Sunday, January 21, 2024

Not once did a trainer win more than four races on a single card at The Meadowlands during 2023, so maybe it was on Per Engblom’s list of New Year’s resolutions to accomplish the feat.

The 43-year-old native of Sweden, whose $6 million in earnings established his career high a year ago, schooled five horses to victory lane on another chilly Saturday night at The Big M, where the real-feel temperature at the start of the night was 6 degrees.

“They all raced well tonight,” said Engblom. “The ones that won and the ones that didn’t.”

Engblom got off to a blazing start, taking the first three races with all of the winners driven by Jason Bartlett, who followed up his five-win Friday with a four-score Saturday.

“[Bartlett and I] had a tremendous year together last year at Yonkers,” said Engblom. “We are a good team.”

After the natural hat trick with The Best Tyme Ever ($6.60 to win), Like Clockwork ($3.40) and Hopnroll Heaven ($3, finishing in a dead heat with Brutallyhandsome A), Engblom had run his weekend winner total to five. But that number would continue to grow.

No Win No Feed A ($4.20) took the seventh race, but this time it wasn’t Bartlett in the bike, but rather, Big M 2023 leading driver Yannick Gingras, who was making his first appearance of the year at the mile oval. Gingras is one of the owners of the horse.

“If he wants to drive, who am I to say no?” said Engblom with a chuckle. “He came off the couch and that was good. He said he wanted to come out and drive his two horses. I said that’s great for me.”

In fact, it was Gingras’ only other drive of the night that completed Engblom’s five-bagger, as Uriel Blue Chip ($28.20), also part-owned by Gingras, overcame post 10 to win going away from well off the pace in the 12th race.

“[Uriel Blue Chip] showed that he’s a fast horse but he’s been making breaks and been unsafe,” said Engblom. “We’ve been tinkering with him. I didn’t think he had much of a shot tonight.”

Engblom, who finished third in The Big M trainer standings with 38 victories a year ago, would be happy if things stayed just the way they are.

“Get horses that fit the classes,” said Engblom. “We have new horses coming in and they’ve been healthy. We’ve been trucking along.

“I was fortunate that Jimmy [Takter, whom Engblom used to work for] gave me horses to train, but, eventually, I had to do my own thing. It took a couple of years to rebuild, but my owners have been buying good racehorses for me. I am hoping for a big year this year, and am hoping to do well at both Yonkers and The Meadowlands.”

FOUR IN A ROW: The amazing Oakwood Ardan IR (a 5-year-old gelded son of Sweet Lou-Trend Setter) stayed perfect in four Meadowlands starts since shipping over from Great Britain in the fall of last year.

Driven by Andy McCarthy, the 1-5 favorite scored by a safe three-quarters-of-a-length in 1:52.3 for trainer Robert Cleary in a high-end conditioned pace.

“I’m glad he’s panned out,” said McCarthy. “He actually doesn’t mind being first-over. He’s pretty exciting this horse. He just wants to get past horses. I haven’t found the bottom of him yet.”

A LITTLE MORE: Bartlett’s four winners led the driver colony. Of his nine weekend tallies, five were for Engblom, who rolled a seven over the two cards. … McCarthy was next in line behind Bartlett with three victories. … The 20-cent Pick-6 failed to yield a winning ticket again, setting up a double carryover of $14,531 for Friday’s card. … All-source wagering totaled $3,155,460, making it four $3-million nights out of five 2024 Big M programs. … Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO: Uriel Blue Chip takes the 12th race at The Meadowlands Saturday night to give trainer Per Engblom five winners on the program. Yannick Gingras was in the sulky. (Credit: Lisa Photo)