EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – It mattered little to Harambe Deo that he was facing the hottest horse at the track as well as one of the best harness racing mares of this or any generation Saturday night at The Meadowlands, as he took down Highalator and Shartin N in the Preferred Handicap for pacers.
The race panned out similarly to last week, when Harambe Deo put up fast quarters at both ends of the mile in a spectacular score. The Jeff Cullipher trainee sprinted away from the gate and went to the quarter in a blistering :25.4 for a second consecutive week.
A horse known as a stone closer before the last two weeks has now become a front-end lover. “Before Simon [Allard] started driving my horse, leaving wasn’t the way to go,” said Cullipher.
When the trainer saw the quarter time last week, he thought his horse was finished. Not so Saturday night. “I didn’t think he was cooked,” said Cullipher, “but you don’t want to see that too often.”
The field of six was in straight alignment past the half (:54.2). Shortly thereafter, 2-1 second choice Highalator, seeking a fourth straight score in a Big M feature, vacated the four-hole to come after the leader, and as he advanced, 3-5 favorite Shartin N received a live tow.
But on the far turn, the look of the race changed dramatically as Highalator uncharacteristically struggled, backing up in Shartin N’s face, leaving Harambe Deo on a 3-length lead at three-quarters (1:22.3).
“I knew the race was over then,” said Cullipher. “Highalator bothered Shartin N a little on the turn. Obviously, she’s not 100 percent herself and we took advantage of everything we could.”
Harambe Deo finished the job by pacing home in :26 to stop the clock in 1:48.3, lowering the lifetime best he had established one week ago by one-fifth of a second. Western Joe was fourth lengths back in second with Geez Joe third. Shartin N finished fourth with Wes Delight fifth and Highalator sixth.
“He’s easy on himself,” said Cullipher of his prized pupil. “He doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary. He had a good week. We knew he had to have a performance like last week if he was going to beat this field, and that’s just what he gave us.”
A 5-year-old gelded son of Woodstock-Tea Time who is owned by Pollack Racing and Cullipher, Harambe Deo now has 16 wins from 81 lifetime outings, good for earnings of $253,869. As the 6-1 third choice in the wagering, he returned $15.00 to win.
A LITTLE MORE: Cullipher, who had three winners on last Saturday’s card, saw his Ana Afreet N score one race after Harambe Deo’s win to complete a training double. Ana Afreet N hit the wire in 1:49 after winning last week in 1:48.3. … Izzy Estrada also trained a pair of winner’s circle visitors. … Yannick Gingras led the driver colony with four scores on the program. … All-source wagering totaled $2,256,292. … Favorites ruled over the course of the 26-race weekend, winning 16 times. … Racing resumes Friday at 7:15 p.m.
By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations