04/25/2015 3:16PM

Harness: Best of the best on display in Meadowlands qualifiers

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Derick Giwner
Melady's Monet led the way as Father Patrick tracked from the pocket a content second.

Some of harness racing’s biggest stars, including five Dan Patch Award winners, were in qualifier action Saturday at the Meadowlands Racetrack, where they were greeted by an unseasonably cold morning and stiff headwind in the stretch.

Three of the Dan Patch Award winners – older trotters Father Patrick, Market Share and Bee A Magician – met in the ninth of the day’s 16 qualifiers, but it was Kevin McDermott-trained Melady’s Monet who led them all to the finish line. Melady’s Monet, who has raced in the Opens during the winter at the Meadowlands and has won five of eight starts this season, won by 1-1/4 lengths over Father Patrick in 1:54 4/5.

Market Share was third and Bee A Magician fourth, both timed in 1:56.

Four-year-old Father Patrick, making his first trip of the season to the track, and driver Yannick Gingras were content to sit behind Melady’s Monet through the stretch after fractions of 29 1/5, 57 4/5, and 1:27. No harness racing horse earned more money last year than Father Patrick, who banked $1.69 million. He was a divisional Dan Patch Award winner at both ages 2 and 3.

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“(Father) Patrick looked fantastic,” trainer Jimmy Takter said. “Yannick said he was just crawling over (Melady’s Monet), but he didn’t want to make a sprint of it.”

Father Patrick, whose wins in 2014 included the Breeders Crown for 3-year-old male trotters, Canadian Trotting Classic and Beal Memorial, has done stallion duty while preparing for this season.

“He loves it,” Takter said. “Everything is good. He’s filled out quite a bit; he’s much more stout.”

Bee A Magician, a 5-year-old mare who was the Dan Patch Award Horse of the Year in 2013, was making her final qualifying start prior to the Miami Valley Distaff on May 3.

“She was good,” trainer Nifty Norman said. “She’s come back really good. I’m very happy with her. (Driver Brian Sears) likes to qualify nice and simple, but he’s very happy with her. If he’s happy, I’m happy.”

Market Share, a 6-year-old who has won $3.68 million in his career and received Dan Patch Award honors at ages 3 and 4, was making his first qualifying start as he gets ready for the Cutler Memorial (eliminations May 9) at the Meadowlands.

"It was pretty much what we expected,” trainer Linda Toscano said. “We’ve kind of gone back to basics and we knew we were going to race him just at the end of the mile. It was such a tough qualifier; we don’t really have anything to prove. We just needed to get some work under him.

“He’ll come back and qualify again next week and he should be the better for it. If he acts like he’s good for the Cutler, we’ll go to the Cutler. He’ll tell us.”

Derick Giwner      Pinkman (4) won easily.

Pinkman, who was voted the 2014 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter, was the only award-winner to win his qualifier. The Takter-trainee won by three-quarters of a length over stablemate Uncle Lasse in 1:55 1/5.

Aldebaran Eagle and Cruzado Dela Noche, who each won an International Stallion Stakes division last year, were third and fourth, respectively, followed by Breeders Crown runner-up Muscle Diamond.

Last season, Pinkman won six of eight races and earned $566,960. Named after a character from the television series, “Breaking Bad,” the gelding’s victories included the Breeders Crown, in a stakes-record-equaling 1:53 2/5, and Valley Victory Stakes.

“Pinkman is so lazy,” Takter said. “He does what you ask of him. It’s not impressive at all, but that’s him. And he wins. He might be one of those horses we always underestimate.”

Artspeak, who received the 2014 Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old male pacer, made his first qualifying effort Saturday, but went off stride approaching the three-quarters point and finished 10th. Hurrikane Ali, trained by John McDermott Jr., won in 1:51 4/5.

Last year, Artspeak won eight of 10 races and earned $742,185, with top wins coming in the Metro Pace and Governor’s Cup. He went off stride in both losses.

“He loses his focus sometimes when he comes first over like that,” trainer Tony Alagna said. “He did it the other day training up here. He just doesn’t pay attention. (Driver Scott Zeron) says he felt perfect, he just loses his focus. If he’s on a helmet, he doesn’t do it. But he’s got to be able to come first over as well.

“I’m going to take his hobbles back in a little bit more because they’re still two inches longer than they were last year. We’ll train him next week and make sure he’s OK before we put him back in to qualify. That’s why we gave ourselves some extra time, just to make sure, because he’s done it before. It’s frustrating, but if training horses was easy everybody would do it. We’ll fix it and he’ll be as good as ever.”

Takter sent out four qualifier winners, with 3-year-old filly trotters Wild Honey (1:551/5), Lilu Hanover (1:57 4/5) and Fly Angel Fly (1:56 3/5) joining Pinkman in victory. Takter’s 3-year-old male trotters The Bank, Walter White and French Laundry finished second through fourth behind Crazy Wow in another qualifier featuring multiple stakes winners.

“I thought they qualified very good,” Takter said. “It’s tough weather; the wind is tough, but I’m happy with all of them.”

Crazy Wow, who won last year’s New York Sire Stakes championship for 2-year-old male trotters, was making his debut for trainer Ron Burke after spending last season with Dan O’Mara. Crazy Wow won in 1:54 1/5.

“He was very good,” Burke said. “I wasn’t surprised, but he was even better than I thought he would be.”

Burke also had wins with 3-year-old filly pacers Happiness (1:53 1/5) and Southwind Roulette (1:53 3/5). JK Endofanera, who won the 2014 North America Cup, finished second to Larry Remmen-trained Somesizesomestyle in 1:51.3 in a qualifier for older male pacers. Somesizesomestyle was a Breeders Crown runner-up in 2014.

“Overall I thought it was real good,” Burke said. “I was happy with JK Endofanera; he was strong for his first start. My better horses were what they should have been. They improved today. That’s all you’re looking for, improvement each time.”

Steve Elliott had two qualifier winners, with 3-year-old male trotter Twain Drive (1:56 2/5) and 3-year-old male pacer Artistic Major (1:53 2/5). Toscano’s Dapper Don won a qualifier for 3-year-old male trotters in 1:58 2/5 and Alagna’s 4-year-old male trotter Propulsion won in 1:55.

Other winners were Wayne Givens’ 5-year-old pacing mare Jerseylicious (1:51 4/5) and Monte Gelrod’s 3-year-old male pacer Maxdaddy Blue Chip (1:52 3/5).

-Courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com