by Frank Carulli
July 16, 2018
On a night when legal sports betting debuted at the Meadowlands racetrack, a big gamble of another sort shared center stage.
The owners of Courtly Choice -- namely Hutt Racing Stable, Mac And Heim Stables, Daniel Plouffe and Touch Stone Farms -- made good on a $61,690 supplemental fee when their 3-year-old colt won the $701,830 Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace and the $333,370 winners' share last Saturday.
Courtly Choice parlayed a perfect trip into a 1:47.1 victory in the track's signature race for sophomore pacers, giving Hall of Famer David Miller his first Meadowlands Pace victory in 20 tries and bolstering his status as the sport's second money-earning driver of all time.
Miller's work was made easier when 57-1 longshot Dorsoduro Hanover (Matt Kakaley) provided live cover around the final turn. Dorsoduro Hanover cleared pace-setter American History (Yannick Gingras) and put up a brave fight, but Courtly Choice was in close pursuit and got up in mid-track to prevail by 1-1/4 lengths. Stay Hungry (Doug McNair) rallied 5-wide to finish third and cap a $523 trifecta payout.
"I was really happy with our spot on the last turn," Miller said. "(Dorsoduro Hanover) took us into the home stretch and about halfway through the stretch, I thought 'hang on.'"
Courtly Choice, trained by Blake MacIntosh, paid $4.40 to win as one of seven stakes-winning favorites on the card.
The parade of favorites included: $2.8 million earner McWicked (Brian Sears) in the $471,100 William Haughton Memorial for older male pacers; champion Ariana G (Gingras), now 24-31 lifetime after a wire-to-wire efffort in the $405,850 Hambletonian Maturity; reigning Horse of the Year Hannelore Hanover (Gingras) in a division of the $30,000 Miss Versatility; Kissin In The Sand (Scott Zeron) in the $191,800 Mistletoe Shalee at 1-1/8 miles; and Phaetosive (Trond Smedshammer) in a division of the $128,500 Del Miller Memorial.
Six Pack (Ake Svanstedt) trotted to a world-record victory in 1:50 in a division of the $181,000 Stanley Dancer Memorial, while Wolfgang (Gingras) held serve as the odds-on winner in his division, setting the stage for an epic clash in the $1 million Hambletonian on August 4 at the Big M.
Plunge Blue Chip (Svanstedt) edged odds-on favorite Manchego in a division of the Del Miller Memorial but had to trot a 1:49.4 mile -- the fastest ever at the Meadowlands -- to win by a nose.
David Miller guided millionairess Broadway Donna ($6.20) to a division win in the Miss Versatility to start the night.
Divas Image (Joe Bongiorno) supplied the fireworks to end the night, wining the $189.750 Golden Girls at 31-1 odds and triggering a $2,323 exacta payout with 105-1 shot Inverse Hanover finishing second.