06/06/2015 11:05PM

Meadowlands: JL Cruze upsets Father Patrick in Graduate

Lisa Photo
JL Cruze drifted across the track but had the most trot in the stretch.

Some horses had to work for a living this winter and the fruit of their labor paid off in a big way on Saturday night at the Meadowlands. It was second-leg action of the renewed Graduate series, now for 4-year-olds exclusively, and the night belonged to the winter warriors as JL Cruze pulled off the biggest upset of the night vanquishing Father Patrick in one of two $56,250 divisions for trotters. Earlier in the card, Rockeyed Optimist, making his 10th start of the year, easily put away the $1.5 million winner JK Endofanera in the homestretch scoring his ninth victory as a 4-year-old over the favorite.

JL Cruze meant business from the start and catch driver David Miller made no mistakes, jetting to the front and securing control through a 26 4/5 opening quarter with Opulent Yankee reluctantly taking a seat and Father Patrick, the prohibitive favorite, content to race from behind. Miller slammed on the breaks down the backstretch waiting for the favorite and the obligatory brush came during a pedestrian 29 2/5 second quarter. Father Patrick and driver Yannick Gingras appeared to have the race in their hands marching off to a 1:24 1/5 three quarters, but Miller wasted no time at headstretch pulling the gelded son of Crazed from the pocket and making up ground quickly. Though the Eric Ell trainee drifted in the stretch, he had plenty of energy to go by in a career best 1:51 mile.

“John (Campbell) told me all about this horse,” said Miller in deference to JL Cruze’s regular pilot on assignment in Canada. “It’s not easy to beat that horse (Father Patrick). I really like this horse.”

Rockeyed Optimist perhaps put in the best performance of his racing career as driver Tim Tetrick was able to reserve him early off contentious fractions of 25 4/5 and 53 3/5. Once J K Endofanera brushed to the front, Tetrick took the bait and advanced with Rockeyed Optimist. The 4-year-old gelding took on the slight favorite on the final turn and wore him down most impressively in the stretch, pacing a career best 1:48 mile for trainer Steve Elliott.

“He just keeps getting better,” said Tetrick. “He can take air and he wants to go by when he looks another horse in the eye.”

Elliott and Tetrick swept the $56,250 Graduate pacing divisions, coming back with Doo Wop Hanover in the second division in an identical 1:48 clocking. The pair has now won consecutive Graduate legs, assuring a berth in the final.

Shake It Cerry also made it two straight Graduate legs with a 1:51 4/5 win for trainer-driver Jimmy Takter as the 1-2 betting choice. The daughter of Donato Hanover converted on a pocket trip.

“On the last turn she swelled up on me,” Takter said, suggesting the mare is starting to come into form.