Saturday, March 5, 2022

In an effort that was of the remarkably game variety, Dover Downs invader Yanks Dugout gunned down JL Cruze at the wire in the Friday night featured high-end $23,000 conditioned trot at The Meadowlands.

“He’s a real nice horse,” said winning driver Yannick Gingras. “He’s game and he showed it tonight.”

Big Oil, the 7-5 favorite, Yanks Dugout and 9-5 second choice JL Cruze all burst away from the gate quickly in the seven-horse field with Big Oil setting up shop on top at the quarter in :27.4. JL Cruze, the gritty 11-year-old veteran who was the first-ever trotter to bust the 1:50 barrier at The Meadowlands seven years ago, was then moved to the point by Corey Callahan at the three-eighths before stopping the clock at the half in :56.3.

Yanks Dugout was now on the prowl, vacating the three-hole and coming hard after the leader, and the duo were on even terms at three-quarters in 1:25.3.

Now, the race was on.

Yanks Dugout had a narrow edge in upper stretch only to see JL Cruze bear down and grab the lead back with an eighth to go. Yanks Dugout never gave up, re-claiming the lead nearing the wire on the way to a hard-fought nose win in 1:53.2. Big Oil was third.

“I thought at the top of the stretch, I had it,” said Gingras. “Then, with a sixteenth to go, I thought [JL Cruze] had it. But we came out on top. [Yanks Dugout] is versatile. He showed a lot of guts. He can do it all.”

A 5-year-old gelded son of Triumphant Caviar-Yansky, Yanks Dugout, who had won three of four at Dover before his Big M score, returned $11.40 as the 9-2 third choice in the wagering. The Ron Burke trainee has now won 19 of 49 lifetime outings, good for earnings of $235,978 for owners Ivan and John Duke Sugg.

MACHNHOPE SCORES: On a night that was not particularly kind to horses racing on the front end, the Noel Daley-trained Machnhope went wire-to-wire in the high-end conditioned $23,000 pace for fillies and mares.

The 6-5 favorite returned $4.60 as the post-time choice to win for the first time this year in six tries as she held off the late-charging Annabelle Hanover by a head in 1:52.1.

“She doesn’t like when you urge her on too much,” said driver Scott Zeron. “So I was doing my best making noises and keeping her moving forward, but she was good on the front today. She was dropping in class and it looked like I had the horse who should be commanding the lead. I think she’s a little bit on the lazy side, so I tried to get away from them, but she kind of wanted them to stay with her a little bit. She was good through the last quarter over a track that was a little bit deep.”

Machnhope, a 7-year-old daughter of Mach Three-Hope For Life who won half of her six starts at The Big M during 2021, now has 37 wins from 127 lifetime outings and earnings of $652,311 for owners Deo Volente Farms and Thomas Pontone.

A LITTLE MORE: Gingras had two victories on the card and has now won at least twice on all 14 programs this year. … Zeron and Todd McCarthy also recorded driving doubles. … There were no winning tickets sold in the 20-cent Pick-6, creating a carryover of $7,215. Those with five correct collected $2,405. … All-source handle totaled $2,891,897. … Racing resumes Saturday at 6:20 p.m.

PHOTO: Yanks Dugout (No. 2, between horses) has his nose up on the wire in the Friday night feature at The Meadowlands. Yannick Gingras was in the bike. (Credit: Lisa Photo)