Saturday, April 23, 2022

Trainers always say that a horse’s 4-year-old season is one of transition, and that when they turn 5, that’s the year the good ones really blossom.

Conditioner Jim Campbell has one such horse on his hands, as his Next Level Stuff, now 5 years of age, blasted five overmatched foes in her seasonal debut in the Friday night feature at The Meadowlands, a high-end conditioned event for trotters that went for a purse of $23,000.

“She’s come back very well,” said Campbell of his student who won two-of-13 starts a year ago. “We are very happy with the way she has come back. She went 1:52 (actually 1:52.3) pretty easy in her qualifier last week.”

Driver Tim Tetrick had the daughter of Sebastian K S-Nantab on the go early from post five in the six-horse field (there was one scratch) and the 4-5 favorite settled on the lead at the quarter in :28 and the half in :56 unpressured as 9-2 third choice JL Cruze sat a two-hole trip.

Next Level Stuff got some separation off the far turn and led by 4 lengths at the head of the stretch after reaching three-quarters in 1:24.1 before trotting home under no urging in :27.3 to record an easy 1½-length score in 1:51.4. Royalty Deal, another Campbell trainee, rallied from far back off cover to get second, while Scirocco Rob finished third. JL Cruze was fourth.

“The 4-year-old season is the hardest,” said Campbell. “Because they are going up against 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds who are more seasoned. Her last race last year she was a little better than she had been (when seventh in the TVG Mares), but she ran into some bad racing luck while not being 100 percent herself.

“She’ll take next week off and then go in the Miss Versatility. Then we’ll follow along with the Open Mare races and see how it goes one week at a time. If everything were to go perfectly this year, we’d win the Steele and The Breeders Crown.”

Next Level Stuff raised her lifetime stats to 16 wins from just 37 starts, good for earnings of $759,985 for her owner Runthetable Stables. She returned $3.60 to her backers.

A LITTLE MORE: Dexter Dunn and Yannick Gingras led the driver colony with two winners apiece. … The 20-cent Pick-6 returned $8,500 to one shrewd player. The sequence saw only one horse go off at odds greater than 4-1. … All-source handle totaled $2,779,980 on the 13-race program. … Racing resumes Saturday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO: Next Level Stuff and driver Tim Tetrick take the Friday night feature at The Meadowlands. (Credit: Lisa Photo)