07/15/2016 10:25AM

Meadowlands: Racing Hill vs. Control The Moment in Pace Final

Nikki Sherman
TRainer Tony Alagna and driver Brett Miller hope to be celebrating after the Meadowlands Pace with Racing Hill.

It is difficult to look at the 2016 edition of the Meadowlands Pace as anything other than a two-horse race. In a field where only a trio of the 10 entrants has won a race in his last three starts, finding value is going to prove difficult for even the sharpest handicapper.

The two heavy chalks come post time for the 40th edition of the Meadowlands’ signature race on Saturday are sure to be Control The Moment and Racing Hill. Each of the two 3-year-old colts head into the $732,050 final having won two of their last three starts.

The true role of favoritism seems likely to fall to the Tony Alagna-trained Racing Hill. A son of Roll With Joe, Racing Hill was a strong second in the rich North America Cup on June 18 and followed that effort up with back-to-back wins at Pocono Downs in the Max Hempt elimination and Final.

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Racing Hill skipped last week’s Meadowlands Pace elimination to get a rare week off during the grueling schedule for the sophomore pacers.

“Anytime you can take a week off and go right to the final it is a good thing,” said Alagna. “We got a bye with Captaintreacherous and Wake Up Peter (2013 Meadowlands Pace). I didn’t take a bye one time on a pacing filly and she hit the gate, made a break and never made the final of the Breeders Crown, so I will never pass up the chance for a bye.”

While Racing Hill was relaxing, Control The Moment was winning the lone Pace elimination with a sparkling late rally. The Bradley Maxwell-conditioned son of Well Said paced a 26 2/5 final quarter while making up nearly five lengths to power past Lyons Snyder in deep stretch. His winning time of 1:49 matched the mark set by Racing Hill in the Hempt Final and by Lyons Snyder in the Somebeachsomwehere at Mohawk in early June.

“I was happy as hell,” said Maxwell after the win. “He has been racing well all year. He just hasn’t gotten any post relief yet and now this week he does.”

Racing Hill has yet to miss the board in six 2016 starts while accumulating $450,340 for owner Tom Hill. While it is clear to see the colt’s form on paper, Alagna couldn’t be happier with how his horse is coming into the race.

“He came out of the race in great shape. He was well in hand that night,” said Alagna about the Hempt effort. “I trained him a couple of light trips on Thursday (July 7) and he trained great.

“I’m very confident in the horse,” he continued. “I’ve always been confident in him. The most important thing is that Brett (Miller, driver) is confident in him. To win in (1:)49 flat like he did the other day, leaving in 25 4/5, shutting him down and taking off again with the plugs in, it just shows you where the horse is at with his confidence as well.”

Another man with confidence heading into the Meadowlands Pace is Brian Sears. Despite sitting behind Control The Moment for the first time in his elimination, Sears pressed all the right buttons with last year’s Canadian 2-year-old champion.

“I’ve seen the horse race. He’s a beauty animal. He looks the part and just having the trip work out and having him have the manners to win a race like this. I couldn’t be more pleased,” said Sears after the win.

The elimination win gave Control The Moment the added opportunity to draw for an inside post and that advantage landed him post three, just inside of Racing Hill in post four. The morning line has Racing Hill as the 9-5 favorite ahead of Control The Moment at 5-2, but both horses are expected to drop a few notches from those odds when the gate rolls at 10:18 p.m. for race 11.

“On paper it looks that way, but you never know which of these 3-year-olds can pop up,” said Alagna about the Final being a two-horse race. “Right now the way he (Control The Moment) raced tonight and the way my horse has been, on paper it looks like it would be a surprise of neither of those two won, but it is always a horse race and you never know when one of these horses will come back to form and get up to win.”

Sears reiterated the need for caution when narrowing the field down to just two contenders. “Big races are big races, anything can happen. You definitely need some luck on your side, but when you have some power on your side it makes it a little easier,” said Sears.

The potential third choice in the 10-horse field is Lyons Snyder. The Mark Silva charge finished second behind Control The Moment last week and will start from post five with David Miller handling the lines.

Boston Red Rocks continues to search for the form that made him the 2-year-old colt champion in the U.S. last year. While he has earned $182,660 this year, driver Tim Tetrick has only been able to get him home first in two of his eight starts. The pair will start from the six-hole on Saturday.

Trainer Ron Burke sends out a troika of outsiders from outside posts seven through nine. JK Will Power and Check Six have each made north of $300,000 in 2016 and either could elect to charge off the gate early  for drivers Yannick Gingras and Matt Kakaley, respectively. Manhattan Beach has but one win in nine starts this year and figures to offer one of the larger prices on the toteboard.

Rounding out the field are fellow longshots Another Daily Copy (post 1), Good Living (post 2) and Talk Show (Post 10).

The Meadowlands Pace is one of nine major stakes races on the 13-race Saturday card which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Other highlights include the Ben Franklin rematch between Wiggle It Jiggleit, Always B Miki and Freaky Feet Pete in the $471,800 William Haughton Memorial and pre-race Hambletonian favorite Southwind Frank racing in one of two divisions of the Stanley Dancer.

Wagering opportunities include three guaranteed multi-race pools and a mandatory payout of $267,769 in the Jackpot Hi-5 offered in race 12, the $223,150 Golden Girls for older pacing mares.

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