11/29/2012 11:07AM

Dover Downs: Thinking Out Loud should have a say in Matron Final

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Thinking Out Loud won the richest race of the year, the $1.5 million North America Cup.

Thinking Out Loud, the 5-2 second choice in Sunday’s $176,663 Matron Stakes for three-year-old colt and gelding pacers at Dover Downs, may finally be in a position to throw his hat in the ring for divisional honors. The $1.5 million North America Cup winner has been among the leaders all season long but has not been the leader. The son of Ponder landed the rail, a spot he’s won from in three of his four opportunities this year. His trainer and breeder Bob McIntosh was ecstatic with the draw.

“He’s drawn a lot of outside posts this year,” McIntosh said.

The Canadian Hall of Fame trainer couldn’t be happier with how his colt has come into this race and more specifically how durable he’s been despite a long season. “He’s been going since the spring and John (driver Campbell) was really pleased with his performance last week,” McIntosh said in reference to the 1:50 mile posted by Thinking Out Loud in one of two Matron eliminations last Sunday. In that mile, Thinking Out Loud also took advantage of the rail draw to outgun a determined Bettors Edge in the faster of the elims. What made the mile most impressive was the chilling near freezing temperature.

“He’s probably one of the fastest horses I’ve ever had for a short piece,” said McIntosh of the homebred who posted a 1:47 4/5 clocking in earning the trainer his first North America Cup title at Mohawk in June.

With seven wins in 22 starts, Thinking Out Loud has earned over $1.15 million this season after racing just a few times as a two-year-old. For that reason the trainer is more than optimistic that Thinking Out Loud can get the job done on Sunday and come back stronger as a four-year-old.

“He’s been a very sound horse. I thought before the Breeders Crown that it had been a long year and he was getting tired. But he’s bounced back in a big way and just seems so resilient,” said McIntosh. “He is eligible to the Cleveland Classic (Northfield) on December 8 but I think this will be his last start of the year.”

Thinking Out Loud faces a solid field including Heston Blue Chip, the Breeders Crown winner and recent Progress Pace winner. In the Progress Pace, Heston Blue Chip marched to the front and was unreachable while Thinking Out Loud finished second from virtually an impossible spot.

“I thought he raced great in the Progress,” said McIntosh, “John was backed up behind horses that weren’t keeping up and he had to send him wide early.”

With a victory, Heston Blue Chip (post 4) will put himself one step closer to the divisional title, but despite his 6-5 morning line ranking that’s far from a certainty. McIntosh hopes his horse gets consideration as well.

“He’s won over $1 million this year and has captured some of the bigger races,” McIntosh said, “but different horses have been winning the big races each week. I’m not sure I’d want to be the one voting for who wins this division.”

While most of Thinking Out Loud’s best miles have come with him racing from off the pace the trainer believes that the colt can leave the gate. That’s certainly something to consider this week with a star-studded group that includes Hillbilly Hanover, Bettors Edge and Bolt The Duer.

Heston Blue Chip (post 4) will get the services of George Brennan for the first time in quest of his 14th seasonal victory.  The Linda Toscano-trained colt looks to bounce back from a rare defeat in last week’s eliminations. In that mile driver Tim Tetrick looked a bit like the colt’s namesake, avoiding traffic in a chariot race on the big screen. Heston Blue Chip left the gate but had to settle back after a first turn scramble and then when Tetrick moved him past the quarter he was pushed wide into the second turn. Eventually the colt would follow cover and finish a solid second.

Hillbilly Hanover, a late-season acquisition of trainer Ron Burke, has won two straight races after losing his first 20 this year. The Dragon Again-sired gelding landed post six but will again have the services of Yannick Gingras, who cleverly put him in good striking position early and then rambled to an easy 1:50 3/5 career best victory in the elimination.

Bolt The Duer (post 2) gets a chance at redemption after initially failing to qualify for the final. The good fortune comes courtesy of a scratch by Mcerlean and the non-entry of Mel Mara. Also by Ponder, Bolt The Duer has had smashing victories this year in the Adios and Messenger but at the same time has had disappointing miles when the big money was riding. Last week driver Mark MacDonald used him hard getting the front and the colt lacked fire when challenged.

Bettors Edge, Linda Toscano’s second entry in the Matron final, drew post eight but you can wager that won’t stop him from giving 100 percent. The gelding brings his best game to the track each week and seems to go forward every time driver Dave Miller asks.

The Matron is race 10 on Dover’s 15-race Sunday card that begins at 5:30 p.m.