By John Furgele
When it’s time for a big race, never sleep on Yannick Gingras. As one of the best drivers in harness racing, he’s going to get good horses for sure, but in the big races, especially those at the Meadowlands, he is tough to beat.
In the 44th Meadowlands Pace, he was driving the favorite Tall Dark Stranger, but with two Hanovers — Papi Rob and Allywag — the second and third choices, the potential for drama existed and if that’s what you wanted, that is certainly what you received.
One of these days, the improving Capt. Kirk will get a favorable draw. Coming from the 10 post, he shot out and got the early lead, but he had to work too hard to get it. Once the opening fraction of 25.4 was called by track announcer Ken Warkentin, you knew that the Captain was cooked. Tall Dark Stranger then took the lead through the half and three-quarter mark and then, Papi Rob Hanover made his move.
With David Miller in the bike, Papi Rob Hanover took the lead and looked like he was home free coming down the stretch, even Gingras was conceding.
“I thought we were beat at the top of the stretch,” Gingras said, “but this horse is gritty, a fighter and he wouldn’t give up.”
Tall Dark Stranger was on the inside and these two, just like they did in last year’s Breeders Crown were poised for a dramatic finish. At that race, Papi Rob Hanover crossed the line first, but Gingras filed an objection stating that “Papi” made contact with “TDS”; the stewards agreed and TDS was placed first.
In the Pace, Tall Dark Stranger found an extra gear and was able to get to the wire first in 1:47.2, which included a 26.3 final quarter. Allywag Hanover was third.
“He was aggressive tonight,” Gingras said, “he was pushing back early, but my horse is a fighter. He loves to fight.”
These two will continue to duke it out for the remainder of the year and the bad blood from last year apparently has spilled over to 2020.
“Papi Rob’s a great horse,” Gingras said, “We respect him, I’m not sure if he (his connections) respects us, but we’ve got a really good horse.”
Purchased by trainer Nancy Takter for $330,000, Tall Dark Stranger is now 3-for-3 this year and 11-for-12 in his career.
Gingras also drove to Ready For Moni to victory in Leg 2 of the Stanley Dancer Trot and now has his sights on the Hambletonian which will be contested at the Meadowlands on Aug. 8
“That’s the goal (the Hambletonian). That’s the race we want and he’s ready.”
In other stakes action, Gimpanzee was given a major test in the $464,900 Hambletonian Maturity — which had 13 starters and thus, was trotted at 1 1/8 miles — when he started from post 13. He passed it with flying colors, seizing command right before the mile mark to draw away and win by four lengths in 2:05.4
There is no better standardbred right now as the 4-year old has four wins in four starts this year and 21 in less than three years of racing. The $232,450 winners’ check puts him over $2 million in career and he continues to improve.
“He’s such a class animal, so handy,” said driver Brian Sears. “I’m looking forward to racing against the older trotters.”
We should see Gimpanzee back at the Meadowlands on Hambo Day in the John Cashman Open Trot and its $300,000 purse.
There were 10 stakes races on the card and bettors were ready for the action. For the first time since 2008, all-source handle exceeded $5 million for what was a great night of racing.
Many of the horses that ran on ‘Pace Night,’ will be back at the Big M on Hambletonian Day. A brief recap of the seven other stakes races and the road ahead.
Del Miller Memorial Trot: 3-year old filly trotters
Winner: Ramona Hill scores upset at 8-1
Up next: Hambletonian Oaks Eliminations
Stanley Dancer Trot, Leg 1, 3 year old trotters
Winner: Back of the Neck
Up next: Hambletonian Eliminations
Mistletoe Shalee, Filly pacers
Winner: Reflect With Me pulls the upset at 9-1
Up next: Shady Daisy on Hambletonian Day
Haughton Memorial, Open pacers
Winner: Dancin Lou burns up the track in 1:47.2
Up next: Sam McKee Pace on Hambo Day
Dorothy Haughton Memorial, Mares Open Pace
Winner: Major Occasion shocks at 50-1, beating reigning Horse of the Year Shartin N as well as Kissin In The Sand, Caviart Ally and Soho Burning Love A
Up next: Let’s have a rematch in the Lady Liberty on Hambo Day
Haughton Consolation Open Pace
Winner: Our Majordan A sparkles in 1:47.3
Up next: Sam McKee Pace on Hambo Day
Miss Versatility Mares Open Trot
Up next: Atlanta was absent, but the hope is they will hook up in the JR Steele on Hambo Day.