05/01/2014 9:18AM

Freehold: Sumatra leads Saturday's Dexter Cup

Derick Giwner
Sumatra is the morning line favorite in the $115,370 Dexter Cup.

The Dexter Cup has long been referred to as the first stop on the road to the Hambletonian. While it is unknown whether any of the eight combatants in Saturday’s $115,370 final at Freehold Raceway will be on the gate in the $1 million Hambletonian on August 2, any dream for the future must start somewhere.

Regardless of barometer, the most accomplished 3-year-old trotter in the octet is Sumatra. Purchased at the 2013 Harrisburg sale in November for $100,000 by trainer Tom Fanning for owner Joseph Smith, Sumatra could make more than half their money back with a win on Saturday.

A son of Muscles Yankee-Lola Seelster, Sumatra won five times in 11 starts as a freshman while earning $108,334. After winter vacation he returned with two strong qualifiers before his first start of the year in last week’s Dexter Cup elimination. The colt flashed early speed from post three in the race and avoided trouble when the favored Well Built made a break approaching the quarter call.

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“He was a little warm behind the gate and a bit grabby,” said driver Brian Sears, who took the lines for the first time behind the colt.

Down the backstretch the second time, Sumatra, who was sent off as the 6-5 second choice, gave way to a quick move from Sheer Action. But unlike most horses which pack it in when passed, Sumatra battled back and finished a good third, beaten by fewer than two lengths.

“I think I may have cut his air a bit,” said Sears. “I talked to Andy (Miller, previous driver) about the horse, and if I would have known then what I know now, I would have driven him differently.”

Starting from post one in Saturday’s final, Sears is expecting a good effort. It certainly didn’t hurt his chances when elimination winner Sarcastic Man drew furthest outside in post eight. Sarcastic Man has earned just over $104k in his career and easily ranks second in the field for that category.

Others worth noting from the elimination were King City (post four), who finished a good second behind Sarcastic Man last week, and Sheer Action (post five), who was parked for two turns and went a long mile. Of course, there is no telling how good Derby (post two), Donato’s Wish (post three) and Dave Briggs (post six) would have been since they were all wiped out of the race by breaker Well Built.

The Dexter Cup is slated as race 10 on the 14-race card at Freehold. Post time is 12:30 PM.