Sunday, May 1, 2022

When it came to the Saturday night feature at The Meadowlands, track announcer Ken Warkentin said it best: “Charlie May came to play!”

The 2021 Ohio Horse of the Year made a huge splash in his 4-year-old debut, powering off cover in mid-stretch to take the $31,500 Open Handicap for pacers in a lifetime-best 1:48.3.

“It’s interesting because every season he’s won his first race of the year,” said Charlie May’s owner Don Tiger. “It’s pretty cool. He surprised me tonight. I knew he’d be very good, but those were Invitational pacers he was facing with starts under their belts. We raced him conservatively, but the horse has his own mind. He doesn’t like to lose.”

After a 3-year-old campaign that saw him battle the likes of Perfect Sting, Lous Pearlman and Abuckabett Hanover, Charlie May won 10-of-22 starts and banked a hair under $880,000, and off a pair of winning qualifiers at Miami Valley Raceway, the gelded son of McArdle-Stipple Hanover, who is trained by Steve Carter, was more than ready at first asking for his third season of racing.

A year ago, it was Perfect Sting gunning down Charlie May in the Oct. 30 Breeders Crown for driver Dave Miller, so it was ironic that Miller was piloting Charlie May – for the first time ever – Saturday.

“I got asked to drive him and was glad to get to race him,” said the Hall of Famer. “We were going to race him from the end of it and I was able to sit quite a ways. We got some cover and he did the rest.”

Charlie May was away fifth in the early going as No Lou Zing and American History slugged it out to the quarter in :26.1 before American History made a second move to command and hit the half in :54.3. Miller moved Charlie May off the rail at the five-eighths and quickly picked up live cover from Backstreet Shadow.

American History was clear by 3 lengths at three-quarters in 1:21.4 as Charlie May continued second-over with Let It Ride N – who was seeking a second straight score in the weekly feature – in hot pursuit in the live flow right behind the eventual winner.

Charlie May was tipped off his cover with an eighth-of-a-mile to go and steamrolled past the field, hitting the wire 1½-lengths in front of Backstreet Shadow. Vettel N was third. Let It Ride N, the 3-5 favorite, didn’t fire off cover and finished in a dead-heat for fourth in the six-horse field.

In raising his lifetime stats to 18 wins from just 32 starts, Charlie May padded his earnings to $1,223,777. He returned $8.00 to his backers as the 3-1 second choice in the wagering.

“We’ll be in the Graduate (at The Meadowlands) for sure next week,” said Tiger. “And the week after that, The Confederation Cup (at Flamboro Downs). We have our schedule all mapped out, and we will show some loyalty to Ohio, and we’ll go to the Dan Patch because that is a neighboring state (Indiana). We’ll finish up in the Breeders Crown (at Woodbine Mohawk Park). But we’ll be at The Meadowlands for a good chunk of races.”

A LITTLE MORE: Dexter Dunn was on target all night, leading the driver colony with four victories. Joe Bongiorno guided the winner’s circle visitors in the first, second and third races. … The 20-cent Pick-6 had a double carryover, leading to $100,000 in “new money” poured into the pool, for a grand total of $127,024. After Scott Zeron guided 29-1 shot No Stone Unturned to victory lane in the 13th and final, those with winning Pick-6 tickets walked away with $12,443.96. … All-source handle totaled $2,794,862. … Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO: Charlie May starts his 4-year-old campaign with a bang, scoring in the Saturday night feature at The Meadowlands with Dave Miller in the bike. (Credit: Lisa Photo)