Monday, May 16, 2011

Hopefuls led by Pastor Stephen at Meadows

On May 17 at the Meadows, three soph-colt-trot miles featuring Pennsylvania Sires Stakes (PASS) horses will include 11 Hambletonian eligibles, including the 2010 champion freshman, Pastor Stephen.

Considered the winter-book favorite for the 2011 classic, trainer Jimmy Takter, who won last year’s Hambo with Muscle Massive, is aware that satisfying the hype still means earning the position once race at a time.

Takter told Meadows PR man Evan Pattak, “You can’t really say the Hambletonian is the only race you’re thinking about.” He said, “There are a lot of big races [along the ‘Trail’] and they don’t go for small change.”

In the split “Stephen” debuts as a three-year-old, the Cantab Hall product must face eligible Buffalino Hanover (Cantab Hall), who has won two in as many starts this season.

Unabating (Broadway Hall) is the top earner in the field, with a win in three starts and Fort Valley As (Tom Ridge) and Mythical Hall (Andover Hall) are the other eligibles with any 2010 experience on track.

Also debuting in the field are Orlando (Andover Hall) debuts and is worth a look as an upset possibility. He was shaky at two but he raced with the best, including Stephen. He could return with a more mature attitude and be a worthy foe all the way to August, certainly in the lucrative PASS schedule.

Stephen (pictured below) is a big horse, so Takter won’t be racing on tracks smaller than five-eighths, according to the trainer. As well, his come-from-behind style remains the emphasis of his attack.   

When you have a young horse, you prefer teaching him something,” Takter said. “You can develop a horse more when he is racing from behind. If you send him [to the top] every week, how much do you actually accomplish? If you teach him [to be tactical], when he grows up a little bit, he can do anything.”

That may be another edge for an Orland upset. Beware, bettors, Orlando may have sincere speed yet to be shown.

Only three eligibles show up for split one. Del Cielo (Broadway Hall) and Opening Night (Broadway Hall) debut, while Just In (Andover Hall) goes in his sixth effort with one win. We like Just In, trained and driven by Jean Dubois, who may have his best shot at a Hambo contender yet.

In the third split, the second PASS race on the card, two eligibles go in the first two posts of a seven-horse field. Fawkes (SJ’s Caviar) and Not Nice (Glidemaster) both debut as sophomores. The emphasis will be on the latter, a Takter product. The horse to watch here may be the other Dubois-trained colt, Onirique, which is not an eligible. 

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