07/16/2015 1:13PM

Meadowlands: Graduate winners hope to keep rolling

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Jason Lisa/Lisa Photo
Doo Wop Hanover is the 5-2 morning line choice in the Haughton Memorial on Saturday (July 18).

After winning the Graduate Series for 4-year-old pacers, Doo Wop Hanover will try to move to the head of the class in Saturday’s $430,600 William R. Haughton Memorial at Meadowlands Racetrack.

Doo Wop Hanover goes to the Haughton – where there is no restriction on age – with a four-race win streak after sweeping three preliminary divisions and the final of the Graduate. He has won six of 10 races overall this season and earned $254,020 for owners Peter Blood and Rick Berks.

He will start the Haughton from post No. 5 with John Campbell driving for trainer Steve Elliott and is the 5-2 morning line favorite.

The nine-horse Haughton field also includes Ben Franklin Pace winner Luck Be Withyou, Molson Pace champion State Treasurer, last season’s North America Cup winner JK Endofanera, and harness racing’s all-time richest horse Foiled Again.

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Doo Wop Hanover is among four 4-year-olds – along with Luck Be Withyou, JK Endofanera, and Lyonssomewhere – in the Haughton.

“He’s learned how to race,” Elliott said about Doo Wop Hanover, who has won 12 of 39 lifetime starts and earned $561,327. “He’s more controllable this year. Now he’ll sit outside and ride instead of trying to run off with you. He’s bigger and stronger. He’s just a nice horse.”

The Haughton will be Doo Wop Hanover’s second stakes-level test against older horses this year. He finished third, beaten by a nose, in a round of the TVG Free For All Pacing Series in May. The race was won by JK Endofanera.

“Anytime you can race 4-year-olds against 4-year-olds, you’re racing good horses, but they’re all pretty equal,” Elliott said. “The older horses can throw four :26 quarters at you like it’s nothing. Three-year-olds, there are a few that can, but most of them have to have a :27 quarter somewhere.

“I think it’s beneficial that they have the 4-year-old races. It allowed the horses to grow into themselves. That 3- to 4-year-old transition, where they had to race against all the older horses, it didn’t get much tougher than that. If you could pick your spot and get a trip, it was OK, but week in and week out it’s very tough. You have to go against the likes of Foiled Again and those kinds of horses, they’re just flat-out iron horses. And there are a lot of good horses out there now.”

Luck Be Withyou is the 3-1 second choice in the Haughton, where he will start from post nine with Brian Sears driving for trainer Chris Oakes. State Treasurer, starting from post eight with David Miller at the lines for Ian Moore, is 7-2 on the morning line.

Doo Wop Hanover is not the only Graduate Series champion looking to keep a win streak alive on Saturday. JL Cruze, who won the Graduate’s trotting edition with a world-record 1:49 4/5 triumph last weekend, is the 3-5 favorite in the $443,300 Hambletonian Maturity for 4-year-old trotters. It was JL Cruze’s 11th consecutive victory and gave the gelding 15 wins in 17 starts this season.

Campbell will drive JL Cruze from post six for trainer Eric Ell and owners Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar Jr., and Stephen Iaquinta. The connections paid $50,000 to supplement JL Cruze to the Hambletonian Maturity.

The six-horse Hambletonian Maturity will be contested at 1-1/8 miles. The remainder of the field, in post order, is Father Patrick, Shake It Cerry, Resolve, Gural Hanover, and Il Sogno Dream.

JL Cruze raced through the winter and spring, captured four series championships -- the Super Bowl, Singer Memorial, Shiaway St Pat and Weiss – prior to the Graduate. He posted three wins over Father Patrick in the Graduate Series, edged 2014 Trotter of the Year Shake It Cerry by a nose with his world-record effort in the final, and also holds a victory over world champion Sebastian K.

“He’s more than surprised us,” Dittmar said about JL Cruze, who was purchased by the group for $37,000 at November’s Standardbred Horse Sale Mixed Sale. “We thought he would be very competitive in the winter series, getting into the Graduate Series we just hoped he could get some checks. But the more he raced, the better he got. It’s just a dream come true.”

The 1:49 4/5 mile last weekend was the first sub-1:50 win by a trotter on a mile racetrack in harness racing history. The only faster victories on any sized track anywhere were Sebastian K’s 1:49 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono last year and Enough Talk’s 1:49 3/5 at Colonial Downs in 2008.

“When you see 1:49.4 come up (on the timer) for the first time ever at the Meadowlands, I’ve been in this business for 30-some years, and it’s just crazy,” Dittmar said. “How else can you explain it? When you think of all the great trotters that have raced at this track, to see us come up here and do 1:49.4 is just absolutely amazing.”

-Courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com