Lyons Sentinel is the No. 1 ranked horse in harness racing, but she is still looking to solve the Breeders Crown.
In fact, she enters Saturday afternoon’s $330,000 Mare Pace at The Meadowlands attempting to capture her first Breeders Crown final.
The 4-year-old finished the finals second by a neck at age 2; second by a quarter-length at age 3; and was also third in last week’s elimination after winning seven straight.
Nonetheless, trainer Jim King Jr. is looking forward to Saturday afternoon and hopes to put the Breeders Crown past behind him.
“I’m not happy about losing, but I thought she went a tremendous mile,” King said after Lyons Sentinel was third in the Mare Pace’s single elimination, beaten a length by Rocknificent in 1:48.4. “She was out a long ways, got flushed early. They went big around the turn and by the time they got down to the wire, she was coming again.
“So, I’m not displeased at all. I don’t feel at all discouraged about how things will go (this) week. I’m just glad we didn’t draw the 10 hole. Our being here (for the elimination) was all about the draw. Sometimes things work, and sometimes they don’t.”
Breeders Crown elimination winners got to draw for a starting spot in posts one through five as the reward for their victory. Lyons Sentinel will race out of post three Saturday and is the 5-2 morning-line favorite despite her elim setback. Rocknificent got post one and is the 3-1 second choice.
Racing begins at noon Saturday at the Big M and features eight Breeders Crown finals for horses ages 3 and up.
Lyons Sentinel, a daughter of Captaintreacherous out of Tutu Hanover, has won 21 of 44 races and $1.84 million in her career. This year she has hit the board in 13 of 16 races, with nine firsts, a second and three thirds good for $604,183 in earnings.
Driven by Tim Tetrick, Lyons Sentinel had a qualifier leading up to the elimination. She won in 1:53.1 with a :26 final quarter.
“That’s not the same (as racing),” said King, who won a Crown with Shartin N in 2018. “But this (elimination) is a good mile under her and I’m coming to win this week. I hope it happens. Trips make all the difference.
“It was a tough go, but that’s OK; one of her best miles was the last time she got beat. It was out of the 10 hole right here (in the Dorothy Haughton Memorial), and she raced a tremendous mile and ended up fourth. I don’t know if she was ever better than that.”
Rocknificent, who finished second to Lyons Sentinel five times this year before beating her in the elimination, is trained by Linda Toscano and driven by Scott Zeron. She has four wins, eight seconds and $365,088 in earnings this year.
“(Her elimination) was exactly the race you would love to see her get,” said Toscano, who has won seven Breeders Crown trophies. “She didn’t have to be used too hard, she just did her normal leave, and she got a great trip behind a horse that carried her.
“It worked out really well for us for a change because (Lyons Sentinel) is so monstrously good. She was just a little too far back and we were able to take advantage of the situation.”
And while winning was nice, it was the performance that had the trainer really smiling.
“Obviously, you’re always happy when you win a Breeders Crown elimination,” Toscano said. “But I was more thrilled for that mare because she just comes back every week and gives us her best effort. I was tickled she could win. Scott has done an amazing job with her. He loves her and she goes so well for him.”
Despite the horse finally beating her nemesis, Toscano is not predicting victory on Saturday.
“It would be fun, but I don’t for one minute discount how great Lyons Sentinel is,” she said. “I know how good she is.”
Peaky Sneaky will take aim on a second straight Breeders Crown trophy after winning last year’s race for 3-year-old female pacers. She has yet to win this year, taking three seconds and five thirds while earning $93,479 in 14 starts. For her career she has won $714,478 in 39 starts, winning eight.
The horse finished second for trainer Nancy Takter and driver Dexter Dunn in the elimination and is 5-1 out of post two. She will have to overcome not only her rivals on Saturday, but history as well. No female pacer has ever won the Breeders Crown at both ages 3 and 4.
“I’m happy with how she raced,” Takter said. “She finished really good. She was good with pace. She likes to race in the fall. She likes the Breeders Crown. Hopefully, she likes the Breeders Crown (this) week. I’m super happy with her.”
Two horses received byes into the final, Racine Bell, who was supplemented to the race for $32,500, and Drama Act.
Racine Bell has 11 wins, six seconds and four thirds in 23 starts for trainer David Dewhurst and has banked $253,910 this season. Ron Burke’s Drama Act has 12 wins, a second and third in 18 starts and has earned $155,280.
The Breeders Crown Mare Pace is race nine Saturday, the sixth of the eight Breeders Crown finals. Free full-card TrackMaster past performances are available for Friday and Saturday by visiting the Meadowlands website here.
ALLYWAG HANOVER AIMS TO ROLL ON
In the Open Pace, Allywag Hanover is the 2-1 morning-line favorite out of post eight. Harness racing’s No. 3-ranked horse is on a roll, having won five straight and six of seven. He received a bye into the final. In his most recent start, he paced 1:46.4 in the Allerage Open at Lexington’s Red Mile to equal the world record for a gelding pacer.
“He’s unreal, he’s just grown up,” trainer Brett Pelling said. “I can’t one hundred percent put a finger on it, other than he’s gotten a bit older and stronger. He’s just become a better horse. He’s always been a high-speed horse, but he’s always liked to do things his way. Now, his way is the right way. So, he’s doing great.”
Allywag Hanover, by Captaintreacherous out of Anderosa Hanover, will have Todd McCarthy in the sulky. For the season, the 4-year-old gelding has won nine of 16 races and $685,950.
“We do very little with him, he likes it that way,” said Pelling, an 11-time Breeders Crown winner. “It’s just working for him. As he’s gotten older, he’s not as hard on himself as he was before.
“He missed two weeks before he raced in Lexington, and to be honest with you, he never trained while I was down there until he came down. He just stepped out there and went (1):46.4, so he’s on his game.”
This Is The Plan was on his game last week, winning the Open Pace elimination by a nose over stablemate Cattlewash in 1:49.3.
“He raced really good last week,” driver Yannick Gingras said. “It’s been a long season, so I wanted to be able to trip him out. It looks like there is a lot of speed (in the final) so maybe we can trip him out the same way this week. He was really sharp last week, and I think he should be even better this week.”
Trained by Ron Burke, the horse has six wins, eight seconds and four thirds in 22 starts, and has earned $796,769 this year, which leads all Open Pace finalists. One of his trademarks has been his consistency.
“I think it’s because of the Burke program,” Gingras said. “The way they do it, they don’t overdo it. They don’t go speed in between races. They get some miles into them, a lot of jogging, but they also get a lot of turn out. His system works that way.
“This horse has speed, obviously. He’s got high, high speed. That’s his best quality in my opinion. Maybe he could be a little stronger, then he would be like a super horse, but I think speed is his best quality, and he’s a horse that’s consistent. That helps a lot too.”
This Is The Plan will start the final from post four and is 5-1 on the morning line. Cattlewash will leave from post five with David Miller driving for Burke and is 4-1.
The Breeders Crown Open Pace is race 11 on Saturday, the last of the eight Breeders Crown finals. Free full-card TrackMaster past performances are available for Friday and Saturday by visiting the Meadowlands website here.
by Rich Fisher, for the USTA