10/18/2012 9:16AM

Breeders Crown: Mel Mara is peaking at the right time

Mel Mara has won 2 of his last 3 stakes starts.

The slogan says it “All Comes Down to the Breeders Crown.”

Don’t tell that to the connections of Mel Mara, not a contender for divisional honors but a serious player among the 15 entered in eliminations for the sophomore colt Breeders Crown Saturday evening at Woodbine.

Until the last month, Mel Mara had been a disappointment to his connections. But the son of Lis Mara, an Ontario-bred, has come on with a vengeance in the last four weeks and gone from a pretender to a serious contender in the so-called glamour division.

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Trainer Tony Alagna claims no magic potion in the sudden and impressive emergence of his colt.

“I’m not doing anything differently,” said Alagna. “I think there’s a series of things that happened to this colt. When he was good he got a bad trip and when he got good trips he didn’t fire.”

But as of late Mel Mara has been firing on all cylinders for Alagna. Most recently, last Friday Mel Mara worked out a perfect two-hole trip behind the leading money-winning sophomore Michael’s Power at Flamboro and captured the $130,000 Ontario Sire Stakes Gold final impressively in a 1:51 4/5 effort.

Tim Tetrick was in the bike for Alagna at Flamboro but he’ll return to trainer Linda Toscano’s Heston Blue Chip in the Crown, forcing the trainer and the owners to switch drivers with the big money riding.

“We were well aware that Tim would be driving Linda’s (Toscano) horse in the Crown so we contracted Ron Pierce for the drive. Ron is very capable in big money races,” said Alagna.

While Mel Mara defeated Ontario-breds in his last start, it was his two miles at the Red Mile that gave the connections the belief that he could not only race with the best in the class but also defeat them. In the Bluegrass at The Red Mile on September September 29, Mel Mara had to rough it without cover and scored impressively in 1:49 4/5 for Tetrick. The colt gamely held off Sweet Lou in the stretch drive for his first Grand Circuit victory of the year.

A week later on October 6 at the Red Mile, Mel Mara drew post 10 and was never in the hunt for the top prize but he rallied gamely to finish fourth in the 1:48 1/5 mile, beaten just three lengths.

“We always knew he had extreme speed,” said Alagna, “I believe he’s showing that now.”

Mel Mara won’t be alone in his attempt to earn a trip to the final. The three-year-old division has exchanged leaders with each week. In his $25,000 elimination, race 10 on Saturday’s Woodbine program that commences at 7:30 p.m., will be the $62,500 supplemental entry Michael’s Power from post one. That homebred has captured 13 of his 17 starts this season including memorable second-heat victories in the Little Brown Jug and Confederation Cup. Scott Zeron, one of the sport’s up and coming driving stars, has the reins behind the Casie Coleman-trained sophomore.

Mel Mara landed post three and he’ll be feeling the heat directly outside with A Rocknroll Dance (post 4) and Tattersalls Pace victor Sweet Lou (post 5) to his right on the gate. Also in this extremely talented field is Heston Blue Chip (post 7).

‘We’re in it to win it,” said Alagna confirming what he believes his horse’s chances to be. “I think six or eight of these horses have a legitimate chance to win.”

Alagna knows that A Rocknroll Dance, the Meadowlands Pace and Battle of the Brandywine winner, has been nursing a throat condition. He respects Sweet Lou, last year’s Breeders Crown winner that came to life in Kentucky and could be a force over the Woodbine surface he enjoyed so much a year ago.

Alagna has high hopes as well for his two-year-old star Captaintreacherous. While the Somebeachsomewhere-sired colt did win on consecutive weeks in Kentucky, his most recent start on October 6 left some wondering whether he was still at the top of his game.

“We scoped him after the race and noticed that he had a high white blood count,” said Alagna.

The colt was treated and the trainer confirmed that he trained back sharply on Tuesday and was ready for his elimination race Friday night at Woodbine.

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