Sunday, May 21, 2023

Tab another victory in the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial for driver Brian Sears and another Grand Circuit trotting win for trainer Marcus Melander. The dynamic team of trotting overhauled an oversized field of 11 with new acquisition Venerate to take the $155,200 free-for-all stake on Saturday night (May 20) at The Meadowlands.

Sears settled into fourth with Venerate from post 1 as Hillexotic bounded from post 10 and to the lead towards a :26.4 first quarter. Rattle My Cage soon pulled off the pegs to take the lead into the backstretch, but promptly saw Hillexotic move to reclaim command before yielding the front to his stablemate – and 7/5 favorite – It’s Academic all through a :54.4 half.

Control belonged to It’s Academic through the final turn as he continued on high throttle all while Sears patiently angled Venerate first over to ply his attack. It’s Academic clocked three-quarters in 1:22.4 and came under strong urging as Venerate mounted serious pressure from steady Sears hands through the lane. Venerate glided by It’s Academic in the final eighth going away and registered a two-length win in a lifetime-best 1:50.1. Rattle My Cage took third from It’s Academic fourth. Star mare Bella Bellini – the lone distaffer in the field – levelled off from a second-over trip and finished fifth.

Venerate is a 5-year-old stallion by Love You now owned by Courant Inc., Holly Lane Stud East Ltd., Kemppi Stables Oy Inc. and Venerate Partners. Marcus Melander conditions the former Julie Miller pupil who changed hands in the 2022 Harrisburg Mixed Sale at the gavel slam of $410,000 last fall.

“We put together a group and bought him there,” Marcus Melander said after the race. “He was a nice horse, and we didn’t really have an Open trotter, so that’s why we bought him. He’s a strong horse. He was very good in the qualifier so I had high hopes for him in the race.”

The Cutler victory stamped Venerate a millionaire, with his account now worth $1,009,679. He paid $9.80 to win. The win was driver Brian Sears’ seventh in the stake – a record he held at six and added upon Saturday. Melander won for the second time in the Cutler, collecting his first victory in 2019 with North American export turned Swedish import Cruzado Dela Noche.

Melander confirmed Venerate would likely next surface in an Open race at The Meadowlands to prepare for the Crawford Farms Open Trot on July 1


A LITTLE MORE: Billy Clyde, a 5-year-old son of Always B Miki-Jan It Jackson, made it five wins in his last six Meadowlands starts after emerging victorious in his first Big M outing since the middle of September in the overnight feature, a $25,000 Open 1 for pacers, hitting the finish in 1:50.3 after leading at every call. The Ray Schnittker trainee, who took his mark of 1:47.3 on Hambletonian Day last year, was driven by Mark MacDonald and returned $12.00 to win. … For a 19th consecutive Saturday night this year (excluding the one card that was not raced to completion due to bad weather), handle topped the $3-million mark as a total of $3,520,346 was pushed through the windows on the 14-race card. … Andy McCarthy led the driver colony with three walks down victory lane while Melander and Ake Svanstedt were the top trainers with two winners apiece. … Racing resumes Friday at 6:20 p.m.