Sunday, February 25, 2024

Facing his toughest test yet, the incredible Oakwood Ardan IR passed with flying colors once again, registering his sixth win in as many starts since shipping in from Great Britain last September in the Saturday night feature at The Meadowlands.

The Robert Cleary-trained Irish-bred set foot for the first time on North American soil last fall and qualified a winner at Harrah’s Philadelphia on Nov. 28 in 1:56.4.

His first parimutuel start came at The Big M on Dec. 16 and the 5-year-old gelded son of Sweet Lou-Trend Setter hit the ground running – or pacing, if you prefer – scoring from off the pace in 1:50.4.

Saturday night, bumping up in class to the high-end non-winners of $14,000 level where he would have to face foes older than 5 for the first time, Oakwood Ardan IR chalked up his sixth straight Big M score in the $18,000 event.

“He’s not bad,” said Cleary with a grin. “He does what he likes to do. Chase down horses.”

Sent to the gate for a fifth straight outing as an odds-on favorite, driver Andy McCarthy had Oakwood Ardan IR sitting off the action in fifth early as longshot Ever Hoping A led at the quarter in :28.4 before 2-1 second choice American Dealer N grabbed control at the half in :57.

At that moment, McCarthy asked for speed and got it, as Oakwood Ardan IR moved to the outside and quickly sprinted up to challenge the leader, and was just a head behind that foe at three-quarters in 1:25.3. Oakwood Ardan IR then had little trouble through the stretch, easing to the lead before polishing off a safe half-length score in 1:52.3 using a :27 final quarter to keep American Dealer N at bay. Captain Cowboy was third.

“I didn’t think he’d be this good,” said Cleary. “But after I trained him, I knew he was a pretty talented horse. He’s got real high speed. His biggest asset is, whoever is in front of him, he wants to run them down. We’re just going to take care of him and go week to week, step by step and protect our horse.

“What makes me happiest is that the owners are the best people in the world. They love watching their horse on a Saturday night and are the most loyal people in the business who are the nicest to deal with. They deserve a horse like this.”

As the 3-5 public choice, Oakwood Ardan IR returned $3.20 to win and has now won 15 of 34 lifetime outings for owners Royal Wire Products Inc.

A LITTLE MORE: McCarthy finished the night with five winners on the card, becoming only the second driver to turn the trick in 2024. Jason Bartlett was the other (on Jan. 19). … Crissy Crissman-Bier and Jeff Cullipher led the trainers with two wins apiece. … Betting stayed brisk as all-source handle totaled $3,218,328, giving The Big M nine consecutive programs when wagering has gone past the $3-million mark. Overall, total action has been over $3 million on 13 of 15 programs this year. … Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO: Oakwood Ardan IR takes the Saturday night feature at The Meadowlands to up his winning streak to six. Andy McCarthy, who won five races on the card, was in the bike. (Credit: Lisa Photo)