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No ‘Stranger’ Atop Pace Rankings

by Frank Carulli

June 29, 2020

The first stop on the “Road to the Meadowlands Pace” went over smoothly for its featured performer. Two days after Tall Dark Stranger was ranked No. 1 in Dave Little’s weekly poll, the 3-year-old colt defeated older rivals in a high-end conditioned pace in 1:47.2, equaling the fastest mile in harness racing this year. He bid 3-wide on the final turn for driver Yannick Gingras and blazed the final quarter mile in :25.4 to win by 1-1/2 lengths. He paid $3.80 to win.

“I wasn’t shocked,” trainer Nancy Takter said of Tall Dark Stranger’s seasonal debut. “The fact that he did it in his first start, that surprised me.”

Tall Dark Stranger improved to 9-for-10 lifetime and will bring a $726,889 bankroll into the July 11 Pace eliminations for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms and Howard Taylor. The $682,650 Meadowlands Pace final is scheduled July 18.

But while he sits idle this week, three of his main rivals – No. 2 Papi Rob Hanover, No. 3 Captain Midnight and No. 4 Catch The Fire -- could race. All three won qualifiers recently and have a sub-1:50 mile on their resumes.

Earlier on the Saturday card, Takter and Gingras orchestrated a potential shakeup in Ken Warkentin’s Road to the Hambletonian. Sorella, a 3-year-old trotting filly, won by a nose in 1:51.2 while top-ranked Amigo Volo, last year’s Breeders Crown champion, finished out of the money. The $1 million Hambletonian is set for Saturday, Aug. 8.

The Meadowlands will re-open for fans at 25 percent capacity this Thursday, July 2, with the apron also open. The dining room will take reservations Friday and Saturday. Post time each night is 7:15 p.m.