. Thus far in 2021, there have been 17 Saturday programs with 16 of them besting the $3-million mark. POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE: Some of the best 4-year-old pacers in training will be on the track at The Big M Saturday as the Graduate Series gets underway with a pair of $50,000 dashes in Leg One of the series. Division One features Poseidon Seelster, a Nik Drennan trainee seeking his third straight win in sub-1:50, and Captain Barbossa, the 2020 Little Brown Jug winner who won last week at The Big M in 1:49.1 after a final quarter in a sensational :25.3. Ruthless Hanover makes his first start in three months off a win at the mile oval in 1:48.4 in Division Two, and will take on Sandbetweenmytoes, who upset Horse of the Year Tall Dark Stranger in the 2020 Breeders Crown at odds of 200-1. SURVIVOR STARTS: The Meadowlands Summer Survival Challenge powered by 123Racing returns on Saturday. The game covers The Big M's Championship Meeting and concludes on Hambletonian Day, Aug. 7. Cash prizes and three spots in the World Harness Handicapping Championship will be up for grabs. For all you need to know to enter, go to https://www.survival-challenge.com/. A HALF-DOZEN CHANCES: The Big M offers players six opportunities every night to make a score, betting on the track's popular wagers that offer a low 15 percent takeout. They are: Race 1: 20-cent Pick-5 Race 3: 20-cent Survivor Pick-7 Race 6: 50-cent Pick-4 Race 8: 20-cent Pick-6 Race 10: 50-cent Pick-4 Race 13: 10-cent Hi-5/Pentafecta $100,000 GUARANTEED: Every night, The Meadowlands guarantees big green on both editions of its signature wager, as each 50-cent Pick-4 - which span races six through nine and 10 through 13 - sports a guaranteed pool of $50,000. GET SOCIAL: You can always check in with the team at The Meadowlands on Twitter. For early changes, racing information and staff selections, go to @themeadowlands or #playbigm. On race nights, stay in touch with the Big M's Dave Brower (@eedoogie), Dave Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover) and Jessica Otten (@JessicaOtten1). CHECK OUT THE PICKS: For those who like to get a leg up on the action, go to playmeadowlands.com to see track oddsmaker and analyst Brower's selections and commentary. Click on the "handicapping" tab and go to "race reviews". Brower's input is generally available 48 hours before every card. THE SCHEDULE: Live racing continues every Friday and Saturday with a first-race post time of 6:20 p.m. The 20-cent Pick-5 is offered on the first race. Big M TV's live "Racing from The Meadowlands" pre-game show, which provides news, notes, features, staff selections and a look at that evening's marquee races, gets underway at 5:47 p.m. THE NO. 1 BOOK: The Kentucky Derby and the best harness racing in the world not providing enough action? Head into The Meadowlands' FanDuel Sportsbook, the top facility of its kind in the country, to get all the sports bets you want. On Thursday (April 29), one game to consider in the NBA is the Brooklyn Nets at the Indiana Pacers. If you don't mind laying eight points, you can have the Nets at -112. Don't like point spreads? Bet the Nets to win the game regardless of by how many points, and your odds become -335. If you like prop bets, you can bet on players to record a triple-double. For the Nets, Kyrie Irving is +1700 and Kevin Durant is +2900. For the Pacers, Malcolm Brogdon is +2400. The sportsbook is open Sunday-Friday from 10 a.m.-midnight and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 a.m. The cash counter is open from 10 a.m.-11 p.m. From The Meadowlands

Harness Racing This Week: Dexter Cup final and Lady Suffolk, Freehold Raceway, Freehold, N.J. and Graduate Series first leg, The Meadowlands, East Rutherford, N.J. Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit at Freehold on Saturday (May 1) features the $115,583 Dexter Cup final for 3-year-old open trotters and two $36,057 divisions in the Lady Suffolk for 3-year-old filly trotters. Also on Saturday, The Meadowlands has a pair of $50,000 first leg divisions in the Graduate Series for 4-year-old open pacers. Complete entries for the races can be found by clicking on this link. Last Time: Rather than accept a bye and guarantee himself two Dexter Cup final starters, trainer Ake Svanstedt decided to let Incommunicado compete in Saturday's (April 24) Dexter Cup elimination at Freehold Raceway. The gamble paid off, as Incommunicado cruised under the wire 2-3/4 lengths in front and established himself as one of the favorites for this week's Dexter Cup final. Incommunicado cruised under the wire 2-3/4 lengths in front. Vicki Wright photo. When the entry box closed, 10 horses were entered for the Dexter Cup. Svanstedt was offered two byes with his pair of Ambassador Hanover and Incommunicado, and while he accepted the bye with the former, he decided to race Incommunicado. The Massachusetts Sire Stakes champion was made the 8-5 second choice in the field of eight. The complexion of the race changed dramatically in the opening eighth, when favored Ethan T Hanover and Royson's Punch both went off stride. Ethan T Hanover was pulled up by Todd McCarthy, while Royson's Punch got back trotting. Incommunicado stayed trotting and was rated in fourth place in the early stages. Just before the half-mile, Yannick Gingras pulled Incommunicado off the pylons and moved him first over after early leader Share The Wealth. The leader put up a good fight, but Incommunicado took charge entering the stretch and drew off. He trotted the mile in 1:57, a sharp time for his first pari-mutuel race of the year. Incommunicado is owned by Knutsson Trotting, Little E, Arthur Geiger, and David Stolz. He's now won five times from 11 career starts, with earnings of $224,492. Along with his stablemate Ambassador Hanover, he gives Svanstedt a formidable pair for this week's final. Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2021, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2021 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders (through the races on 4-24-21): Drivers: 1. Yannick Gingras - 70; 2. Andrew McCarthy - 69; 3. George Brennan - 64; 4. Austin Siegelman - 61; 5. Todd McCarthy - 60. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 144; 2. Todd Buter - 55; 3. Noel Daley - 47; 4t. Jeff Cullipher - 40; 4t. Sheena McElhiney - 40. Owners: 1. Renee Bercury - 50; 2t. Burke Racing Stable - 41.1; 2t. Weaver Bruscemi - 41.1; 4. Jesmeral Stable - 40; 5. Eric Prevost - 38. Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will take place next week at Scioto Downs, Yonkers Raceway and The Meadowlands. Scioto will host the Charlie Hill Memorial for open trotters; Yonkers features the Reynolds Memorial for 3-year-old colt and filly pacers; and The Meadowlands will offer the first leg of the Miss Versatility Series for older trotting mares. by Paul Ramlow, for The Grand Circuit

After seeing Balenciaga stymied by a lung infection last year at age 2, harness racing trainer Paul Kelley is hoping to get a good look at the unraced male trotter this spring. Balenciaga, a $270,000 yearling purchase, made a favorable impression Saturday, winning a qualifier in 1:56.3 at The Meadowlands. "We've got a lot of work to do, we're not there yet, but that was a good step forward the other day, for sure," Kelley said this week. "I was real happy. He didn't race last year, but I think physically he's a pretty strong animal. We'll see." Balenciaga, by Chapter Seven out of Iluvmyjimmychoos, is owned by Lennart Agren's S R F Stable and Crawford Farms Racing. He was the second-highest priced yearling sold during the second session of the 2019 Lexington Selected Sale, behind $320,000 buy Red Redemption. Balenciaga finished a head in front of Red Redemption in Saturday's qualifier. "When I was at Sunshine Meadows (in Florida in 2020) he was probably our best 2-year-old through the winter," Kelley said. "He trained down really well. We were pretty excited about him when we came north. Once we got up here, he didn't progress as much as I hoped. We really weren't sure what was going on. "We qualified him one time and he just wasn't any good. We found out shortly thereafter that he had a lung infection. That pretty much explained that. We tried to get it cleared up, but we ran out of time. So, at that point, the best thing to do was to turn him out." Kelley is happy with the way Balenciaga matured during this past winter. "Last year at 2, physically he still had some work to do in terms of getting stronger," Kelley said. "He was a little bit weak behind, and we were kind of battling with that a bit too. Now as a 3-year-old, he's matured a lot, especially physically. He's a really strong horse now." In Saturday's qualifier, Balenciaga and driver Scott Zeron sat third for three-quarters of a mile before taking a one-length lead at the stretch call. "You couldn't have asked for a better job by Scotty," Kelley said. "He sat up close and said the horse was feeling good and strong in the last turn and he moved him. What we liked the most, is that when he cleared to the front and got a little bit lost up there, as soon as he had a horse with him, he went right back on and didn't want to let (Red Redemption) get by. That was pretty encouraging." Kelley plans to qualify Balenciaga once more before looking for a race at The Meadowlands in mid-May. Balenciaga is eligible to the New York Sire Stakes series, which begins June 4 at Vernon Downs, and also is staked to numerous events on the Grand Circuit, including the $1 million Hambletonian in August. "We paid him in pretty good," Kelley said. "There was some concern this winter, but the truth is, I'm not really sure how handy he's going to be on the half-mile tracks in New York. He might be OK, but I'm not sure. "If I take New York out of the equation, what's left? He showed enough last year and when I worked him at The Meadowlands (in February) I was encouraged enough to say we better roll the dice here a little bit and give him a chance. The S R F Stable and the Crawfords, they like to play at a high level. It didn't make sense not to take a shot with the horse." While Balenciaga will be looking to make his name on the stakes circuits this year, several Grand Circuit winners from 2020 were back in action this past weekend in the Big M qualifiers and posted victories. They included 3-year-old male pacers Perfect Sting, Southwind Gendry, and Lou's Pearlman, 3-year-old female trotter Hello I Love You, 3-year-old female pacer JK Alwaysbalady, and 4-year-old female trotter Hypnotic AM. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands Summer Survival Challenge powered by 123Racing returns Saturday, May 1, 2021. Cash prizes and World Harness Handicapping Championship presented by DerbyWars seats are up for grabs in this free online competition. Trackmaster will provide Platinum Past Performances for each night of the contest. The game covers the Meadowlands' Championship Meet and concludes on Hambletonian Day, Saturday, August 7th. The winner is determined by the highest total bankroll at the end of the Challenge based on a $2 "across the board" wager [win, place and show] on selections for three designated races each program. However, to continue in the game, entrants have to "survive" by finishing in-the-money [first through third] with at least one of their selections each day. Failing to do so or not making selections knocks the player out of the game. To aid in the player's survival a "lucky horseshoe" is given. The lucky horseshoe is a "free pass" given to all Challenge participants that allows the player to survive if he does not make selections for a race card or all three of his selections fail to hit the board. The grand prize is $500 & $1,300 2021 WHHC Spot The second-place prize is $300 & $1,300 2021 WHHC Spot The third-place prize is $200 & $1,300 2021 WHHC Spot Most Winners prize is $100 The free contest is open to legal residents of the United States and Canada 18 years and older, and all selections must be made through the format provided on the Survival Challenge website page. No selections will be accepted by phone, fax, e-mail or any other means. Trackmaster Past Performances for the three designated races will be provided through the game board. The deadline for selections each day is 30 minutes before 6:20 p.m. post time for the first race. After 30 minutes to post, all selections are final. Players should note post time on Saturday, August 7th is 12 noon. To login or to register as a first time player, visit www.survival-challenge.com. From The Meadowlands

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Just call them "The Road Warriors". With things at a standstill at their home track due to a COVID-19 shutdown, a pair of harness racing horses who call Woodbine Mohawk Park home ruled The Meadowlands Saturday night as trotter It's Academic and pacer Sintra scored in the co-featured $30,000 Preferreds. It's Academic benefited from a third-place, once-over-the-track effort from a week ago to score in 1:51.3. The 4-year-old son of Uncle Peter - Annapolis was sent to the gate as the 3-2 second choice in the betting and on a typical night that favored speed, left quickly from post five in the eight-horse field and led at every call through fractions of :26.3, :56.3 and 1:24.4 on the way to recording his 15th win from just 30 lifetime starts. Scirocco Rob (Tim Tetrick), the 6-5 favorite, challenged the eventual winner at the three-quarter-mile mark, but was put away off the far turn as It's Academic rolled to a convincing 3-length score. Scirocco Rob finished second with Buck Dancer (Andrew McCarthy) third. ITS ACADEMIC REPLAY   A Ron Burke trainee who is owned by Brad Grant, It's Academic returned $5.00 to win in lifting his lifetime earnings to $493,188. "It just did not really work out last week when he got shuffled," said winning driver Yannick Gingras. "Tonight, he proved he's a nice horse. He can leave super-fast and he can go :26 [to the quarter], so I was able to get a good second-quarter breather [of :30]. He was full of trot late." Sintra was nothing short of scintillating in overcoming post 10 to score in 1:48.4. The 8-year-old gelded son of Mach Three - Dancin Barefoot left hard from the outside in the 10-horse field and got a spot fourth at the rail out of the first turn. The 8-5 favorite came first-over at the five-eighths and made his way toward leader American History (McCarthy), who blazed fractions of :54.4 to the half and 1:21.4 at three-quarters after wrestling control away from the early leader, 5-2 second choice Ana Afreet N (Tetrick), at the three-eighths. Continuing to chip away at the leader's edge, Sintra, who paid $5.40 to win, grabbed the front with less than an eighth to go before holding off a fast-closing-along-the-inside Ana Afreet N by a neck in 1:48.4. American History held third. SINTRA REPLAY   Driven by Todd McCarthy and trained by Brett Pelling, Sintra not only overcame the outside post but also a 27-day layoff to register his 36th career victory from 83 starts. His earnings now stand at $1,150,360 for owners Michael Guerriero, Kelly Waxman, Nunzio Vena and Frank Cirillo. "I was concerned with where he was going to be at," said Todd McCarthy, whose hot hands guided five winners on the card. "You try to be as conservative as you can. I knew we'd have to go first-over at some stage. He showed his class tonight. I was a little worried as to how much we had left [in the stretch] but he got there." SPEEDY SORTS: Last Saturday, the Jennifer Bongiorno-trained Nicholas Beach rocked the clock to the tune of 1:48.2 to become the second fastest performer of the year in harness racing. Last night, her Stars Align A became the fastest horse of the year, recording a 1:48 clocking in the seventh race high-end conditioned pace, besting Let It Ride N's Jan. 2 mile time of 1:48.1. All three miles took place at The Big M. AN EARLY START: Before the beginning of the betting card, there were two non-betting divisions of the New Jersey Breeders Maturity contested for 4-year-olds on the trot. In the $12,500 event for mares, 2020 New Jersey Sire Stakes champion Ab'sattitudexpress went wire-to-wire for trainer Lucas Wallin and driver Tim Tetrick in 1:54.2. The daughter of Trixton - Abbie'sgotattitude sprinted home in :26.1 to best her only opponent, Spoiled Princess, by 2¾ lengths. The Ake Svanstedt-trained and driven Back Of The Neck, who won a division of the 2020 Stanley Dancer, proved best of five horses in the $15,000 split for horses and geldings in 1:55.4 after leading at every call. The son of Ready Cash - Big Barb hit the wire two lengths in front of Play Trix On Me, the NJSS champion from a year ago. A LITTLE MORE: There were no winning tickets sold in the 20-cent Pick-6, setting up a carryover of $9,992. Those with five correct collected $64.00. ... For those who want to jump into what no doubt will be a big Pick-6 pool Friday night, free past performances for every race of every Meadowlands card are available by going to playmeadowlands.com. ... All-source wagering was typically strong for a Saturday at $3,552,966, the eighth straight program to see betting of over $3 million. ... Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m. by Dave Little, for The Meadowlands

High-grade harness racing horses descended on The Meadowlands on Apr. 24 for a card of qualifiers as they warm up for the 2021 season, including stars such as Perfect Sting, Crystal Fashion, and Manchego.   Qualifer 1 - three-year-old trotting fillies - 1:58.1   Queen Tile No, a Kindergarten contender last season and maiden, finished first in the opener in 1:58.1.   The daughter of Muscle Hill rode the pocket through fractions of :29.1, :59, and 1:28.3 before popping out late and going by leader Big Sky Surprise (Dexter Dunn). Ake Svanstedt drove, trains, and co-owns with Berg Inc of Delray Beach. It was the filly's first qualifier of the season.   QUEEN TILE NO REPLAY     Aela Jamieson (Andy Miller), who came up just short in the New York Sire Stakes Final in her divison last year, broke in her second straight qualifier to start the season. She started galloping shortly after the gate left but began trotting again and behaved for the remainder of the mile.   Breakers: Aela Jamieson, The Ice Countess (Todd McCarthy)   Qualifier 2 - three-year-old and up trotting fillies and mares - 1:56.2   Bluegrass division winner in 2020 Hello I Love You took the second as the pocket became the lead when Beltassima (Andrew McCarthy) broke stride turning for home and the lead became the win in 1:56.2.   Scott Zeron drove Hello I Love You in the qualifier, which was the filly's first of the season. She's a three-year-old by Trixton trained by Tony Alagna for his own Alagna Racing LLC of Manalapan and partner Marvin Katz. The horse has earned $105,987 and won two races from 10 outings.   HELLO I LOVE YOU REPLAY     Another Bluegrass winner, Pub Crawl finished fourth in the mile, getting around well and clocking in at 1:57. 2020 Matron champion Illuminata stayed flat throughout after breaking in the prior week's qualifier, finishing second in 1:56.3.   Breakers: Beltassima   Qualifier 3 - three-year-old trotting colts and geldings - 1:56.1   Calle Palema, a three-year-old Muscle Hill gelding, went all the way in the third qualifier, holding off Zenith Stride by half a length in 1:56.1.   Ake Svanstedt drove and conditions him for Bender Sweden Inc of Vero Beach. The gelding, who won the New Jersey Standardbred Development Fund Final last season, is three-for-12 and has amassed $67,126 in earnings.   CALLE PALEMA REPLAY     The Bar Hopping colt and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes (PaSS) contender In Range rode a three-hole trip to a third place finish with Tim Tetrick aboard. The horse trotted his first qualifying mile of the year in 1:56.2. He placed in the PaSS Championship, a division of the International Stallion Stakes, and the Breeders Crown Final in his two-year-old year. Marcus Melander trains him for AMG Stable Inc of Lightpoint Place, Kenneth Kjellgren of Osterskar, Tomas Asell of Stockholm, and Rick Wahlstedt of New York.   Brookview Bolt, an Indiana Sires Stakes battler at two, broke in his first appearance of the year. He galloped at the start for Dave Miller but got back on stride and completed the mile in 1:57.3. He's trained by Ron Burke and owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Knox Services Inc, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby, and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. The horse, a Swan For All gelding, has won four of his 12 starts and earned $171,075.   Breakers: Brookview Bolt, Muscle Dynasty (Zeron)   Qualifier 4 - three-year-old trotting colts and geldings - 1:56.3   Maverick, the all-time record high yearling purchase at $1.1 million, broke stride turning for home in the fourth.   Brad Grant and Tony Alagna purchased the son of Father Patrick and full brother to Greenshoe in the 2019 yearling sale. Maverick won on debut but was well-beaten in his other two parimutuel outings.   He was looming in the stretch after a second-over trip in the Apr. 24 qualifier, but broke stride in the final eighth. Alagna trains, and Andrew McCarthy drove on this occasion. The colt did resume trotting near the finish, completing the mile in 2:01 and finishing fifth.   $270,000 yearling purchase Balenciaga won it; it was his second qualifying appearance, more than nine months after his last. Scott Zeron placed the colt third through the opening half, sent him to the outside turning for home, and lightly urged down the stretch to keep him ahead of Red Redemption (Svanstedt) to win by a head in 1:56.3. S R F Stable of Lighthouse Point and Crawford Farms Racing of Syracuse own the son of Chapter Seven that is yet to make his parimutuel debut. Paul Kelley trains.   BALENCIAGA REPLAY     Breakers: Maverick, Original Fury (Dave Miller), Broadway Don (Tetrick)   Qualifier 5 - three-year-old trotting colts and geldings - 1:54.4   Mon Amour got up in the fifth off a second-over trip in which the late leader broke stride near the wire.   The colt is two-for-six lifetime with $33,000 in earnings for Al Libfeld of Pickering, Marvin and Lynn Katz, and Sam Goldband of Toronto. Ake Svanstedt took over training duties from Per Engblom for today's event and drove the son of Muscle Hill and $180,000 yearling purchase. The horse's two wins came in New Jersey Sire Stakes events.   MON AMOUR REPLAY     Breakers: Sonofamistery (Marcus Melander) Caruso (Dave Miller)   Qualifier 6 - trotting mares - 1:54.4   Hypnotic Am topped the most anticipated qualifier of the morning, sneaking out from the pocket in the stretch and getting by Felicityshagwell S (Svanstedt) on the line.   Hypnotic Am was qualifying for the first time at four following a three-year-old year in which she won the Kentucky and New York Sire Stakes finals, the EBC Trot, and placed in the Hambletonian Oaks. In all, her record is 12-for-22, and she's made $1,178,121 lifetime. Melander trains the daughter of Chapter Seven for Courant Inc of Delray Beach. She trotted her mile in 1:54.4.   HYPNOTIC AM REPLAY     Felicityshagwell S was second, and Next Level Stuff (Tetrick) was third.   Sorella, the winner of the Hambletonian Oaks, Casual Breeze, a division of the Bluegrass, and the Matron, finished fourth in 1:55 in a solid outing. Nancy Takter trains the Muscle Hill mare for Elmer Gannin of Lincoln, Crawford Farms Racing, and Brent Fannin of Milford. Sorella has earned $873,210 lifetime and won 10 of her 24 starts.   Manchego finished fifth, going backwards after a first-up challenge. Dunn drove the $2.8 million earner and three-time Breeders Crown champion in her second qualifier of the year for Nancy Takter and owner Black Horse Racing of Lebanon(NJ). She completed the Apr. 24 mile in 1:55.1.   Madame Sherry was sixth for Jordan Stratton.   Qualifier 7 - aged trotters - 1:54.1   Oney Hall circled the field in the seventh, coming home in :27.4 to win by a length in 1:54.1.   Todd McCarthy drove the five-year-old Deweycheatumnhowe gelding, a regular Woodbine Mohawk Park contender who is likely preparing for a United States campaign while Ontario racing is halted. Brett Pelling takes over the training from Bob McIntosh. Alan Leavitt of Lexington owns. The horse is 14-for 49 altogether with $157,227 in earnings.   ONEY HALL REPLAY     Sermon (Kasper Forget) was second in 1:54.2, followed by double millionaire Crystal Fashion (Stratton), who was making his second qualifying appearance of the year. The latter sat the pocket throughout, inherited the lead when Beads (Sears) went off stride, and faded to third in the stretch in a 1:54.3 effort. Ghostintheshell S was fourth for Svanstedt, and Beads was fifth after his break.   Breakers: Beads   Qualifier 8 - three-year-old pacing fillies - 1:55.4   2020 Breeders Crown Final-placed Jk Alwaysbalady won the eighth dash.   She found the four-hole, launched first-up turning for home, and cruised by under mild encouragement to finish first in 1:55.4 for Gingras. The Always B Miki mare was second by a head in the Breeders Crown at two. She made her first qualifying trip of the year on Apr. 24 for Nancy Takter and owner 3 Brothers Stables of New York.   JK ALWAYSBALADY REPLAY     Mohawk stakes competitor Spellcheck Hanover was second in 1:56 under the command of Doug McNair.   Kentucky Sire Stakes Final, Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championship, and Three Diamonds Final champion Blue Diamond Eyes closed from the backfield in :26.4 to finish third. The Ron Burke trainee hit the track for the first time since her Three Diamonds win on Nov. 21. Dave Miller drove the daughter of Captaintreacherous that has won five of 13 attempts and earned $546,527 for Thomas and Scott Dillon of Anson.   Breakers: Northern Storm (Andrew McCarthy)   Qualifier 9 - pacing fillies and mares - 1:55.3   Hot Mess Express, the second-place finisher in the 2020 Indiana Sires Stakes Super Final, came home in :27 to win the ninth in 1:53.3 with Andrew McCarthy in the bike.   She's a three-year-old by Panther Hanover trained by Tony Alagna for Samuel Bowie of West Palm Beach. The filly has earned $135,065 to date on nine starts, four of which she won.   HOT MESS EXPRESS REPLAY     Matron winner Continualou (Dave Miller) was second by a half-length in 1:53.3 after opening up a big gap in mid-stretch. Notorious Pink, who Jk Alwaysbalady defeated in the 2020 Three Diamonds, was third in 1:54 after a late-closing effort. Six hundred thousand dollar-earner Rocknificent finished fourth under the guidance of Scott Zeron in 1:54. Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final winner Scarlett Hanover finished sixth for Burke, who drove and trains, in 1:54.2.   Blond Onthe Beach was fifth in the same time, and Robmotion Bluechip went backward from the lead and finished seventh of seven in 1:56.2.   Qualifier 10 - pacing fillies and mares - 1:53.1   2019 Fan Hanover victor Treacherous Reign made her 2021 qualifying debut, winning the 10th in wire-to-wire fashion, after going two-for-14 last season.   Dave Miller piloted the five-year-old Captaintreacherous mare to a 1:53.1 mile for trainer Tony Alagna and owners Alagna Racing LLC, Big Als Stables, Let It Ride Stables Inc, and Bottom Line Racing LLC. Treacherous Reign is 13-for-42 lifetime with $944,752 made.   TREACHEROUS REIGN REPLAY     Pennsylvania Sire Stakes division winner Marsala Hanover finished second, unable to get by Treacherous Reign despite making headway in the stretch. Zeron drove for Linda Toscano and owners Let It Ride Stables Inc, Bottom Line Racing LLC, South Mountain Stables, and Little E LLC. The three-year-old Captaintreacherous filly has earned $275,006 from her 12 races that include four victories.   Qualifier 11 - three-year-old pacing colts and geldings - 1:50.3   Lou's Pearlman won the 11th with a pocket-popping effort, getting past Summa Cum Laude in the lane to finish first in 1:50.3.   Gingras drove and Ron Burke trains the three-year-old Sweet Lou colt for the group of Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Elizabeth Novak of Boca Raton, and Howard Taylor of Philadelphia. The horse has won five of 11 tries, including a division of the Bluegrass and raked in $199,294. He is now two-for-two in his qualifiers; he was first in last week's trip in 1:53.3.   LOU'S PEARLMAN REPLAY     Summa Cum Laude, the 2020 Breeders Crown and Kindergarten Classic champion was second by a length in 1:50.4 for Dexter Dunn. He also finished second to Lou's Pearlman last week as he prepares for his three-year-old year. Ron Burke trains and co-owns with his Burke Racing Stable LLC, along with Phillip Collura of Mountain Top, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby, and Weaver Bruscemi LLC.   Summa Cum Laude is a Somebeachsomewhere colt that went for $260,000 at Harrisburg in 2019. He's five-for-15 with $482,275 earned.   Qualifier 12 - three-year-old pacing colts and geldings - 1:52.2   Perfect Sting dominated the 12th qualifier under orders from Dave Miller, going wire-to-wire in 1:52.2 and pacing his final quarter in :25.4. The Joseph Holloway-trained son of Always B Miki is undefeated in 10 starts for Brittany Farms LLC of Versailles and Val Dor Farms of Spring Lake. He has won the Kentucky Sire Stakes Final, divisions of the Bluegrass and International Stallion Stakes, and the Breeders Crown Final for two-year-old pacing males.   PERFECT STING REPLAY     Overall, Perfect Sting is 10-for-10 with $534,000 in earnings. This was his first qualifier of 2021.   Qualifier 13 - three-year-old pacing colts and geldings - 1:51.2   Red Right Hand went gate-to-wire in the 13th in 1:51.2 after authoritatively grabbing the front from post eight for Todd McCarthy.   RED RIGHT HAND REPLAY     The Captaintreacherous colt improved on his 1:53.2 effort in his Apr. 10 qualifier. He's two-for-eight and has made $44,464 for trainer Nancy Takter and owners Christina Takter of East Windsor, Nancy Takter herself and Jaf Raci of Allentown, Joe Sbrocco of Brecksville, and R A W Equine of Burlington.   Qualifier 14 - three-year-old pacing colts and geldings - 1:51   Southwind Gendry bested a high-quality field, quarter-poling for Gingras past leader Bazooka Hanover (Dave Miller) and finishing the job to win in 1:51. The Always B Miki gelding is 10-for-13 and has earned $583,069 for conditioner Ron Burke and owners Ron Burke Stable LLC, Phillip Collura, Knox Services Inc, and J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby. Southwind Gendry is a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and Matron champion, and he finished third in the 2020 Breeders Crown final for his age, sex, and gait.   This was his second qualifying win of the year; he won a week prior in 1:52.4.   SOUTHWIND GENDRY REPLAY     Exploit, the shock victor of the 2020 Metro Pace, made his three-year-old qualifying debut here, finishing second in 1:51.1 with Todd McCarthy aboard. Tony Alagna trains the son of Somebeachsomewhere for Leblanc And Kribbs of Austin, Joe Sbrocco, In The Gym Partners of Staten Island, and Joseph Barbera of Deer Park. The colt closed his two-year-old year with a placing in the Governers Cup.   Bazooka Hanover was third, clocked in 1:51.2, and Governers Cup winner Always A Miki (Dunn) finished fourth in 1:52. Ontario Sires Stakes competitor Bettor Sun (Andrew McCarthy) was sixth by 14 in 1:53.4.   Qualifier 15 - aged pacing horses and geldings - 1:50.3   Ruthless Hanover, a four-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding, took the penultimate qualifier in a two-move trip.   Andrew McCarthy drove on to the front with him, was passed, and then re-took turning for home and kicked away to win in 1:50.3, equalling the day's best time. Ruthless Hanover is trained by Thomas Cancelliere for John Cancelliere of Chesterfield. The horse has earned $66,875 on 12 starts and has won six times.   RUTHLESS HANOVER REPLAY     Allywag Hanover, coming off a strong three-year-old year, finished third in 1:51.1 under the guidance of Dave Miller.   On The Cards N, a recent purchase from New Zealand by the group of Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Lawrence Karr of Randolph, and J&T Silva Stables of Jericho made his North American qualifying debut. He's a six-year-old Bettors Delight gelding that has won 11 of 49 starts and earned $152,283 during his time Down Under. Ron Burke trains. Dave Miller drove him here.   Progress and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion No Lou Zing finished sixth in 1:52 in his second qualifier of the year. Dunn piloted the four-year-old gelding by Sweet Lou that has made $523,558 from 19 starts, seven of which ended in victory. Nancy Takter trains for the combo of Concord Stud Farm LLC and Birnam Wood Farms. The gelding was second in his Apr. 10 qualifier.   Qualifier 16 - aged pacing horses and geldings - 1:51   World record-holder Elver Hanover won the finale, sliding out from third on the turn and going by the top two for a 1:51 qualifier victory. Gingras took the controls here for trainer Ron Burke and owners Burke Racing Stable LLC, Bridgette Jablonsky of Hanover, Jason Melillo of Powell, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby. The four-year-old Yankee Cruiser colt is 12-for-23 lifetime with a bankroll of $625,645.   He is now three-for-three on qualifiers this year, as he won on Apr. 6 in 1:54.1 and Apr. 20 in 1:53.2.   ELVER HANOVER REPLAY     Andrew McCarthy steered Angers Bayama to a 1:51.1 second-place finish in the horse's first qualifier of 2021. Fortify, the winner of the 2020 Progress Final, was third in 1:51.1.   Gingras had the most winners of the day in the sulky, driving four.   For full qualifying results, click here.   by Nicholas Barnsdale, for Harnesslink  

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