04/13/2015 10:42AM

Bergman: Trainer Holloway hopeful with top pacing fillies

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Derick Giwner
Bettor Be Steppin earned nearly $300,000 in her rookie year of racing.

Joe Holloway has been one of the sport’s leading trainers for quite some time. Known for developing top young horses and helping them reach top speed, Holloway recently saw two high-profile pacing mares leave his stable. The departure of world champion Shebestingin and Breeders Crown winner Somwherovrarainbow this winter would leave the cupboard bare for most. However, Holloway has a pair of outstanding three-year-old pacing fillies that primed for their first starts as sophomores at the Meadowlands this past Friday. While Shebestingin awaits a mating with Captaintreacherous and Somwherovrarainbow’s connections plan her next move, Holloway must find racing opportunities for his fillies—Bettor Be Steppin and Divine Caroline. Those two were victorious in back-to-back qualifiers on Saturday morning at the Meadowlands, but to Holloway’s chagrin are not likely to race at the Big M when they debut as sophomores.

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“I’m probably going to have to race them at Harrah’s Philadelphia,” said Holloway on his way back to Delaware after the qualifiers. “The races for fillies just don’t fill at the Meadowlands.”

It’s become a painful irony for Holloway and many trainers of young horses. They want to showcase the horses and prepare them for battle, but at this juncture, the only stage available to them is qualifying races at the Meadowlands. For so many high-profile horses, the non-winners categories on the pacing side just don’t exist and horsemen are forced to leave East Rutherford just to get prepped for stakes action.

It’s been 20 years since Holloway had one of the better pacing fillies in memory, Shes A Great Lady. That daughter of Dexter Nukes was somewhat unheralded heading into her sophomore campaign in 1995, but she was dominant during the year and went on to a brilliant four-year-old season under Holloway’s guidance. The trainer has high hopes for his pair this year, offering a slight edge to the Bettors Delight-sired Bettor Be Steppin.

“Divine Caroline can be pretty hard on herself,” said Holloway. “I think they both can be major players. They finished third and fourth in the Breeders Crown.”

Holloway entered the 1995 season without the best three-year-old pacing filly, but by year’s end Shes A Great Lady had in fact become one. Bettor Be Steppin finished third in the Breeders Crown last fall at the Meadowlands behind Horse of the Year J K Shesalady. She was no match for the undefeated filly at two, but that doesn’t mean the gap between the two (6 and ¾ lengths in the Crown) won’t be narrowed substantially this year.

Bettor Be Steppin qualified most impressively on Saturday in a flat 1:54 leaving Holloway quite satisfied. “It was pretty windy out there and they weren’t coming home that much,” Holloway said. “She was strong.”

A winner of nearly $300K in her first year of racing with 10 board appearances in 12 starts, Bettor Be Steppin showed speed and a great deal of courage when matched against a high class group of fillies.

Bettor Be Steppin’s half-sister, Major Dancer, showed sharp improvement from two to three and was a stakes player in last year’s sophomore filly class. Holloway is currently training Roll With Fred, the two-year-old half-brother to Bettor Be Steppin. “I’ve got a few colts I like a lot this year and he’s one of them,” said Holloway.

Divine Caroline, a filly from the first crop of Rock N Roll Heaven, showed wicked speed in early baby races at the Meadowlands, giving indication that she could be among the best in the class. However, the filly did not progress mentally and was a handful, making miscues on the racetrack and proving difficult to steer at times. What resulted was a year with but one victory in 11 starts. The good news was that she ended the year with a fourth-place finish and seemed to have grown out of her early difficulties.

David Miller guided Divine Caroline to victory in her first qualifier (March 31) at Harrah’s Philadelphia and was aboard again at the Meadowlands this Saturday when she clocked a 1:54 4/5 effort.

“David was happy with her. He said she was very calm,” said Holloway. “We’ll look for a non-winners of 2 for her at Harrah’s and hopefully find a non-winners of five for Bettor Be Steppin.”

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The fillies are heavily staked this year with the New York Sire Stakes program a likely spot for both. Holloway mentioned that the two would be on their way back to East Rutherford. “They’re not eligible for the Simpson (May 1) but both are in the Reynolds (May 8),” Holloway said.

JAYWALKING: It’s been difficult to watch amateur drivers perform on the sport’s biggest stage on a weekly basis. I know there should be a place in this sport for amateurs to compete and I wouldn’t mind it so much if the races actually started with all of the drivers and horses in place behind the starting gate. Once again this past Friday at the Meadowlands numerous horses were lagging well behind the starting gate and didn’t get close to the field when the race began. It’s bad enough that bettors must wager on drivers that have no name recognition, but must they also be handicapped because the horses don’t reach the gate?

Given the fact that amateur drivers don’t do this for a living, I find it hard to condemn any of them for the inability to get a horse to accelerate quickly enough. What makes no sense to me is why the starter and outrider can’t team up to assure that all horses are on gate before the car begins in motion. Those officials should be aware that conditions are far different when the gate swings into motion for amateurs than it is for the professionals that generally get horses to accelerate in time to guarantee at least an equal start from all competitors.

It’s taken trainer Rene Allard about three months but it seems that Big Boy Dreams, a $265,000 purchase at the Meadowlands Winter Mixed sale in January, is finally moving in the right direction. The four-year-old finished third in a 1:50 mile Saturday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun.