04/21/2016 1:29PM

Meadowlands: JL Cruze better than ever for 2016 campaign


Winning 16 of 21 races, trotting the fastest mile in the history of the Meadowlands, and earning a Dan Patch Award as the sport’s top aged trotter would seem like the perfect season for any horse. And yet trainer Eric Ell says JL Cruze probably could have been better.

“Honestly, I cannot recall a start last year where he did not have gait issues, was not on a line, or was not fighting through some sort of lameness issue,” explained the Mid-Atlantic based conditioner, who has earned a reputation for his miracle work with troubled trotters. “He has never really been all that smooth, but he is just incredible and as game a racehorse as you will find.”

According to Ell, JL Cruze has come back a lot better so far in three undefeated starts as a 5-year-old. Ell credits a change in the horse’s feed that has allowed the son of Crazed – Topcat Hall, by Conway Hall to thrive.

“Last year, he was a really picky eater and frequently would go a few days without eating much after his races,” said Ell. “We raced him very hard through all of those series that he was winning and he was fighting lameness issues. This year we are really looking forward to being able to manage his season better and giving him really only two races per month.”

The next main goal for JL Cruze will be the inaugural Elitlopp Playoff on May 8 at the Meadowlands. The $150,000 Free For All Trot is shaping up as a must-see early-season showdown that will award the winner an invitation to the Elitlopp at Solvalla Racecourse in Sweden on May 29.

Ell is giving JL Cruze this week off following a stretch of three wins over a 15-day period at the beginning of April.

“My plan is to race him at the Meadowlands next week, assuming the race fills,” said Ell. “That would then give him nine days to the Playoff, which would be the perfect amount of spacing. And my God, what a great field of horses he will face. There would be no shame in losing to any of those horses.”

--edited release (Meadowlands)