by Frank Carulli
July 7, 2019
Atlanta and Lather Up ‘graduated’ in world-record style Saturday night at the Meadowlands. Both 4-year-olds ran the fastest mile ever to win in the $250,000 Graduate series finals in their respective divisions.
Atlanta, who won the 2018 Hambletonian at the Big M, trotted to victory in 1:49.1, the fastest ever. But she needed every inch of racetrack to catch champion Six Pack in the closing yards to win by a neck. Six Pack took over from early pace-setter Manchego and led through 3/4s in 1:22. Atlanta came out from third near the top of the lane and surged late despite drifting slightly to win by a neck. She remained unbeaten in six starts this year for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Brad Grant and Howard Taylor and upstaged Hannelore Hanover’s 1:49.2 mile in 2017 for the same trainer-driver duo of Ron Burke and Yannick Gingras.
“I thought I was a winner at the eighth pole, but (Six Pack) kept fighting,” said Gingras. “At the end of the day, it was two great horses going at it and ours came out on top.”
Lather Up (Montrell Teague) had no such anxious moments in the Graduate final for pacers. He tracked Always a Prince (Brian Sears) from the pocket through sizzling middle splits of :52 for the half and 1:19 for 3/4s before taking aim and equaling Always B. Miki’s world-record 1:46 set in 2017. Lather Up held off late-running This Is The Plan (Gingras) to win by 2-1/4 lengths for his 20th win in 33 starts. He paid $14 to win and increased his million dollar bankroll for owners/breeders Gary and Barbara Iles and trainer Clyde Francis.
The action won’t slow down this week at the Meadowlands. The battle lines have been drawn for the $682,000 Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-olds this Saturday, July 13.
Odds-on favorites Captain Crunch and Bettor’s Wish, who finished 1-2 in the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup last month at Woodbine Mohawk-Park in what one publication called “a race for the ages,” set the stage with sharp elimination victories for the Pace.
Captain Crunch (Scott Zeron) brushed past even-money second choice Workin Ona Mystery (Sears) at the 3/8s pole and held safe for a 1/2-length win in 1:48.3. Bettor’s Wish (Dexter Dunn) cruised to a 2-1/4-length score in a personal-best 1:49.1.
“I think we are in a good spot,” said Bettor’s Wish trainer Chris Ryder. “I suppose we won’t be favored next week. But I think we’re dangerous.”