07/31/2012 10:55PM

Harness: Check Me Out vs. Maven in classic Hambletonian Oaks matchup

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Barbara D. Livingston
Check Me Out is the 4/5 favorite in the Hambletonian Oaks.

There’s not much separating rivals Check Me Out and Maven going into Saturday’s $714,050Hambletonian Oaks at the Meadowlands. The fillies are pretty much the same size, have relatively the same amount of speed, both have top drivers and both hail from solid trotting trainers.

This year the two have only met twice, with Maven winning the first battle easily and losing the richest race of the year by a scant nose to rival Check Me Out.

In their first encounter, a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes race at The Meadows in May, Maven led from start to finish.

In the $519,400 Elegantimage final at Mohawk, Maven followed Check Me Out’s cover the final half and lost a close photo.

[HAMBLETONIAN OAKS: Watch race previews, see Saturday's full card LIVE]

While Check Me Out's connections flirted with the Hambletonian, no one was talking about Maven racing against the boys and some looked at Check Me Out’s defection to the Oaks as going for the easy money.

Both trainers recognize the quality of the other horse.

“Check Me Out is one heck of a good horse,” said Jonas Czernyson, Maven’s trainer.

“The only way we can be worse than second is if my truck gets stuck on Route 80,” said Ray Schnittker, trainer of Check Me Out. “Maven’s a solid filly.”

Despite the presence of these two rivals, the Oaks won’t be a two-horse race. That’s primarily because Win Missy B, the top-rated filly in pre-season rankings, remains a contender, if only because she’s displayed wild speed all season long.

Schnittker likes the prospects of his filly racing from off the pace.

“I think any good horse races better from off the pace,” said Schnittker.

Both recognized talent early in their prized 3-year-old fillies. For Czernyson it came early in training.

“She had me on the ground,” Czernyson said. “I don’t know if that told me how good she was going to be but it showed me how tough she was.”

For Schnittker it was Check Me Out’s monster mile at Tioga as a 2-year-old that served notice. The 1:56 mile came in the Tompkins last July.

“I didn’t sit behind her that much training up to the races because I go behind the problem horses,” said Schnittker.

While Maven gets turned out daily, Check Me Out spends most of her time in the stall each day. Both fillies are good shippers, with Check Me Out clearly having a big lead in mileage following last year’s 16-start campaign.

Both fillies are by Hambletonian winning stallions. Check Me Out is by 2007 race winner Donato Hanover and Maven is by the 2006 Hambo champion Glidemaster.

Trainer Czernyson has the edge in Hambletonian Oaks victories. He sent out Jalopy to an upset victory in the 2005 edition of the classic.

Schnittker won the 2008 Hambletonian with Deweycheatumnhowe.

The two fillies began their racing careers on the exact same day in the exact same race. Check Me Out and Maven debuted on June 4, 2011 at the Meadowlands with Check Me Out winning in 2:01 and Maven finishing fourth beaten more than 13 lengths in the baby race.

The two met for real money in a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at Harrah’s Chester on August 19 last year with Check Me Out scoring in 1:55 2/5 and Maven finishing third after an eventful trip which saw her cutting the early pace and breaking past the half.

The paths of Maven and Check Me Out will cross for only the fourth time in stakes action on Saturday with Maven looking to even the score in head-to-head competition.

It should be a thriller far from Manila!

Oaks Tale of the Tape - Check Me Out vs. Maven

  Check Me Out Maven
Foaling Date 3/28/2009 5/11/2009
Height 15.3 Hands 15.3 Hands
Shoes Aluminum Front / Steel Behind ½ inch, ½ Round Front / Full Swedge Behind
Notable Siblings First Foal Lanson - 1:51 3/5
Purchase Price $80,000 (Private) $37,000 Lexington
Lifetime Mark 1:51 3/5 1:52 4/5
Fastest Last ¼ :27 2/5 :27 1/5
Lifetime Wins 20 12