11/21/2013 12:03PM

Meadowlands: Golden Receiver is back on his home turf on Saturday

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Derick Giwner
Golden Receiver last won at The Red Mile in October.

Saturday’s final TVG Free For All preliminary for pacers at the Meadowlands could be a true test of the “Horse For Courses” theory for handicappers. The lead-up to the $500,000 final on November 30 in front of the New Meadowlands grandstand matches eight of the finest pacers in North America. In the group is one of the Meadowlands’ premier horses over the last few years, Golden Receiver, as well as the richest harness horse ever, Foiled Again. On form away from the Meadowlands, it would seem to be no contest with Foiled Again in the driver’s seat. Yet those who have studied past performances for a lifetime see the Meadowlands tilting against Foiled Again and in favor of Golden Receiver.

“I don’t know what it is,” said Mark Harder, Golden Receiver’s trainer. “His whole career he’s done well here. Maybe it’s because it’s close to home.”

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Unlike Foiled Again, Golden Receiver’s past performances tend to be highs and lows with less consistency. He was in a mid-season swoon partially due to foot issues, but came to life at the Red Mile winning the Allerage Farms over a sloppy surface for catch-driver Corey Callahan.

“He put in a good run at The Red Mile,” said Harder. “It’s a war out there every week with these horses and you have to be on your toes at all times.”

Since winning the Allerage on October 6 in Kentucky, Golden Receiver hasn’t had that much racing luck, finishing off the board in all but one of his four starts. Improvement was noted in his last start, the American-National at Balmoral Park. In that mile, the eight-year-old son of Village Jove was hard-used cutting the pace under intense pressure and did well to finish fifth behind Pet Rock and the aforementioned Foiled Again.

In Saturday’s seventh of 13 races at the Meadowlands, Golden Receiver drew post two in a field of just eight. With division leader Pet Rock taking the week off and with a half-million on the line next week, there’s a real chance that Golden Receiver will get to do what he does best over the mile track he’s not only more familiar with but one that he thrives over. The quick-footed gelding may get the easy pace he needs to be effective. At The Red Mile in the Allerage, he benefitted greatly from a lack of early speed and a rated half. In recent races the intense early pressure has made it virtually impossible for driver Callahan to control the pace without paying dearly for it. On Saturday there’s a realistic chance Golden Receiver could set reasonable fractions.

“Ideally I’d like him to be good this week and even better next week,” said Harder, who at times has been puzzled by the past performances of a horse that is rapidly approaching $2 million in career earnings.

Foiled Again landed post four on Saturday. He is hoping to improve on his anemic Meadowlands win percentage. The nine-year-old has perhaps never been better than he’s been over the last month. Maybe the flipping of the start and finish marker at the Meadowlands will put him into a Bizarro world and change his fortunes in East Rutherford. The Ron Burke-trained war-horse will have regular pilot Yannick Gingras in the bike.

Warrawee Needy, a 1:46 4/5 winner at the Meadowlands earlier this year, returns to the scene of his greatest triumph with new trainer Mark Ford still in search of his first win with the Ontario-bred. Warrawee Needy landed post six with Tim Tetrick in the bike.

Harder will be racing two other pacers on Saturday’s new grandstand inauguration at the Meadowlands. Statesman N is likely to be among the favorites in a $30,000 event carded as race 11 on the program.

“I was just talking with the owners the other day about how he’s made the quietest $200,000,” said Harder. The import has finished first or second in 17 of 29 starts this year. “He’s just a pleasure to have in the barn,” said Harder, who has enjoyed incredible success with down under imports over the years. “I’ve got some good contacts down there and we’ve been fortunate to bring in some nice horses.”

Harder will also be sending out Rockstar Stride, a $300,000 yearling purchase last year that has yet to show the talent expected of him.

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“He’s been a big disappointment,” Harder said, understating this year’s results. “He showed some speed at The Red Mile. This will be his last start. I know there’s speed in there somewhere, hopefully it will come out next year.”

The two-year-old Rockstar Stride, a full brother to Put On A Show, drew post nine in race 12.

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