Beaton sweeps Meadowlands Pace elims with Nijinsky, Legendary Hanover

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Pepsi North America Cup winner Nijinsky stamped himself as the likely favorite in the $650,000 Meadowlands Pace final with a determined 1:47.3 score over rival Funtime Bayama in the second of two $50,000 eliminations of the summer classic for 3-year-old male pacers on Saturday (July 6) at the Meadowlands. Legendary Hanover captured the first elimination, giving trainer Anthony Beaton a sweep of both heats.
Driver Louis-Philippe Roy settled Nijinsky in fifth off a stampede to the first turn that saw Captain Luke (driven by Scott Zeron) vault clear of McCrunch (Yannick Gingras) from his outside post eight through a taxing :25.4 first quarter, only to yield control to McCrunch upon reaching the backstretch. Meanwhile, Nijinsky latched onto live cover behind Captain Albano (Todd McCarthy), lost that cover when Captain Albano cleared with nine-sixteenths to go, and pushed clear himself just beyond a :53.1 half.
There was no respite for Nijinsky after he made the lead as Funtime Bayama (Dexter Dunn) — who was third-over on the backstretch — aggressively took aim midway on the far turn, and the two dueled past three-quarters in 1:21.1 and off the corner for home. Nijinsky stood his ground in the stretch, though, and repelled his outside challenger by three-quarters of a length in a career-best showing. Captain Albano became rough-gaited in upper stretch and finished a detached third, 3-1/2 lengths farther behind, followed by Captain Luke and Its Saturday Night (Andy McCarthy).
Despite the early exertion and late pressure, Roy was high on his colt’s fitness level exiting the race:
“I didn’t even pull the earplugs; I know every time I pull the plugs he goes to another gear. Every time we’ve tested him, he always answers nicely. Tonight, I feel like he had more left than in the N.A. Cup final.”
Nijinsky is a perfect six-for-six this season, and now has won seven of his 16 career races for the partnership of West Wins Stable, John Fielding and Mark Dumain. He paid $4.80 to win as the narrow 7-5 favorite.
The first elimination saw Mirage Hanover (Tim Tetrick) protect inside position to establish the early lead over Breeders Crown champion Gem Quality (Dunn) through a :26.3 first quarter while Canada’s 2024 National Driving Champion James MacDonald settled Legendary Hanover in third. Mirage Hanover maintained control of the pace through a rated :55.1 half, and the top trio remained unchallenged on the far turn after the first-over Ivy Park (Gingras) failed to get any closer than four lengths from the lead on the far turn before fading.
After hitting three-quarters in 1:22.4, Mirage Hanover found himself under pressure from Gem Quality, who edged out of the pocket turning for home. With Ivy Park weakening off the corner, MacDonald had room to hook Legendary Hanover three-wide in upper stretch, and the Huntsville-Lillian Hanover colt surged to the fore with a sixteenth to go, capping his 1:48 lifetime-best performance with an astonishing :24.4 sprint home. Mirage Hanover narrowly held off Gem Quality for second, 1-1/4 lengths back; Captain’s Quarters (Jody Jamieson) and Number Cruncher (Zeron) completed the top five finishers.
“Today I was looking for a nice trip and to have him pacing at the end; it couldn’t have worked out any better,” said MacDonald. “I didn’t think fitness would be a problem. I was confident he’d be fit enough; it was my job to find a nice trip for him.”
It was the ninth career win in 15 starts for Legendary Hanover, who races for the partnership of Eric Good, West Wins Stable and Mark Dumain. As the 5-2 second choice, he paid $7.00 to win.
The top five finishers from each elimination earned berths to next Saturday’s (July 13) Meadowlands Pace final. Meadowlands rules for races with eliminations dictate that Nijinsky and Legendary Hanover will draw for posts one through six by virtue of their elimination wins; the draw will take place Tuesday (July 9).

ARDAN PARTY: The incredible Oakwood Ardan IR, a 6-year-old gelded son of Sweet Lou-Trend Setter, displayed his usual explosive late pace in taking the 11th-race finale high-end conditioned pace for driver Andy McCarthy in 1:48.1, just a fifth-of-a-second off his lifetime best.

Since his arrival from Great Britain last December, the Robert Cleary trainee has won 10 times from just 11 Meadowlands starts. His only other North American outing came in the June 15 Gold Cup at Woodbine Mohawk Park, in which he finished fifth in Linedrive Hanover’s 1:47.2 score.

A LITTLE MORE: Andy Miller led the drivers with two victories while Tony Beaton had a double to top the trainers. … All-source handle on the 11-race card totaled $2,893,666, an average per race of $263,060. On a usual 14-race program, that per race number would put total business at $3.68 million. … Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m.