Sunday, April 30, 2023

Regardless of whether you liked It’s Academic in Saturday night’s $40,000 featured Open 1 for trotters at The Meadowlands or you didn’t, it would have been tough to think that in a field that included Hillexotic, Lovedbythemasses, Inaminute Hanover, Ahundreddollarbill and Delayed Hanover that the Ron Burke trainee would be sent to the gate as the prohibitive 1-5 choice.

As it turns out, his backers didn’t sweat a drop.

Sitting a three-hole trip to the half, driver Dave Miller moved It’s Academic to the outside and made up ground on leader Lovedbythemasses, pulling even with that one at the head of the stretch before easily trotting past that foe and then holding off the late-closing Hillexotic by an easy length to complete an all-Burke exacta. Delayed Hanover rallied for third.

“I picked up him up halfway through the summer last year,” said Miller, “and he got better and better each week. (Tonight) I was really happy with the way he raced. When they were mixing it up a little bit, it helped us. He’s staked to pretty much everything and, hopefully, has a great season.”

A 6-year-old son of Uncle Peter-Annapolis, It’s Academic returned $2.60 to win after completing the mile in 1:51.2. He’s now won 23-of-68 lifetime starts, good for earnings of $1,383,092.

‘NIKI’ MOST MATURE: Niki Hill went up 2-0 in her rivalry with Treacherous Dragon this season, gunning down that foe by a head as they hit the wire in the $30,000 New Jersey Breeders Maturity final for 4-year-old mare pacers.

Unlike a week ago, when Niki Hill went to the lead and held off the ‘Dragon’ by an easy 1¼ lengths, the Chris Ryder trainee went a pocket journey this time, as Treacherous Dragon carved out fractions of :27.3, :56.2 and 1:25.2.

Then, predictably, the sprint was on.

Driver Dexter Dunn vacated the pocket as the two rivals straightened up for the final three-sixteenths-of-a-mile, and Niki Hill needed every inch of the stretch to get past her in 1:51.1 over a track rated ‘sloppy’ on yet another rainy evening weather-wise in Northern New Jersey.

“I always say, people ask me about Niki Hill,” said winning trainer Chris Ryder. “They should know that Niki Hill does what she does, she wins.”

Not only will Niki Hill battle Treacherous Dragon during 2023 in the big events, but also 5-year-old standouts Test Of Faith and Grace Hill. Is she up for that challenge, given the conventional wisdom that 4-year-olds are at a disadvantage when facing those with an extra year of seasoning?

“It’s fashionable to transition,” said Ryder. “But she transitioned into an aged mare in (last year’s) TVG final (when second to Grace Hill in a 1:48.3. mile).”

Niki Hill, a daughter of Always B Miki-Road Bet, returned $3.00 to win as the 1-2 favorite.

NON-BETTORS: In addition to the 14 wagering events, there were three non-betting, $30,000 New Jersey Breeders Maturity finals for 4-year-olds contested on the card.

Before the parimutuel races began, 2022 Little Brown Jug champion Bythemissal (a gelded son of Downbytheseaside-Dismissal) took the horse and gelding pace for driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Ron Burke in 1:50.3.

Ten minutes later, Pretender (Muscle Hill-Maven) won the horse and gelding trot for Andy McCarthy and Nancy Takter in 1:53.

Later in the evening, after the fifth betting race, Primadonna Deo took down 2022 Hambletonian Oaks winner Fashion Schooner for a second straight start in taking the mares trot in 1:54.

Driven by McCarthy and trained by Noel Daley, Primadonna Deo, a daughter of Trixton-Uf Lindsay Lou Who, will now retire from racing, as she’s been in foal to Chapter Seven for two months. “She’s actually been better since she’s been in foal,” said Daley.

32 STRAIGHT: The Big M’s streak of $3-million handles on nighttime programs stayed alive.

Not counting last Saturday’s (April 22) card that was canceled after only seven races due to bad weather, there have been 32 Friday and Saturday night programs conducted at The Meadowlands during 2023 and each one has seen betting bust the $3-million barrier.

Saturday’s 14-race card saw all-source wagering total $3,064,863.

During 2022, there were a total of 85 programs conducted at the mile oval, with 23 going past the $3-million plateau.

A LITTLE MORE: Lou’s Pearlman went a pocket trip to take the $24,500 Open for 4&5-year-olds on the pace in 1:50, holding off an explosive late rally from 35-1 shot Trendy Teen by a nose. “He got a little lonely in the stretch,” said winning driver Gingras. “But, thankfully, we got there.” Lou’s Pearlman, trained by Burke, who led the trainer colony with three victories on the night, returned $3.40 to win as the 3-5 post-time choice. …  Scott Zeron, Dexter Dunn and Todd McCarthy all had driving doubles. … Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO: It’s Academic and driver Dave Miller take the Saturday night feature – an Open 1 for trotters – at The Meadowlands. (Credit: Lisa Photo)