Sunday, February 13, 2022

Racine Bell hadn’t been out on the track since November at Yonkers Raceway, but the talented veteran, who showed only a pair of Saratoga qualifiers for her return, displayed no ill effects of the layoff, getting a perfect trip on the way to taking the Saturday night co-feature at The Meadowlands, the $40,000 ‘Sweetheart Pace’ for Preferred Mares.

“[Trainer] Dave [Dewhurst] thought she was really good in her last qualifier, the time (1:57.2) wasn’t that impressive but she passed some good horses,” said winning driver Jason Bartlett. “So he thought she was good to go. He looked for a good spot to race her, and this was it. She drew a good post and then she did the rest.”

The 5-year-old daughter of So Surreal-Ty’s Artist was away alertly from post three in the nine-horse field, settling in third behind 8-5 favorite Machnhope and Soho Burning Love A at the quarter in a pulse-pounding :27.2.

Soho Burning Love A took over just after that station and hit the half in a quick :54.4 before Scott Zeron moved Machnhope off the rail before three-quarters to challenge in 1:22.4.

Machnhope forged to the front as they straightened away for the final three-sixteenths, but now Racine Bell had inherited the pocket, and displaying explosive pace in the final eighth, easily got past the public choice racing inside that foe to record a half-length win in 1:50.3. Fifty-to-one longshot Major Occasion A closed like a shot to get past Machnhope for second.

“Scott pulled early [with Machnhope]. It was earlier than I expected and he got by [Soho Burning Love A] pretty quick,” said Bartlett. “When he pulled, my mare shot through that hole really quick. It was a perfect race coming off a layoff like that. I know my horse comes off a helmet well, it was just a matter of how tight she was going to be.”

Racine Bell, who defeated 2021 Dan Patch Older Pacing Mare of the Year Lyons Sentinel twice last year at The Big M, returned $10.00 as the third choice in the betting. Owned by Chris S. and Dale G. Lawton, she now has 22 wins from 51 lifetime starts and earnings of $595,896.

COVERED BRIDGE REPEATS: Covered Bridge can now lay claim to the title of “King of the Hill” at The Big M as he won his second consecutive Preferred Handicap, this time going wire-to-wire in 1:50.3 in the $34,500 pace.

Driven by Yannick Gingras and trained by Ron Burke, the 6-year-old gelded son of American Ideal-Stonebridge Kisses was permitted to cut out soft fractions of :28, :56 and 1:23.4 before sprinting away from the pocket-sitting My Pal Joe through a final quarter of :26.3 to record his 19th lifetime score from 74 starts by one length. The 7-5 favorite returned $4.80 to win and now has a bank account of $462,470.

GINGRAS’ FAB FOUR: After visiting victory lane with Burke trainees Covered Bridge (10th race) and De Los Cielos Deo (11th) – who also won a second straight start and returned $4.80 – Gingras kept his streak alive of winning at least twice on all 10 Meadowlands racing programs conducted thus far in 2022.

But he was only halfway done.

The 42-year-old Hall of Fame bound pilot then took the 12th with I’m A Big Deal (who paid $7.00 as the second choice) before capping a four-bagger – and a sweep of the Late Pick-4 (which paid $64.35) – with 2-1 favorite Louie Louie in the 13th. His driver-colony dash-win leading total swelled to 37, an average of 3.7 winners per card.

A LITTLE MORE: When Gingras does well, so usually does Burke, who sent three to the winner’s circle, all guided there by Gingras. … There was a single-ticket cashed in the 20-cent Survivor Pick-7, and that shrewd player walked away with $12,581. … All-source handle totaled $2,771,388, bringing total play for the weekend to just over $5.3 million. … Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO: Racine Bell and driver Jason Bartlett go the inside route to win the co-featured Sweetheart Pace for Preferred Mares at The Meadowlands Saturday night. (Credit: Lisa Photo)