Saturday, September 9, 2023

.— Sophomore trotting filly Tactical Mounds went the distance and sophomore trotting colt Air Power muscled through to take their respective $275,000 finals of the New Jersey Classic on Friday night (Sept. 8) at The Meadowlands.

Tactical Mounds gutted through late pressure to hold in the New Jersey Classic final for 3-year-old trotting fillies in a 1:52.1 mile.

Driver Scott Zeron floated Tactical Mounds forward from post 10 and cleared command from The Wise One well after a :28.2 first quarter. Tactical Mounds then strolled unchallenged up the backside to a :56 half and motored through the final turn as her rivals struggled to get moving along the rim.

By three-quarters in 1:24.1, Tactical Mounds slipped away from her competition while Quick Stop and Blonde Bombshell shook loose. Tactical Mounds began drifting from the pegs into the eighth pole as Quick Stop dove inside and kept gaining ground with Blonde Bombshell also progressing to the outside. Quick Stop gave one final push for the lead in the closing strides, but Tactical Mounds reengaged and kept a head in front at the beam. Blonde Bombshell settled for third and Secret Volo took fourth.

“As you could see, it was a long stretch. She felt like a million dollars at the three-quarter pole, and she got tired. But thank God we hit the wire,” Scott Zeron said. “Hambo Day she was great [winning in the Continentalvictory] and she really stepped her game up, and that was when we thought she could play with some good horses. Today doing it out of the 10 hole, it was only going to be about how she got off the wings for me; to dictate where I was going to sit. She got out of there beautifully – Timmy [Tetrick with Quick Stop] was the one I was super worried about, but he had to sit third.”

The win by Tactical Mounds plumped her swelling bankroll to $217,541 for owner Thestable Tactical Mounds. Megan Scran conditions the daughter of Tactical Landing who has now won seven races from 22 starts. She paid $11 to win.

Air Power marched onward to the far turn and sailed through the lane under restraint to a 1:51 victory in the $275,000 New Jersey Classic Final for 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings.

Little Expensive grabbed the lead to a :28 first quarter with Up Your Deo in the pocket and Oh Well settled in third before plying his way forward up the backside. Oh Well landed on the lead just before a :55.4 half, at which point stablemate Air Power angled out of fourth and began advancing uncovered through the final turn.

Driver Mattias Melander kept Air Power steady as he easily put a head in front of Oh Well to three-quarters in 1:23.3, but he drifted off the bottom corner as Oh Well reasserted at the inside. Oh Well dug in at the pylons in the last eighth until Air Power straightened and strode away to a 1-1/4 length victory with Little Expensive snagging third from Celebrity Bambino in fourth.

“He makes you confident,” Mattias Melander said of the Muscle Hill colt who easily won on his comeback in the elimination with a 1:52 effort. “He raced super last week and that’s what I was hoping for this week as well. I know my horse goes all the way to the finish line. He has shown me every time I race him he has serious speed.”

Once top rank in the road to the Hambletonian before throwing a shoe in the Stanley Dancer and dealing with soreness to a 10th-place finish in his elimination, Air Power rebounded to collect his fifth victory from 11 starts and add to his bankroll now worth $318,747. Marcus Melander trains the winning Muscle Hill colt for owners AMG Stable Inc., Rick Wahlstedt, Kenneth Kjellgren and Heights Stable. He paid $4.20 to win.

PHOTO: Tactical Mounds with Scott Zeron and Air Power with Mattias Melander winning their respective $275,000 finals of the New Jersey Classic (Credit: Lisa Photo).


‘LEE’ NAILS ‘LINDY’: Eternal Lee pulled off a 9-1 surprise in the $40,000 Miss Versatility for open mare trotters. Andy McCarthy handled the 4-year-old daughter of Southwind Frank-Charity Hall perfectly, sitting a pocket trip behind 1-5 favorite Raised By Lindy, who came up a head short in a mile that went in 1:51.4.

The look of the race changed in a big way when 2022 Hambletonian Oaks champion – and 3-1 second choice – Fashion Schooner went off stride before the start, effectively reducing the field to four.

Eternal Lee, a Chris Ryder trainee who is owned by Murray S Ferguson, won for the 12th time from 34 lifetime starts while lifting her earnings to $486,222. She returned $21.00 to win.

FREAKY FRIDAYS: For an abbreviated meeting that some aren’t even aware is taking place, betting has certainly been big at The Big M.

After last Friday’s (Sept. 1) total wager of $2.97 million represented a 71 percent increase over the corresponding Friday from the year before, wagering this Friday topped the $3-million mark, which was an uptick of 33 percent over a year ago, after $3,055,341 was put in play.

There have now been 66 programs conducted at The Big M during 2023, and on 50 occasions, betting has busted the $3-million barrier.

A LITTLE MORE: Tim Tetrick led the driver colony with three winners. Dave Miller, Andy McCarthy, Scott Zeron and Dexter Dunn all won two apiece. … Joe Holloway and Lucas Wallin both trained a pair to victory lane. … Racing resumes Saturday at 6:20 p.m. and marks the final harness racing card at The Meadowlands until Oct. 20. Live thoroughbred turf racing will take place at The Big M while the harness action is on hiatus.