05/09/2015 11:42AM

Harness: Mission Brief, Artspeak back on track

Chris Tully
Mission Brief will make her 2015 debut on May 15 at the Meadowlands.

It was redemption day at the Meadowlands during qualifying action on Saturday morning (May 9). Divisional champions Mission Brief and Artspeak both rebounded from breaks in their previous qualifiers to post clean lines in preparation for their 2015 pari-mutuel debuts.

Mission Brief , who broke in mid-stretch in her first qualifier of the year a week ago, left at her own pace and was patiently guided to the front after a 29 2/5 opening quarter. Once in charge, the Ron Burke-trained trotting filly posted fractions of 58 4/5 and 1:28 1/5 before cruising the final quarter completely on her own in 28 1/5 seconds.

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“She felt solid,” said driver Yannick Gingras. “We probably would’ve been fine with a mile in (1):53, but I just wanted to go an easy mile with her.”

Mission Brief, who earned $591,070 while winning 9 of 13 races as the 2-year-old trotting filly champ, still displays some of the quirks of her youth—throwing her head around before the start—but is much more mature according to Gingras.

“Last year it was battle to time the gate right. Now I’m able to get her on the gate easily and control her,” said Gingras.

Mission Brief is scheduled to start next Friday (May 15) in the New Jersey Sire Stakes at the Meadowlands.

Artspeak, the divisional leader among 2-year-old pacing colts in 2014, made a break on the final turn in his initial attempt at qualifying on April 25 at the Meadowlands. While he finished only fifth today, timed in 1:53 4/5, the Tony Alagna trainee did nothing wrong during the mile.

Chris Tully      Artspeak was timed in 1:53 4/5.

Artspeak was stuck behind a gapping Too Darn Hot and was kept reserved along the cones by driver Scott Zeron until the head of the stretch. Once shown daylight, the son of Western Ideal powered home on his own with a 26 4/5 final quarter that doesn’t accurately describe his visual late speed.

“I was very happy with him,” said Alagna. “Today was all about a confidence builder. Once he got stuck behind the gapper, it was not a matter of winning the race but to pace strong through the wire.”

Artspeak, a winner of eight races and $742,185 in his rookie year, will start in the New Jersey Sire Stakes at the Meadowlands next Saturday.

Another top 3-year-old pacer, Sassa Hanover, posted a strong win from the pocket in 1:52 1/5 with Gingras in the bike. The Ron Burke charge sprinted the final quarter in 26 1/5.

“She was a week behind all of the others in her division,” said Gingras. “Last week I took it easy on her and I was planning on doing it again, but she was really grabby behind the gate and wanted to go.

“I have really high expectations for her. She’s a top filly and I’m excited to race her.”

Other standout winners on the card included 3-year-old trotting colt Guess Whos Back (1:53 3/5), 3-year-old pacing colt In The Arsenal (1:53 2/5) and aged pacer Great Vintage, who posted the fastest mile of the morning (1:51) despite drifting out through the stretch.