Five of the 10 horses in the Road to the Hambletonian rankings produced by Meadowlands Racetrack announcer/analyst Ken Warkentin will be in action Saturday (June 22) in eliminations for the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with No. 1 Greenshoe headlining the event.
Greenshoe, who also is the top-ranked 3-year-old trotter in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll, is 2-for-2 this season, with his most recent victory coming in the New Jersey Sire Stakes championship on May 31 at The Meadowlands. His times of 1:51.2 in the opening round of the NJSS and 1:50.2 in the final are the fastest miles of the season for a 3-year-old trotter.
The colt prepped for the Beal with a 28-length victory in a qualifier at Pocono on June 12. He was clocked in 1:52, which equaled the third-fastest win time of the season by a 3-year-old trotter.
Last year, Greenshoe won two of four races despite going off stride in each start. For his career, he has won four of six races and $189,223 for trainer Marcus Melander. The colt is owned by Courant Inc., Hans Backe, Lars Granqvist, and Morten Langli.
“Talent and ability are not the issues, that’s for sure,” said Greenshoe’s regular driver, Brian Sears. “He showed a lot of speed last year, but he’s maturing every start behind the gate; every time we get a good experience it’s a plus. Hopefully we get some more good trips in him and keep him on schedule. He just needs experience. He’s a smart horse, he’s just a little anxious at times, but he’s definitely starting to grasp it.”
Greenshoe is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the second of two Beal eliminations Saturday. The six-horse field also includes Osterc, who won the Dexter Cup in May, and 2018 Kindergarten Classic champion Reign Of Honor. Osterc is No. 7 in the Road to the Hambletonian rankings and Reign Of Honor is No. 10.
The top-four finishers from each elimination plus the fifth-place finisher with the highest 2019 earnings advance to the $500,000 final on June 29 at Pocono.
“It’s early yet,” Sears said, referring to the journey to the $1 million Hambletonian on Aug. 3 at The Meadowlands. “It’s easy to get excited (about Greenshoe), and why wouldn’t you be excited, but that’s not my job to get excited. My job is to keep everything in perspective and know it’s a long way to getting there.”
Osterc, trained by Per Engblom, has won three of four races this season. His only loss came went he went off stride in a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes race he was leading at Pocono on June 2. He rebounded with a 1:52.2 victory in a PASS division at Harrah’s Philadelphia on June 14.
“He made an uncharacteristic break at Pocono; he had everything under control and then he hit a knee and went off stride,” Engblom said. “We adjusted his front shoes for (Philly), and he was good again. He was very good, actually; that’s the best he’s been all year. He was just cruising with ear plugs in.
“I know that we’re in (Saturday) with Greenshoe, but aside from that I’m feeling confident with my horse. He’s been so solid all year.”
In the first Beal elim, Ron Burke-trained Swandre The Giant (No. 9 in the Road to the Hambletonian) is the 2-1 morning-line favorite, followed by Summit In Sight at 5-2. Summit In Sight raced only twice at age 2, but has four wins in six starts this season for trainer Julie Miller and driver Andy Miller. The colt was a $300,000 yearling purchase at the 2017 Standardbred Horse Sale and is owned by Stroy Inc. and the Andy Miller Stable.
Summit In Sight, whose development last year was slowed by a bout with colic in the spring, enters his Beal elimination off a 1:53 win in a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes division on June 14 at Philly. “We thought he could be a nice colt, so we put him away after two starts to try to get him ready for a nice 3-year-old year,” Julie Miller said. “Training down, I don’t know that he was very flashy, but he did everything right. That last start at (Philly) sort of stamped his ticket for the Beal; we were really happy with him.”
Summit In Sight’s only finish worse than second this year came in his seasonal debut in a conditioned race at The Meadowlands.
“That’s the learning curve with him,” Miller said. “We changed his equipment a little bit, trying to make him better every start. The last start was the best he’s been.”
Also in the first Beal elim is Green Manalishi S, a multiple stakes winner in 2018 who is making his seasonal debut for Melander. The colt is No. 4 in the Road to the Hambletonian.
All totaled, 11 of the 12 horses in the Beal eliminations are eligible to the Hambletonian. White Tiger and Sheer Muscle join that group in the first elim and Marseille, No Drama Please, and Goes Down Smooth join it in the second.
Saturday’s card at Pocono begins at 7 p.m. (EDT) and also includes eliminations for the Ben Franklin Pace for older pacers, Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old male pacers, and James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old female pacers.
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