Sunday, February 19, 2023

In his highly anticipated return to the races, Jimmy Freight beat a strong field of high-end (non-winners of $20,000) conditioned stock in the $23,000 pacing feature at The Meadowlands Saturday night.
“What we wanted to accomplish tonight was put Jimmy Freight in play while being as conservative as possible,” said winning driver Scott Zeron. “I know the horse really well. He never slows down.”
The 8-year-old son of Sportswriter-Allamerican Summer was anything but conservative when asked for pace down the backside, hitting high speed after popping out of the three-hole to go after leader Carbine just before the five-eighths before sprinting up to get on even terms with the leader as the duo reached three-quarters in a soft (for this caliber) 1:24.
“Carbine had the fractions in his favor,” said Zeron, “but I knew if I could get my horse as close to him as I could, I thought he would wear him down.”
After a stretch-long duel during which Carbine actually batted back to lead by a half-length with a sixteenth to go, at the wire, it would be Jimmy Freight, recording his 34th career victory from just 76 starts, by a head in 1:50 over his resilient rival, who was the 8-5 second choice. Captain Crusader A was third.
As the even-money favorite, Jimmy Freight, a lifetime earner of $1.6 million who is trained by Brett Pelling and owned by Let It Ride Stables and Jimmy Freight Stable, returned $4.20 to his backers. His connections have their eye on the MGM Borgata Series at Yonkers Raceway, which gets underway on March 20.
In the featured trot, a $31,500 Open, Lexus Kody minded his manners this time around while coasting to a hard-fought three-quarter-length win over Rich And Miserable in a lifetime-best 1:51.4. Ahundreddollarbill was third.
The 5-year-old gelded son of Archangel-Lexus Helios had gone off stride in each of his last three starts to finish far back, and despite going off stride in one of the races, was a winner in each of the three outings prior to that.
So, trainer Ron Burke put on the trotting hobbles, and had some advice for driver Joe Bongiorno.
“Ronnie told me to be gentle (with the bit) in his mouth,” said Bongiorno. “Obviously, the trotting hobbles helped. Mainly, I was really gentle with him. This is a (1:)50 trotter.”
The aggressive Bongiorno and Lexus Kody turned out to be a good team, as Bongiorno, known for quick gate getaways, had designs on the lead with his partner. “There’s no holes here and I planned on getting to the top,” said the 29-year-old pilot. “I made my move three-wide (down the backstretch) to make it known what I wanted to do. This is a special horse.”
Lexus Kody was three-deep into the first turn, three-wide at three-eighths before clearing Ahundreddollarbill at the half, extended his edge to 2¾ lengths at the head of the stretch before hitting the wire a safe winner.
Did Lexus Kody surprise you?
“Not really, I think this is a really good horse,” said Bongiorno. “He had a lot left. I couldn’t get the ear plugs out. This is a special horse.”
Owned by Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi and P. Collura, Lexus Kody lifted his lifetime stats to 11 wins from 31 starts, good for earnings of $261,647. As the 8-1 fifth betting choice in the field of seven, he returned $18.80 to his backers.
HIGHEST HANDLE OF THE YEAR: Twenty-four hours after The Big M established a new yearly best Friday handle of $3,400,130, action was again vigorous, as a 2023-high $3,802,550 was wagered on Saturday’s 14-race program.
The two-day total of $7.2 million marked the second time this year that weekend (specifically Friday-Saturday, as there have been two Sunday cards) handle exceeded the $7-million plateau.
Also, the streak of $3-million handles is alive and well, as for the 13th time in as many attempts this year, Friday and Saturday night wagering went past the $3-million mark.
A LITTLE MORE: For the first time this year, a trainer won four times on a card at The Big M. Not surprisingly, that trainer was Ron Burke. Also not surprisingly, Yannick Gingras, Burke’s go-to guy, won four times to lead the driver colony, three of those with Burke students. … Zeron, Dave Miller and Bongiorno each recorded driving doubles. … The 20-cent Survivor Pick-7 provided another great score for one shrewd handicapper. While the sequence did see a 28-1 chance win leg two, two other legs were won by 6-1 and 7-1 shots, with the other four winners paying off at 3-1 or less. The winning player walked away with $8,448 after giving the teller a ticket with just five correct selections out of seven. … Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO1: Jimmy Freight (No. 6, between horses) wins the Saturday night pacing feature at The Meadowlands with Scott Zeron driving. (Credit: Lisa Photo)