Hightstown, NJ — No harness racing trainer has ever won the Meadowlands Racetrack’s top events for 3-year-old pacers and trotters — the Meadowlands Pace and Hambletonian Stakes — in the same year. Just being in the position to accomplish the feat is rare enough, but that is the spot in whichfinds herself this year.
Takter won the Meadowlands Pace in July with Tall Dark Stranger. On Saturday, she sends out Ready For Moni in the $1 millionfinal at The Big M. The only other trainer this century to win the Pace and have a Hambletonian finalist was Ray Schnittker in 2010, when One More Laugh captured the Pace and Cassis was eighth in the Hambletonian.
Schnittker is among seven trainers to win both the Pace and Hambletonian during their careers. The others are Billy Haughton, Ray Remmen, Chuck Sylvester, Blair Burgess, Steve Elliott, and Linda Toscano.
“I think that would be pretty awesome,” Takter said about winning the Pace and Hambletonian in the same year. “That would be pretty cool.”
Ready For Moni, with Yannick Gingras in the sulky, is the 3-1 second choice on the Hambletonian morning line. He won his elimination last weekend by three-quarters of a length over Threefiftytwo in 1:51.3. The colt is 2-for-2 this year, with his first victory coming in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial in 1:51.4.
Ramona Hill, one of two fillies taking on the boys in the Hambletonian, is the 5-2 favorite. The Hambletonian is the first jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown. CBS Sports Network will air a delayed one-hour broadcast of the Hambletonian from 6-7 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. The stakes-filled card at The Meadowlands starts at noon.
“Ready For Moni trained really good Wednesday morning,” Takter said. “He came out of the elim really good and seems like he’s gotten a step better. Maybe he’ll be a little sharper after training and he’s as close to peaking as we can get him off of two starts for the year. But sometimes less is more. I think he’ll be fine.
“You want them to be fresh. Some horses do need a race, horses that are a little laid back. Horses that are racehorses, they show up on race day. As long as they have a foundation and conditioning, they don’t need a lot of racing.”
Ready For Moni is a son of French star Ready Cash out of Nothing But Moni. For his career he has won six of 10 races and $374,020. He is owned by John Fielding, Lindy Farms of Connecticut, Herb Liverman, and Bud Hatfield.
In addition to the Hambletonian, Takter has two horses in the $600,000 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old female trotters. Sorella is the 7-2 second choice and Panem is 6-1. Marcus Melander-trained Hypnotic AM is the 5-2 favorite.
Only two trainers have ever won the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks in the same year, Takter’s father Jimmy and Jan Johnson.
Sorella has won three of four races this year, including a division of the W.N. Reynolds Memorial in 1:50.2, and five of 13 races lifetime. She is owned by breeder Elmer Fannin, Crawford Farms Racing, and Brent Fannin. A daughter of Muscle Hill out of Kadealia, she starts the Oaks from post seven with driver Gingras.
Sorella has won three of four races this year.
“She trained really well; I was really happy with her, she looked awesome,” Takter said. “She looks like she could be in top condition for Saturday. I know Yannick is kind of happy with her spot behind the gate, so I think all systems are go with her. We just need some luck.”
Panem, a daughter of Father Patrick out of Katniss, has a win and three seconds in four starts this year. For her career, the homebred filly has won three of 14 races for Diamond Creek Racing. She will start the Oaks from post 11, in the second tier, with driver Dexter Dunn.
“She also trained very well,” Takter said. “The biggest obstacle is going to be the 11-hole, but it is what it is and I’m sure Dexter can figure out how to get her out at some point from there. If anybody can do it, he can.
Panem has a win and three seconds in four starts this year.
“I’m looking forward to that race. I think both my horses are very good; we tossed around the idea of putting them in against the colts (in the Hambletonian). I think they’re both in a good spot.”
Takter has a total of 14 horses racing on Hambletonian Day, including Manchego in the Dr. John Steele Memorial, Tall Dark Stranger in the Cane Pace (the first jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown), Kissin In The Sand in the Lady Liberty, and Locatelli and Type A in the Peter Haughton Memorial.
“That’s good, it’ll keep me busy,” Takter said. “There’s no time for nerves then, you just have to keep getting your job done.”
For complete entries for Saturday’s card at The Big M, click here.