05/28/2015 2:14PM

Meadowlands: Gingras with strong Sire Stakes lineup

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Geri Schwarz
Yannick Gingras drives Mission Brief, Canepa Hanover, Hurrikane Ali and Happiness on Saturday.

No driver dominated the sport in 2014 quite like Yannick Gingras. Having driven multiple champions a year ago, it is no surprise that he could conceivably be guiding all four favorites in Saturday’s New Jersey Sire Stakes finals at the Meadowlands.

One of his returning champs, Mission Brief, kicks off his stakes quartet from post 10 in the $100,000 final for 3-year-old trotting fillies. A winner of nine races and $591,070 in 2014, the Ron Burke trainee scored an easy victory in her lone race of the year despite making a break past the wire and looking “off” to some observers.

“She was good, but for sure not perfect,” said Gingras about her 2015 debut. “I trained her this morning (Wednesday); not that fast but we went a good last quarter.”

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Mission Brief was originally slotted in post three, but due to the initial omission of Dynamite Dream, the race had to be redrawn and luck wasn’t on her side a second time.

“I’d rather have post three than post 10, but it really doesn’t matter. She can only beat herself in this spot,” said Gingras, referring to Mission Brief’s propensity to break at the most inopportune moments.

Mission Brief was installed as the 3-5 morning line favorite ahead of Riley’s Dream (5-1) and Rules of The Road (8-1) in the fourth race.

Hurrikane Ali, unbeaten in 2015, will certainly get tested in the second sophomore final on the card, this one for colt and gelding pacers. Gingras, who has guided Hurrikane Ali to all three wins this year, will leave from post four inside of last year’s 2-year-old Pacing Colt of the Year Artspeak.

Hurrikane Ali has won as he pleased in each of the first two legs of the NJSS while posting strong 1:50 1/5 and 1:50 winning times. With a strong effort on Saturday, the son of Rocknroll Hanover could be heading on to face open company as he is eligible to both the North America Cup and Meadowlands Pace.

“I like him a lot. I think he is a real horse,” said Gingras on Hurrikane Ali. “He has everything you want—speed and manners. He can be a little lazy and I have yet to really wake him up, but when I do, I think the sky is the limit.”

Artspeak, who could battle for favoritism with Hurrikane Ali, won his lone start of the year in a sizzling 1:49 despite coming off just a 1:53 4/5 qualifier. A nine-time winner in 11 starts last year, the Tony Alagna-trained colt starts from post eight with Scott Zeron in the bike.

There is no question that Happiness (post six) will be favored in the third $100,000 final, race eight on the 13-race card. The pacing filly has won two straight starts in sub 1:51 times and sports an impressive career record of five wins in nine starts. Each of her recent wins came in faster times than any of her nine competitors on Saturday.

“I trained her this morning and she was very good. I think the week off will certainly help her,” said Gingras, who mentioned Stacia Hanover as perhaps the horse he fears most in the 10-horse final.

Stacia Hanover has only one win in four starts in 2015, but has displayed impressive late speed in each of her races. She starts from post four with Zeron listed to drive for Steve Elliott. Lindys Old Lady could be another major player. The Frank Antonacci-trained filly is perfect in two career starts and is off an impressive 1:51 victory.

Gingras closes out his stakes night with Hambletonian hopeful Canepa Hanover. The Meadowlands’ leading driver hasn’t driven the trotting colt since last September but will fill in for trainer Jimmy Takter, who is missing the drive to watch his Maven compete in the Elitloppet on Sunday in Sweden.

Canepa Hanover had been brought along slowly by Takter prior to last week’s mile where the son of Muscles Hill-Cressida Hanover was parked for more than half of the mile. Now with $100,000 on the line and Gingras in the bike from an inside post, will we see some of the colt’s natural early speed?

“Jimmy (Takter) said [Canepa Hanover] was perfect the last two weeks,” said Gingras, who admitted Takter left him with no direct instructions on how to drive. “Guess Whos Back is definitely the horse to beat, but we’ll be in play early and he’ll have to work at some point to trot around us.”

Guess Whos Back, who defeated Canepa Hanover by a half-length in the second round of the Sire Stakes, is another on the road to the Hambletonian on August 8 at the Meadowlands. He is undefeated in two starts this year for the team of trainer Nik Drennan and driver Brian Sears.

Canepa Hanover starts from post four while Guess Whos Back gets post six in the final.

Post time for the Meadowlands Saturday program is 7:15 p.m.

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