A total of 25 Hambletonian eligible 3-year-old male trotters will be in action on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania sire stakes circuits this week.
Pennsylvania kicks it off Thursday with three divisions of sire stakes at Harrahâ€™s Philadelphia. The Hambletonian eligible trotters entered are, in alphabetical order: Auspicious Hanover, Datsyuk, Don Dorado, Exodus Hanover, Fashion Tagman, JJ Alex, Journey, Keystone Wasabi, Kumbaya De Vie, Nuncio, Outburst, Raise The Curtain, and Sarcastic Man.
Nuncio is making his debut for trainer Jimmy Takter after spending most of last year with Jim Oscarsson. He won five of 10 races last season and never finished worse than second on his way to $461,074. His earnings were third most among 2-year-old trotters, behind Takter-trained colt Father Patrick and Takter-trained filly Shake It Cerry.
Four of Nuncioâ€™s second-place efforts were against Father Patrick, in the eliminations and final of the Peter Haughton Memorial and elims and final of the Breeders Crown. Nuncio won the Matron Stakes and a division of the Reynolds; he also was runner-up to Muscle Network in the Valley Victory.
Nuncio led at the half-mile point in eight of his 10 races last year. In two qualifiers this season, he was never put on the lead by driver John Campbell. In his most recent qualifier, a third-place effort in 1:55.1, he trotted :26.2 for the final quarter-mile.
â€œHe has got that speed like (Father) Patrick,â€ Takter said about Nuncio earlier this year. â€œI thought he raced really good last year. Heâ€™s definitely a horse Iâ€™m very happy to have in my barn. Heâ€™s a serious contender.
â€œBut he cannot continue like he did last year as a 3-year-old. It takes too much out of you going :26, :27 (early) quarters to expect horses like Patrick not to pass you. That will happen. If he learns to manage himself a little bit, Iâ€™m sure heâ€™s going to be a good contender to have in the barn.â€
Don Dorado, Auspicious Hanover, and Exodus Hanover finished 1-2-3 in last yearâ€™s Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship. Outburst, making his seasonal debut for trainer Noel Daley, trotted a world-record 1:53.1 in winning his division of the Bluegrass Stakes in 2013.
â€œHeâ€™s a nice horse,â€ Daley said earlier this year. â€œI donâ€™t think heâ€™s a top three or four horse, but I think heâ€™s a top 10 horse if he comes back as good as he was. If you can be a top 10 horse you can make a lot of money if you pick your spots and get lucky now and then. Thereâ€™s so much money out there and the good ones canâ€™t be in all of them. If you can win one decent one, you can do alright there.â€
New Jersey has two divisions of sire stakes Friday at the Meadowlands. The Hambletonian eligibles entered are, in alphabetical order: Dave Briggs, Great Society, King City, Lightning Force, Martiniwithmuscle, Odds On Amethyst, Royal Ice, Skates N Plates, Southwind Poseidon, Sumatra, Trixton, and Well Built.
Trixton, another horse from the Takter Stable, is coming off a 1:51.2 win in the Simpson Memorial Stakes at the Meadowlands on May 9. The time was faster than any recorded by a 3-year-old male trotter in 2013. Trixton is a son of 2009 Horse of the Year Muscle Hill out of the mare Emilie Cas El, who was Canadaâ€™s Horse of the Year in 1994. His family also includes past stars Andover Hall, Conway Hall and Angus Hall.
Odds On Amethyst and Well Built are from the stable of trainer Chris Ryder. Odds On Amethyst, who trotted 1:53.2 in winning his seasonal debut on May 2, is a son of Muscle Hill out of the standout mare Mystical Sunshine, who was trained by Ryder during her racing career.
â€œIâ€™m really looking at the Hambletonian with that horse,â€ Ryder said recently. â€œIâ€™m not going to say heâ€™s a top one, but heâ€™s got a shot. I think heâ€™s going to improve on his (1):53. I know heâ€™s going to have to, but I think he will. If he gets much better heâ€™s right there.
â€œHeâ€™s been a bit of a problem child. Heâ€™s his own worst enemy,â€ Ryder added. â€œThe last two or three weeks heâ€™s improved. Heâ€™s starting to realize heâ€™s a racehorse.â€
Sumatra is returning to action for trainer Tom Fanning for the first time since winning the Dexter Cup on May 3 at Freehold Raceway.
Lightly raced Martiniwithmuscle, trained by Joe King, is 2-for-2 this year and coming off a 1:53.4 win in a conditioned race May 9 at the Meadowlands against a field that included Lightning Force, Great Society and Southwind Poseidon.
Valley Victory winner Muscle Network also makes his seasonal debut Friday in the NJSS, but he is not eligible to the Hambletonian.
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