East Rutherford, NJ — World champion Sebastian K, the fastest trotter in harness racing history, made his 2015 debut in Saturday's qualifiers at theand trainer/driver said the 9-year-old trotter felt good after having the start of his campaign delayed because of ulcers.
In fact, the returning Dan Patch Award-winning divisional champion might have felt a little too good.
"He was too good; I drove too fast," Svanstedt said after Sebastian K won his qualifier in 1:53.4 with a final quarter-mile in :26.4 in a light rain. "I was hoping to go in (1):55 or (1):56, but he feels so good. It was tough to feel the tempo. I had the (stop)watch, but I missed it.
"Now he is healthy again and he feels good. Better than last year. He will start in two weeks at Pocono, on the Fourth of July."
Sebastian K, owned by Knutsson Trotting Inc., won eight of 13 races last year and was named the sport's best older male trotter. He arrived in the U.S. last year after a record-setting career in Europe. The Swedish-born stallion trotted a world-record-equaling 1:50.1 in his debut at the Meadowlands (off a qualifier in 1:56.2) and capped a record streak of four consecutive victories in 1:50.3 or faster with his world-record 1:49 triumph at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.
Overcast skies, moderate temperatures and little to no breeze greeted the harness racing enthusiasts that attended the Breakfast with the Babies card to watch 15 races of 2-year-olds in addition to the son of, Sebastian K.
Jimmy Takter and Yannick Gingras started right off with a winner in the first with $102,000 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale (LSYS) graduate I'm Outstanding. The Donato Hanover filly was sent up for the lead as the field neared the 1:01.2 half then coasted in for the 2:00.1 score over pocket-sitter Margarita M with Posterity lasting for third after a long uncovered bid. Christina Takter, John & Jim Fielding and Herb Liverman share ownership.
Another well-regarded trotting duo hooked up to win the second race. Dave Miller drove Ready Any Time ($62,000 Standardbred Horse Sales) to an impressive 1:58.4 win for trainer "Nifty" Norman and owners Mel Hartman, Dave McDuffee, Little E, LLC and breeder Herb Liverman. Miller settled the Kadabra lass in behind eventual third place finisher Lindy's On Fire through the 1:30.2 three quarters then tipped off that one while closing in 28.2 for the comfortable win. Silent Blessings impressed with good late trot to be second for the Johanssons.
Takter took the lines, but no prisoners with the Marvin Katz / Al Libfeld homebred Muscle Hill filly All The Time, leading all the way from post nine to win in 1:58.1 with a 27.3 final quarter under her own power. Encore Gold tracked the winner throughout and held well to be second for Charlie Norris.
"All The Time was very good," Takter said. "She was just babied last week; I sat back with her. Today, she flew out of the gate like a rocket. She was strong."
Miller and Norman again combined to win race four with Levitator, coming first over in 1:58.4 / 28.1. Nifty has had a remarkable run of success with fillies by Kadabra and by the looks of today's winning pair that run is going to continue. The winner was a $120,000 SHS buy for the same partnership as the above mentioned Ready Any Time. Gifted Lady made a late gain to be second in this one for Takter.
"Nifty has got some nice fillies there," Miller said. "They went well last week and they came back and were stronger this week. It looks good for him. Right now their manners and gait is a big thing. So far, both of them have got that; real good manners, real good gait. It's good."
More Katz & Libfeld home cookin' in the fifth race with the grand looking Donato Hanover filly Womans Will winning easily after leading all the way for Andy Miller in 1:58 / :28. Trained in the Julie Miller barn, Womans Will had a Gaitway 1:59 romp on her resume and bears watching.
Colts came up after the break and Stayin Strong parlayed a pocket trip into a 2:00.1 win for Andy and Julie Miller, holding off the late charge of Boyz N Guitars and Sliding Home through the 28.4 final panel. He is a Muscles Yankee bought by Jason and Doug Allen at SHS last fall for the bargain price of $15,000.
"Andy and I have been pretty high on them all winter long training down, but when you finally get to the baby races that kind of separates the men from the boys," Julie Miller said about Womans Will and Stayin Strong. "Andy was real pleased with Womans Will. She's two fingers to drive and a pleasure to be around. That was a nice last quarter and Andy said he didn't even ask her. I think she was well within herself.
"If things keep going in the right direction I think she'll be a top filly. Coming up her and being at the Meadowlands, it was a new venue for her and she handled it well. She wasn't stressed out, she remained a professional, and I was real pleased with her."
Just For Today took over before the half for Mark MacDonald and led the rest of the way to win the seventh in 1:59.3 with a 28.2 close. He's a Credit Winner trained by Paul Kelley for Patricia Stable, Joe Sbrocco and Bud Hatfield who paid $85,000 for him at Harrisburg. Dave McDuffee's homebred Donato colt Granite State from his good race mare Bella Dolce closed will into the fast last quarter here.
Gingras drove Takter's Muscle Massive colt Dominus Hanover to a 1:59 / 28.3 win, taking over before the half and opening a long lead before coasting in over the late closing Brooklyn Hill and Dominion Beach. He is a SHS graduate at a cost of $60,000 to Christina Takter, Black Horse Racing and RAW Equine.
Goin To The Limit left quickly from the outside and set all the numbers, winning in 1:58.3 / 28.1 for Tim Tetrick. This Donato Hanover colt from Azalea Gal was another $15,000 bargain, this time selected from the Lexington sale by trainer Tony Alagna for his interests along with partners Jodi Siamis, John Fodera and Tangie Massey.
Jack Vernon showed grit in holding off the determined bid of Brownie Hanover in the stretch for John Campbell in 1:59.3 with a 28 second close. Randy Beeckman selected the Muscle Hill colt from Vernon Blue Chip at the SHS for $50,000 for owners the Miller's Stable of Kentucky.
Pacing fillies came up in the eleventh and the Diamond Creek homebred Somebeachsomewhere filly Pure Country dazzled the crowd with a 1:54.4 win, setting all the pace and sprinting home in 26.4 for Brett Miller and Takter. Blue Moon Stride stayed on well for second in this one.
"So far she's very special, really good," Takter said. "She's powerful."
The $5,500 SHS chestnut Shadow Play filly Miss Read won her third baby race for Tyler and Leigh Raymer with Corey Callahan steering her to a front running 1:56 win with a 27.1 final quarter. She came in with a pair of Pocono scores and answered affirmatively when faced with this royally bred field of competitors in her Meadowlands debut.
Bank Shot Hanover made it a consecutive double for chestnuts, winning in 1:55.2 for Scott Zeron. The Panderosa colt set all the fractions and used a 27.2 final quarter to hold Headforthebeach a length. It was the second start for Bob Di Nozzi's freshman who flashed some talent with the owner driving last week. He is trained by Daniel Renaud.
Trainer Steve Elliott is on some roll this year and he sent out Boston Red Socks by Rocknroll Hanover, a winner in 1:54.2 this morning for Peter Blood and Rick Berks, the same connections as last night's Graduate leg winner Doo Wop Hanover. John Campbell was the driver in both instances, putting Boston Red Socks into the race from post ten going right to the top, releasing Fast And Victorious for the middle half then powering by in the 27.4 last panel. He was a $50,000 Harrisburg buy. Capital Builder was a good second for Alagna and Zeron.
Another winner came from post ten in the very next race in the Rocknroll Hanover colt Ideal Rocky for Callahan. He got a tuck in third early, moved up a spot when Highlandbeachycove broke on the lead by the half then closed inside JJ Flynn through the 27.1 final quarter for the 1:54.4 win. John Butenschoen trains the $47,000 SHS buy for mid-west owners W. Wiswell, J. Goehlen & E. Schick.
Other older horses to post qualifier wins Saturday were 3-year-old male trotter Guess Whos Back, who won in 1:54.2 for trainer Nik Drennan and driver Brian Sears, as well as 3-year-old male pacer Lyons Levi Lewis, who won in 1:50.4 for trainer Ron Burke and driver Yannick Gingras.
Race 1 – I'm Outstanding by Donato Hanover
Race 2 – Ready Any Time by Kadabra
Race 3 – All The Time by Muscle Hill
Race 4 – Levitator by Kadabra
Race 5 – Womans Will by Donato Hanover
Race 6 – Stayin Strong by Muscles Yankee
Race 7 – Just For Today by Credit Winner
Race 8 – Dominus Hanover by Muscle Massive
Race 9 – Goin To The Limit by Donato Hanover
Race 10 – Jack Vernon by Muscle Hill
Race 11 – Pure Country by Somebeachsomewhere
Race 12 – Miss Read by Shadow Play
Race 13 – Bank Shot Hanover by The Panderosa
Race 14 – Boston Red Rocks by Rocknroll Hanover
Race 15 – Ideal Rocky by Rocknroll Hanover
By Nick Salvi and Ken Weingartner