Saturday, February 18, 2023

It’s not very often you see a horse make his debut at 4 years of age, but that was the case for Big Christian, who took his career debut Feb. 10 by an inch as the 4-5 favorite at The Meadowlands.
Friday night at The Big M, the Erv Miller-trained, Marcus Miller-driven gelded son of Swan For All-Spirit Of Casey won again, and looked a whole lot better doing it, scoring in a non-winners of two for trotters in 1:57.1.
“My dad broke the horse,” said Marcus of Erv. “Big Christian had an injury, but they liked this horse, so they kept him around.”
In his victory a week ago, Big Christian had a lot of schoolwork to catch up on. “When he cleared last week, he stuck his head out (at the top of the stretch) but wasn’t quite sure what was going on. But tonight, I was able to stick to Scotty’s (Zeron, driving 9-5 second choice Headoverboots As) helmet, and as soon as I moved him, he took over.”
Marcus did well to keep Big Christian in the hunt, and maybe there was a bit of divine intervention when he was able to pick up a live – albeit brief – tow from Zeron as they straightened away in the stretch after sitting a four-hole trip. Once he tipped off his cover, Big Christian did not look like a horse making only his second lifetime outing.
“You wouldn’t think it (because of his inexperience),” said Marcus. “But he seems like a very smart horse, hopefully, that pays him back.
“It’s hard to say (how good he can be). I think, at this point, he’s a really nice racehorse and if he turns out to be more, that would be really nice. It’s hard to get your hopes up in this business.”
As the 3-1 third choice in the betting, Big Christian returned $8.00 to his backers. Headoverboots As was 1¼ lengths back in second. Violence was third, with 8-5 favorite Senna, who grabbed the lead just after the quarter and led to the head of the stretch, fourth.
“We knew that if he could stay together,” said Marcus. “That he would be a nice racehorse. He learned very quickly from his first start to his second.”
THE ANSWER MY FRIEND: Wasn’t blowing in the wind, which was chilly and gusting during the night as temperatures plummeted from an afternoon high of 61 degrees all the way down to 32 (real feel 22) at 11 p.m. as they went to the gate for the 12th race.
The wind – which gusted to 14 mph – was at the horses’ backs heading to the half and in their faces heading to the finish. The second race saw the final quarter timed in :31.4.
“The wind was brutal,” said Marcus. “It was cold, but not super cold, but the wind was cold.”
FABULOUS FRIDAY: All-source handle on the 14-race card was $3,400,130, the 2023 best for a Friday at The Big M.
The track’s streak of betting $3 million on Fridays and Saturdays stayed alive, as all 12 Friday and Saturday programs this year have seen total action go past the $3-million mark.
SLUMP OVER: Normally, when a driver is four-for-40 at The Meadowlands, that’s pretty good. For the four-time defending Dan Patch Driver of the Year Dexter Dunn, some might call it a slump.
Slump over.
The 33-year-old New Zealand native, who was the regular 2022 driver for the presumptive Trotter of the Year Bella Bellini and presumptive Pacer of the Year and Horse of the Year Bulldog Hanover, registered four winners to lead the driver colony while doubling his Big M dash-win total for the season.
A LITTLE MORE: Yannick Gingras guided a pair to victory lane, giving him at least two winners on three of the last four cards. … Scott Zeron also scored twice while Kerin Warner schooled a pair of winners. … There were no winning favorites in the 20-cent Pick-5, which led to a payout of $4,946.58. Stolen Art did pull off a 16-1 upset in the first race, but the odds of the winners after that were a reasonable 5-1, 9-5, 3-1 and 5-1. … Racing resumes Saturday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO: Big Christian wins the fourth race at The Meadowlands Friday night with Marcus Miller in the sulky. (Credit: Lisa Photo)