Sunday, March 17, 2024

It looked like a forgone conclusion that Stable Genius would win the $23,000 feature Saturday night at The Meadowlands, a high-end conditioned trot.

After all, he mowed down a similar field just one week ago as the 1-2 favorite, and was sent to the gate at 1-5 this time around.

But Buddy Earl, apparently, did not get the memo.

Sent to the gate as an 11-1 outsider, the sharp Richard Johnson trainee went an ideal ground-saving trip before bursting home to score for the third time in his last six starts. His 1:53.1 clocking equaled his lifetime best.

“Everything we’ve done has worked so far,” said Johnson. “His last three starts were very tough trips against good horses.”

With Dave Miller in the sulky, the trip was smooth as silk this time around, as Stable Genius, who looked like a terror coming from off the pace a week ago, was put in play early by Todd McCarthy as Stable Genius, Nextroundsonme and Buddy Earl lined up 1-2-3 past the quarter (:27.2), half (:56.1) and three-quarters (1:26). There were times during the mile that Stable Genius looked a tad steppy, and that may have led to him being vulnerable when they turned for home.

Miller swung his horse to the outside at the head of the stretch, and the 4-year-old gelded son of Father Patrick-Nixie Volo responded with a lightning-quick final quarter of :26.4 to complete a 1-length win over Nextroundsonme. Stable Genius held third.

“Tonight’s trip worked out great and he responded strongly,” said Johnson. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity the owners gave me.”

Buddy Earl returned $25.40 to win as the third choice in the betting. He’s now won eight of 36 lifetime outings and banked over $80,000 for owners Cathy May Curly-Bonney and Ross Bonney.

PROLIFIC PAYOFFS: After going unhit for five consecutive programs, one sharp player took down the entire 20-cent Pick-8, cashing in for $12,926.80 after a sequence that saw winner’s odds of 7-1, 9-5, 4-5, even-money, 4-1, 6-5, 11-1 and 4-5. A carryover of just over $9,500 enticed bettors to put $4,026 of “new money” into the pot.

The 20-cent Pick-6 had no carryover but paid big nonetheless, as one bettor walked away with $11,499.54 after a sequence where the winners went off at 4-1, 6-5, 11-1, 4-5, 5-2 and 3-1.

PROLIFIC PURPLE: After winning the final three races on the Friday night card, leading driver Miller won three more on Saturday. The 59-year-old Hall of Famer now has 41 Big M victories on the year.

A LITTLE MORE: Scott Zeron, the guest on the track’s “In the Sulky” interview spot before the races, kept up with Miller by guiding three winners of his own. … Betting was brisk as a total of $3,644,648 was pushed through the windows on the 14-race program. There have been 21 cards contested at The Big M during 2024, with 18 of them seeing wagering bust the $3-million barrier. … Big M TV’s Dave Little was on target during the night, selecting eight winners on top, which included Sunshine’s Finest ($16.20) in the first race and Mask On Mask Off ($10.40) in the eighth. In addition, Little tabbed the 50-cent Early Pick-4 cold ($41.20). … Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO: Buddy Earl and driver Dave Miller won the Saturday night feature at The Meadowlands. (Credit: Lisa Photo)