Sunday, March 24, 2024

This working one day a week thing is working out just fine for Andy McCarthy.

Dave Miller might be the leading driver at The Meadowlands thus far in 2024, but Miller nor anyone else has been as Saturday superb as McCarthy, who has been taking Fridays off.

McCarthy tallied four times Saturday at the mile oval, including the feature, with Betterinpinehurst.

Betterinpinehurst was the last of McCarthy’s fab four, taking the 10th-race $23,000 high-end conditioned trot, to record his third win in his last four starts despite bumping up in class.

“He was super,” said McCarthy, who currently sits second in the Big M driver standings with 31 wins. “I kinda figured he would be because he felt good in the post parade.”

McCarthy and Betterinpinehurst caught a big break – literally – when Lexus Kody, the 3-2 favorite who led at every call with the exception of the finish, went off stride with a little more than a sixteenth-of-a-mile to go, enabling the pocket-sitting Jeff Cullipher trainee to pull off a mild 5-1 upset.

“I figured Lexus Kody would be a good one to follow around there,” said McCarthy of the two-hole trip he went from the quarter until deep stretch. “Lexus making a break made things a lot easier. The way the wind was playing [with 36 mile an hour gusts at the horses backs down the backstretch], you want to have a little bit of a block for them. It worked out in my favor that way.”

Betterinpinehurst finished the mile in 1:53.1, and in the process, the 5-year-old gelded son of Better Caviar-Sheer Delight upped his lifetime numbers to 15 wins from 52 starts, good for earnings of $155,230 for owners Pollack Racing. The Jeff Cullipher trainee paid $12.20 to win as the third choice in the wagering.

McCarthy’s other winners came with Pinebushdragonroll ($20.00 to win) in the second race, the red-hot Needham Hanover ($6.60), who won for the fifth time in his last six starts in the sixth, and It’s In The Stars ($3.20) in the ninth.

There have been 11 Saturday race cards conducted during 2024 at The Meadowlands, and McCarthy has at least one win on each one. He’s won at least three dashes seven times, at least four on three occasions and became just the second driver this year at The Big M to win five times, which he accomplished on Feb. 24. His win total is 15 less than Miller’s.

“It’s really nice to work with nice people,” said McCarthy after his four-bagger was complete. “They give me a lot of horse power to drive, so it’s a lot of fun.”

DYNAMITE DEBUT: McCrunch sparkled in a non-winners of 2 on the pace for trainer Nancy Takter and driver Josert Fonseca. The 3-year-old son of Captain Crunch-McGibson, who was unraced at 2, sat a perfect pocket trip and rolled to an easy score in 1:51.1 in his first-ever parimutuel start.

Hopes are high for the colt, as his sire won the 2019 North America Cup and Cane Pace.

“I was super happy with him,” said Takter, who trained 2023 Trotter of the Year Tactical Approach. “He had two good qualifiers and he acted like a true professional tonight. [He didn’t race at 2] Because like a lot of Captain Crunches, he was big and immature. He obviously has the lungs and the motor to be a good 3-year-old. This year, I think we’ll see a lot of the Captain Crunches show up.”

As the second choice, McCrunch returned $5.40 to win.

Takter also gave an update on possible Hambletonian favorite Karl, the 2-year-old Male Trotter of the Year for 2023. “He has been super all winter,” said the unanimous choice for 2020 Trainer of the Year. “We are aiming to get him going at the end of April to get ready for the New Jersey Sire Stakes.”

A LITTLE MORE: The red-hot Cullipher barn led the trainers with three winner’s circle visits. … Jordan Stratton had a driving double, giving the Yonkers regular 24 wins at The Big M this year. … All-source handle totaled $3,188,280 on the 14-race card. There have been 23 programs contested at The Meadowlands this year, with 19 of them busting the $3-million betting barrier. … Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO: Betterinpinehurst and driver Andy McCarthy won the Saturday night feature at The Meadowlands. (Credit: Lisa Photo)