07/14/2017 6:08PM

Meadowlands: Pure Country attempts to beat the ‘Shadow’ in $201K Golden Girls

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Derick Giwner
Lady Shadow will have to overcome post 10 in Saturday's Golden Girls.

Months before stakes racing commenced in 2017, harness enthusiasts around the world could dream about the potential for a season-long battle in the older pacing mare division between reigning queen Lady Shadow and an influx of fresh 4-year-olds coming off spectacular sophomore campaigns. Despite the ingredients being in place for great racing, Lady Shadow has dominated as last year’s 3-year-old filly champion Pure Country has failed to make an impact.

Perhaps that is all about to change on Saturday as 11 of the finest mares hook up in the $201,000 Golden Girls at The Meadowlands as part of a stakes-filled card that gets underway at 6:30 p.m.

Lady Shadow is of course in the field as she tries to extend her unbeaten streak to six to starts the year. Already a winner in the $150,000 Betsy Ross at Harrah’s Philadelphia and the $266,450 Roses Are Red final at Mohawk, driver Yannick Gingras will have to overcome post 10 to win, but with the race scheduled as a 1-1/8 mile event, he’ll have an extra eight-of-a-mile straightaway to utilize her early speed.

[DRF HARNESS LIVE: Watch Live Video and get real-time insights for Saturday's Meadowlands Pace card.]

“It definitely makes it a little easier because of the long run to the first turn and knowing the extra distance didn’t bother her last year is also nice to know,” said Gingras.

If Gingras elects to fire Lady Shadow off the gate, she could have some company in the form of Pure Country from post 1. The Jimmy Takter-trained daughter of Somebeachsomewhere has yet to find the winner’s circle in four starts this year but is coming off a world record 1:48 qualifying win with the trainer in the bike.

“She’s coming off that qualifier, kind of impressive,” said owner Adam Bowden of Diamond Creek Racing. “I think that Jimmy wanted to wake her up a little bit. She’s had bad posts and kind of bad trips, but the talent was always there. That qualifier kind of showed that. I hope she draws well and gets put in a position where she can show that high speed and she can carry it a long way. She’s shown that she can come a last half in 53 or faster. She can come first over, she can be on the lead; she just needs to be in the race early.”

Regular driver Brett Miller is back in the bike on Saturday, but the decision to have Takter drive in the qualifier was purposeful.

“I knew (Jimmy) was going to drive her to kind of shake her up and wake her up,” said Bowden. “But I don’t think anybody goes in thinking you’re going to go a 1:48 mile. I expected she was going to be sub-1:50, but 1:48 is a whole other animal.”

While he would prefer it if she was winning every week, Bowden has taken the losing in stride.

“Obviously it’s disappointing after what she did at 2 and 3, but she’s had tough trips and she’s been sick most of her starts, battling something,” said Bowden. “We kind of got her cleaned up after Canada and she’s showed that she’s sharp again. I’m anticipating a good second half of the year now.”

The only horse to get within breathing distance of Lady Shadow at the wire this year is also in the field. Nike Franco N finished her mile with a 26-second final quarter to finish a neck shy of Lady Shadow in a Preferred Handicap prep at The Meadowands last Saturday. She was also second behind Lady Shadow in the Betsy Ross back in May.

Although youth is well represented with seven 4-year-olds in the field, Nike Franco (post 4), who will be driven by Tim Tetrick, is a 7-year-old Down Under import with just 45 career starts, which compares quite evenly against her younger counterparts.

The remainder of the Golde Girls field, scheduled as race 11 on a 13-race program, includes: Lyons River Pride (post 2), Call Me Queen Be (post 3), Penpal (post 4), Rock Me Baby (post 6), Blue Moon Stride (post 7), Frost Damage Blues (post 8), Shesjustadelight N (post 9) and Windsun Glory (post 11).