02/04/2016 11:30AM

Meadowlands: Callahan provides insight into Saturday drives

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Derick Giwner
Corey Callahan is sixth in North America on the wins leaderboard for 2016.

One of the sport’s leading drivers, Corey Callahan, is already off to a quick start in 2016 and he’ll enter the second month of the year with a full plate of contenders on Saturday’s 14-race Meadowlands program. Callahan, like many of the top drivers, has to shuffle from track-to-track to earn a living but has devoted weekends to the Meadowlands.

In Saturday’s second race, Callahan will sit behind the 3-year-old Brooklynite in a non-winners of 2 conditioned event for 3 and 4-year-old pacers.

“He qualified back well,” said Callahan.

In his first start as a sophomore on January 31 at Dover, Brooklynite finished third and the driver was impressed.

“He hadn’t raced in four weeks,” said Callahan. “He really wasn’t tired in the stretch the other two just paced away from him.”

[PICK FIVE CARRYOVER: Derick Giwner's video analysis of the $18,653 Friday Meadowlands carryover]

In Brooklynite, Callahan thinks he’s got a good chance most noticeably because of the work done between the freshman and sophomore season.

“Last year he would jump on the right line late in the race and pull himself up,” said Callahan, who also noted that Brooklynite was castrated during the break and underwent a throat operation.

Brooklynite drew post three and could be a contender if Connecting Flight, a 4-year-old that has shown wicked speed in qualifiers but has also made breaks, doesn’t come with his A-game.

Callahan likes Hot Summer Knight in the fourth race but politics being what it is elected to go with Massive Lightning from post four.

“He qualified pretty well,” said Callahan of the now 4-year-old. “I think he should be ready for this level.”

Pappy’s Pal has proven a tricky horse for Callahan to get along with and he’ll have to see where things go from post six in the evening’s fifth race.

“You have to trick him into going,” said Callahan, revealing how important it is for a driver to know his horse well. “He was a little flat the other night. The time before that he was really loaded finishing.”

Rockin Wizard has been racing at a higher level and drops in class with Callahan driving him for trainer Michael Russo from post five in the seventh race. “I think the drop will help him. I’d like to get him close to the pace,” said Callahan. “I really couldn’t pull him last week, they were going so much up front and I was just trying to keep up.” The result was a fifth-place finish for Rockin Wizard and a drop in company.

Calvin B makes his 2016 debut in race eight and Callahan was happy with his qualifiers but not certain about the reasonably tough company he’ll have to meet this week.

“He was much better qualifying last week,” said Callahan. “I followed Rockeyed Optimist and he finished well. The week before I really didn’t want to cut the mile with him but there was no one else in the field that would.” Calvin B drew the rail but will have to deal with a more seasoned field in this event.

Callahan’s association with trainer Steve Elliott has him sitting behind McArdles Lightning in the ninth race and the driver has some experience behind the 4-year-old making his first 2016 appearance.

“He went an incredible trip last year. I think it was the last race on Hambletonian Day and he went a vicious mile and an eighth,” Callahan said, recalling a huge effort.

After that mile McCardles Lightning was mostly a check getter in Sire Stakes competition in Pennsylvania.

McCardles Lightning drew post nine with Callahan staying loyal to Elliott but he also thinks Dune Dude (post 5) enters the race really sharp. Callahan had also been listed on Dune Dude.

Lets Rock Together landed the outside post 10 in the evening’s 11th race, but Callahan believes he’s got a good chance regardless. “I gave him a bad drive last week,” said Callahan bluntly while squarely taking the blame for the third-place finish. “He can leave the gate and I can get him into a good spot.”

Even top drivers have their share of bad streaks and last Friday was one of those for Callahan.

“I think three of the first four trotters I drove broke behind the gate,” said Callahan. “I kept coming back to the paddock and looking to see if there was a pacing race coming up.”

“They were good horses and you start asking yourself if it was the horse and then you think it had to be me,” said Callahan.

Fortunately for a driver of Callahan’s caliber, Friday is already a distant memory.

“That’s the great thing about harness racing,” Callahan said, “You get to do it all over again the next day.”