by Frank Carulli
September 4, 2018
Stay Hungry, the 2017 champion 2-year-old in Canada, hasn't lost his appetite for winning. He won the $500,000 Messenger Stakes at Yonkers Raceway last Saturday to move a step closer to harness racing immortality.
He can become the 11th pacer in history and first since No Pan Intended (2003) to win the Triple Crown if he wins the Little Brown Jug Sept. 20.
Like all great champions, versatility is a key component to Stay Hungry's success. He rallied to win in the Cane Pace to begin his Triple Crown quest at the one-mile Meadowlands oval. Then at 1/2-mile Yonkers, he made the early lead and held off 3-to-5 favorite Jimmy Freight to win by a neck in 1:52.1.
"When we’re doing the staking, I have in mind horses that I think will suit the racetrack, suit this style of racing," trainer Tony Alagna said of his third Messenger Pace victory in the last four years. "This horse has always been very good in the turns, even though maybe it’s not his forte to do the run-and-gun, but I thought he was a horse that could get around here. After the horse won the Cane, it was a no-brainer; we had to go for the Triple Crown."
Stay Hungry started from post 6 in the Messenger but he had company soon after he made the lead. Jimmy Freight (Louis Roy), who started from post eight, came after Stay Hungry near the half-mile marker in :55.3 and the two favorites raced with little separation to the finish. Stay Hungry paid $7.60 to win.
"I actually had my horse too much up on his toes," said driver Doug McNair. "I could have taken my time a little bit more (going for the lead), I just thought Jimmy would get over there a little quicker than he did, but it all worked out. They both got pretty tired there the last sixteenth. We got lucky to hold on."
SIX PACK TROTS TO YONKERS RECORD
Six Pack enjoyed what trainer-drive Ake Svanstedt called a stress-free trip in a record-breaking performance in the $500,000 Yonkers Trot last Saturday.
He seized the moment when rail-sitter Helpisontheway (Jim Morrill Jr.), the 5-2 second favorite, took back off the pace, allowing Six Pack to cruise to a 7-3/4-length victory in 1:54, the fastest time ever in the race's storied 64-year history. Six Pack, the 1-to-5 favorite, took the lead from Lindsey's Pride near the quarter-mile mark and widened from there in the second leg of the Trotting Triple Crown.
Atlanta, who won the first leg in the Hambletonian, was not eligible for the Yonkers Trot.
"The horse to beat was (Helpisontheway) and he didn’t go to the lead today, so I didn’t need to stress my horse," said Svanstedt, who co-wons Six Pack with Little E LLC, Stall Kalmar FF and Lars Berg.
There were more anxious moments for Svanstedt in the $129,014 Hudson Filly Trot earlier on the card. He guided Plunge Blue Chip to a wire-to-wire victory but it took a track and world-record 1:53.1 clocking to defeat Supergirl Riley by a nose.
McWICKED TURNS TABLES ON LAZARUS N
McWicked's whirlwind North American racing tour took its toll despite three stakes wins at different tracks during a five-race, 41-day stretch this summer. But nothing supercedes the $3 million earner's class, which was on full display in the $600,000 Canadian Pacing Derby last Saturday at Woodbine-Mohawk Park.
McWicked (David Miller) sustained a first-over bid and pulled away from Austrailian wonder horse Lazarus N to win by 2-1/4 lengths in 1:49, reversing a two-length loss to Lazarus N from his previous start 21 days earlier in the Dan Patch Stakes at Hoosier Park
"He’s been off a few weeks and I never told anybody but he’s coming off a quarter crack and that’s the reason he was scratched from the qualifier," trainer Casie Coleman said of her first Canadian Pacing Derby win. "When he was first over coming onto Lazarus, I wasn’t overly happy, but it worked out great. Dave (Miller) said the scary part is how easy he did it."
McWicked, owned by SSG Stables, paid $9.70 to win. Lazarus N, now 36-47 lifetime, held second by a nose over Split the House, who finished between the duo in the Dan Patch Stakes.
'WOW' MOMENT IN MAPLE LEAF TROT
From a distance, Jody Jameison wasn't awestruck by Crazy Wow. His opinion changed, however, when he drove the 6-year-old trotter to a 31-1 upset in the $C$651,000 Maple Leaf Trot at Woodbine-Mohawk Park last Saturday.
"I’ve watched him race plenty of times, but I didn’t realize what kind of horse he was," said Jamieson. "That was a big trip tonight and he made it look real easy."
Crazy Wow worked out a pocket trip and squeezed through a narrow stretch opening to win by 3-1/4 lengths over 2016 Triple Crown winner Marion Marauder in 1:51.1. Ariana G, a two-time Dan Patch award winner, finished third and reigning Horse of the Year Hannelore Hanover finished out of the money.
"When the horse saw the gate tonight he was just a different animal," said Jamieson.
Crazy Wow was making his second start for Marcus Melander, who trains for owners Our Horse Cents Stables, Stable 45, J And T Silva Stables LLC and Deo Volente Farms LLC. Melander made the key decision to pull Crazy Wow’s shoes for the race.
"We were actually supposed to race barefoot last week, but, there were two scratches in the race and we only had to beat one horse (to qualify for the final), so we kept the shoes on and saved the feet on him, said Melander. "I know he has an extra gear when I pull the shoes, that’s for sure."