Sunday, January 22, 2023

It wasn’t Independence Day, but there were plenty of fireworks going off at The Meadowlands Sunday afternoon.

Nandolo N, sent off at odds of 8-1, sat off a blistering pace set by 3-5 favorite Crunch Time A before storming home to win by a half-length over a late-closing Belmont Royale N in a spectacular 1:48.3 in the featured $34,500 Preferred for pacers, and in the process, put up the first sub-1:50 mile in harness racing this year.

“I kind of liked what I saw in the post parade,” said winning driver Jason Bartlett, “(Crunch Time A) was being a bit of a knucklehead.”

Bartlett’s inference that the favorite was being a tad unruly was likely on the money, since Crunch Time A left quickly, hitting the quarter in :26.1. With American Dealer N applying pressure, Crunch Time A kept on sprinting, reaching the half in a torrid :52.4. After those fractions, it appeared his perfect four-for-four record (all at The Big M) since arriving from Australia was in jeopardy.

At three-quarters (1:21.1), Crunch Time A was a tired horse, and he got passed soon thereafter by Semi Tough, who had sat the pocket from the get-go and appeared to be on the way to a fourth straight victory, the most recent of which came at Yonkers Raceway in The Hilltop’s weekly $40,000 feature.

But Nandolo N would have the final say.

Jason Bartlett handled Nandolo N brilliantly, circling up three-wide at the five-eighths and around the far turn to get into serious contention at the head of the stretch. He gunned down Semi Tough, the very horse who had beaten him at YR last week, before holding off Belmont Royale N. Semi Tough held third. Crunch Time A finished seventh and last.

“(Nandolo N) loves this track,” said Bartlett. “I knew he’d be good today no matter what trip we got. He always needs a target. He’s a nice horse, and today, he had a big effort.”

While lowering his previous lifetime best by one-and-two-fifth seconds, Nandolo N returned $18.00 to his backers as the fourth choice in the wagering. He now has 23 wins from 91 lifetime starts and a bankroll that stands at $542,110. The 9-year-old gelded son of Betterthancheddar-Midnight In Paris is trained by Shane Tritton.

DELAYED HANOVER WINS: Delayed Hanover ($6.00 as the second choice) held off Rich And Miserable at the wire to take the featured trot, a high-end conditioned event that went for $23,000.

“No, it’s not fun (winning by a nose),” said a chuckling Scott Zeron, who guided the Kevin McDermott student to victory lane. “I like drawing off.”

On a more serious note, Zeron gave props to Rich And Miserable, who tried in vain to overcome what was a track bias extremely unfriendly to horses attempting to go wire to wire all weekend long. “I have a lot of respect for Rich And Miserable,” said Zeron. “He’s a tough horse. (Once I got past him) I was losing ground to the wire.”

Delayed Hanover recorded a nose win in 1:53.2, his 10th victory from 38 career starts. His lifetime earnings stand at $706,899.

A LITTLE MORE: Joe Bongiorno and Dave Miller paced the driver colony with three wins apiece. Bongiorno won three of the first four on the card, while Miller won the final three, sweeping the Late Pick-3 ($224.80) and Double ($64.60). … There was one winning ticket sold on the 20-cent Survivor Pick-7. That player only needed six correct to collect $8,062.94. … All-source handle totaled $1,724,340 on the 11-race program. … Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO: Nandolo N and driver Jason Bartlett take the Preferred Pace at The Meadowlands Sunday afternoon. (Credit: Lisa Photo)