05/27/2015 4:23PM

Meadowlands: Hurrikane Ali ready to fight in NJSS final

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Ken Weingartner/USTA Photo
Hurrikane Ali is perfect in three 2015 starts.

There could come a time when Hurrikane Ali can be called the greatest, but for now he is just out to prove himself.

Hurrikane Ali is 3-for-3 this season as he prepares for Saturday’s $100,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes championship for 3-year-old male pacers at the Meadowlands. Among the horses standing in his way of winning the crown is Artspeak, who defeated Hurrikane Ali by 1-3/4 lengths to capture last year’s NJSS title and also received the Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old male pacer.

“We’ve got Ali here, who would like to be the champ,” said John McDermott, who trains the colt with his son John Jr. “But to be the champ you’ve got to beat the champ, and we ain’t beat him yet.”

Hurrikane Ali, whose three victories this season include two preliminary rounds of the New Jersey Sire Stakes, and driver Yannick Gingras will start from post four in the NJSS final. Artspeak, who has won nine of 11 career starts and never finished worse than third, leaves from post eight with Scott Zeron at the lines for trainer Tony Alagna.

Saturday’s card at the Meadowlands also features $100,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes championships for 3-year-old female pacers as well as 3-year-old male and female trotters.

Dan Patch Award winner Mission Brief headlines the race for female trotters, but will have to overcome starting from post 10. Stakes winner Happiness and Lindys Old Lady, unbeaten in her only two career starts, are among the 10 finalists among female pacers while French Laundry and Guess Whos Back will try to stay unbeaten this year in the final for male trotters.

Hurrikane Ali is a son of stallion Rocknroll Hanover out of the mare She’s The Greatest. He is a half-brother to stakes winners Driven To Win and Latte Lady and his family includes Dan Patch Award winner She’s A Great Lady. He was purchased under the name He’s So Great for $63,000 at the 2013 Lexington Selected Sale.

“I don’t spend that kind of money, but after watching Pet Rock and A Rocknroll Dance against ‘Cole’ I said I’ve got to give it one more shot,” McDermott said, referring to his now retired world champion Hurrikane Kingcole. “I really liked this one. He’s really nicely put together, a solid horse with a great head. His conformation is real good and his body, he just has mass to him. He’s a strong, strong horse.”

Hurrikane Ali raced five times at age 2, finishing second on three occasions, including the New Jersey Sire Stakes final. But the colt would get on the right line while racing – to the point of going off stride in his final start of the campaign – and McDermott decided to shut down the horse in August after he was unable to find any physical ailment causing the trouble. The issue resurfaced again earlier this year, but a bridle change corrected the problem.

“He came off the line and he hasn’t touched it since,” McDermott said. “I guess it was just dumb luck, but I’ll take it.”

Hurrikane Ali has won all three of his starts this year by at least 1-1/4 lengths, with a best time of 1:50. McDermott knows the horse can go faster, the question is how much faster.

“I’ve yet to see him tired,” McDermott said. “He doesn’t blow after the races. He’s got a huge set of lungs on him and he loves what he’s doing. He comes out of the race sharper than he goes in.

“He’s just a happy-go-lucky colt. He doesn’t know he’s working right now, which is absolutely great. There’s no stress to him at all. He’s got some great manners and a great head on his shoulders. I just hope he has the speed.”

Hurrikane Ali – owned by Kuhen Racing, Jonathan Klee Racing, Kenneth M. Rucker, MD, and Robert Pucila – is eligible to a number of major stakes, including the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace, and Breeders Crown. For now, though, his connections are focused on Saturday.

“I think it’s going to be a great race,” McDermott said. “I think my horse is really sharp. Artspeak is a wonderful horse and I just hope we get to have a great battle. Either way, I just want it to be a really wonderful race. There are a few other real nice ones in there, too, but Artspeak is the one to beat.

“If we have a great race and they go on the wire together, I’m thrilled with that. Win or lose I’ll be thrilled with that kind of mile.”

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