Sunday, April 23, 2023

A violent thunderstorm that hit Northern New Jersey Saturday night forced racing at The Meadowlands to be canceled after only seven of the 14 races on the program had been contested.

It marked the second straight Saturday of bad weather at the track, which saw a 35-minute delay before the start of the second race one week ago before action resumed.

This time, the ending was different.

Shortly after the seventh race – which went off at 8:50 p.m. – a light rain started to fall at the mile oval before a powerful storm engulfed the area. Track announcer Ken Warkentin informed the public of the cancellation at 10:29 p.m., explaining that the drivers thought it was too dangerous to continue.

“We have had some bad weather luck for the last two Saturdays, but last week, we were able to resume without a problem,” said track Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “This time, we weren’t so lucky.”

‘NIKI’ EXTINGUISHES ‘DRAGON’: In what promises to be the first chapter in a season-long rivalry, before the rains hit, Niki Hill drew first blood against Treacherous Dragon in the $15,000 New Jersey Breeders Maturity for 4-year-old mares on the pace.

Niki Hill took home divisional honors as a 2-year-old but was thwarted in her bid to repeat last year after Treacherous Dragon pulled off a mild upset in the Breeders Crown to be named 3-Year-Old Pacing Filly of the Year.

“We’re very happy with this mare,” said winning trainer Chris Ryder of his Niki Hill. “I think we’re going to have a good year. Those other top mares in the division (5-year-olds Test of Faith and Grace Hill and 4-year-old Boudoir Hanover) are going to have to respect her this year.”

Niki Hill left the gate quickly from post five in the six-horse field as Treacherous Dragon took back, content to sit a four-hole trip. ‘Niki’ cut out fractions of :27.4, :57.1 and 1:25 without breaking a sweat as Treacherous Dragon moved off the rail at the head of the stretch to take her shot.

‘Dragon’ blasted home in :25.1 but never really threatened the winner, who stopped the clock in 1:51 and won by 1¼ lengths. Treacherous Dragon finished two lengths in front of Valar Dohaeris in the race for place.

Dunn got after Niki Hill some in the stretch but shrugged it off as no big deal. “I was just keeping her mind on her job. She was going good enough. She’s just been such a great filly. When she was 2, she looked like she was 3, and at 3, she looked like a 4-year-old. She’s a big, strong girl, who’s very intelligent.”

Niki Hill paid $2.60 to win as the 1-5 public choice. She’s now won 13-of-18 lifetime starts and has earnings of over $1.3 million.

NON-BETTING EVENTS: Before the betting card began, two $12,500 divisions of the New Jersey Breeders Maturity for 4-year-olds took center stage.

In the division for horse and gelding pacers, the Ron Burke-trained Bythemissal scored in 1:54 for driver Yannick Gingras. The 2022 Little Brown Jug and Adios winner is a gelded son of Downbytheseaside-Dismissal.

Pretender won the split for horse and gelding trotters in 1:54 for Nancy Takter and Andy McCarthy. A year ago, the son of Muscle Hill-Maven took both the New Jersey Classic and New Jersey Sire Stakes finals.

In a race contested after the fifth betting contest, Primadonna Deo used a good rating on the front end by driver Andy McCarthy and a final quarter of :26.1 to upset 2022 Hambletonian Oaks champion Fashion Schooner in the NJBM division for trotting mares in 1:54. A daughter of Trixton-Uf Lindsay Lou Who, the Noel Daley-trained Primadonna Deo will race once more and call it a career. She is currently in foal to Chapter Seven.

A LITTLE MORE: Dunn and Dave Miller each recorded driving doubles on the abbreviated betting program. … Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO: Niki Hill takes the New Jersey Breeders Maturity for 4-year-old pacing mares at The Meadowlands Saturday night. (Credit: Lisa Photo)