Sunday, April 17, 2022

Trainer Nik Drennan knew he had a pair of aces heading into Saturday’s $22,500 Hello Spring Series Final for pacers at The Meadowlands, and his prolific pair paid off, as his Alta Engen A and Alluneedisfaith N finished 1-2 under the wire over a track rated ‘good’ on a rainy Northern New Jersey evening.

His prized pupils came into the race with big credentials, as Australian-bred Alta Engen A won his first race in North America a week ago in 1:50.4, while New Zealand-bred Alluneedisfaith N won last week in 1:50.3 after gunning down 3-5 favorite I’ll Drink To That, a Chris Ryder trainee who completed the race’s group of top contenders.

Drennan’s go-to driver, George Brennan, opted to drive Alluneedisfaith N. “I didn’t tell him anything. He picked that one,” said Drennan. “He knows the owner a long time, but both horses were pretty equal, so Andy (McCarthy) drove the other horse, and whenever I can’t have George, I usually use Andy, and we’ve done pretty good.”

After 5-2 third choice I’ll Drink To That left hard from post nine in the 10-horse field to lead at the quarter in :27.3, McCarthy then moved 9-5 second choice Alta Engen (pronounced “engine”) A to the top at the half in a swift :54.4, but Drennan wasn’t worried about the torrid pace.

“Alta Engen A gets relaxed when he’s up front,” said Drennan. “He goes along at his own speed and usually doesn’t get tired.”

The leader kept sailing along at three-quarters in 1:22.3, but in mid-stretch, his stablemate, who was the 3-2 public choice, emerged from behind the pocket-sitting I’ll Drink To That to take his shot. And he almost got there.

“It’s possible Alluneedisfaith N could have caught him had he vacated the rail a little earlier,” said Drennan. “It would have been interesting because he is a tough old horse.”

Alta Engen A prevailed by a neck in 1:49.4 to up his stats in the States to two wins in three tries. I’ll Drink To That was third.

The winner is a 6-year-old gelded son of Alta Christiano-Its Karma who is owned by Phillip Scott McKenzie. He’s now won 14-of-30 lifetime starts.

So, what happens moving forward?

“They are both very nice horses,” said Drennan. “Alluneedisfaith N is good on a half-mile track, so he’ll head to Yonkers, while Alta Engen A will stay on the big track. No stakes. Just overnights. But first, they both are getting the week off.”

MATURATION PROCESS: Before the betting card, there were a pair of New Jersey Breeders Maturity events conducted for 4-year-olds on the trot.

Trixstar (Trixton-Always Quick Star) took the $12,500 dash for mares for driver Dave Miller and trainer Mark Gray, leading at every call to register a three-quarter-length win in 1:59 over her only opponent, Ledges. Trixstar now has four wins lifetime.

In the $15,000 event for horses and geldings, the Marcus Melander-trained Sonofamistery led at every call for driver Brian Sears, winning by 1-length over Swingforthefences in the five-horse field in a snappy 1:54.4. The son of Muscle Hill-Mystery Woman now has a half-dozen victories from 22 lifetime outings and earnings of just over $200,000.

A LITTLE MORE: It was a case of the usual suspects as Dexter Dunn, Brennan, Yannick Gingras, Dave Miller and McCarthy all recorded driving doubles. … Ron Burke trained three to victory lane while Bruce Saunders and Jeff Cullipher had two apiece. … A pair of sharp players had winning tickets in the 20-Survivor Pick-7 and collected $5,867 for six correct selections. … All-source handle totaled $2,784,627. … Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO: Alta Engen A and driver Andy McCarthy hit the wire first in the Hello Spring Series Final at The Meadowlands Saturday night. (Credit: Lisa Photo)