05/06/2012 9:00AM

Meadowlands: Rockincam wins stretch battle in Graduate Pace elimination

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Rockincam wins the $50,000 Graduate Pace elimination on Saturday at the Meadowlands.

New Meadowlands chief Jeff Gural believes in aged racing. He has helped alter the rules to insure that 3-year-olds return to race at 4.  On Saturday at his track, it was the 5-year-old Rockincam, a horse that wasn’t ready at 4 to take on the best, who stole the spotlight with an eye-catching, 1:48 1/5-victory in the $50,000 Graduate Pace elimination.

The son of Cambest got away slowly from his rail position with driver Dave Miller not looking to stress the horse. That strategy changed markedly when defending Graduate winner Foiled Again strolled up on the outside and waited for Miller to make his move. At this point, Golden Receiver, one of the top aged performers this year, had already made two moves and had the lead through a 54 2/5-second opening half. Miller and Rockincam engaged Golden Receiver on the final turn and the two battled into the stretch.

Surprisingly, the rough first over trip took little of the sting out of the Stephen Farrell-owned homebred who shifted into overdrive in the homestretch, pacing home in 26 3/5 while overpowering Golden Receiver.

All but Powerful Mist return for Saturday’s (May 12) $180,000 final, with Rockincam’s connections, including trainer Richard “Nifty” Norman, having the option to pick their post. The eight finalists, which include third-place finisher Foiled Again and last year’s Breeders Crown champion Bettor Sweet, will be joined by Levy champion Atochia who earned a bye for the eliminations. Also taking a bye was Aracache Hanover who finished a solid second in an open event at Woodbine on Saturday.

The victory by Rockincam ($7) was his third in four trips to post this year. He has won twice at the Meadowlands, both from the pole position while racing off the lead on both occasions.

Winning Mister was already a very good horse before leading driver Tim Tetrick was named to guide the 6-year-old by Angus Hall. With 9 wins in 11 starts in 2012, Robert Key’s homebred has been nearly flawless this year. On Friday in a $40,000 prep for the May 12 $210,000 Arthur J. Cutler Memorial final, Winning Mister trotted to the fastest mile of his brilliant career going wire to wire in a scintillating 1:51 3/5 clocking. Winning Mister is approaching the seven-figure mark in career earnings, having done some of his best racing in Pennsylvania over the five-eighths mile ovals at Chester (now Harrah’s Philadelphia) and The Meadows. His victory Friday ($3.60) puts him at an elite level and affords his connections a chance at a rematch with Glorys Comet champion Mister Herbie on Saturday. Mister Herbie, who defeated 2011 Horse of the Year San Pail in the Glorys Comet final, (a race Winning Mister failed to reach) earned a bye for the Cutler prep.

Also on Saturday, chalk players had some anxious moments as pilot Mark MacDonald, aboard odds-on favorite Bolt The Duer in the $49,584 John Simpson Memorial for 3-year-old pacing colts, got boxed in. MacDonald steered Bolt The Duer very much the same way he would if the horse was on a half-mile track going hard into the first turn to force tucks. He got caught slowing the pace too much in the second quarter and was ambushed by longshot Friday At Five before the half and elected to yield rather than park the outsider.

Fortunately for the horse and driver, room developed at the head of the stretch when second-choice Mel Mara swung wide off cover allowing the pair to slip off the rail and into striking position. Once clear, Bolt The Duer sprinted a sub-27-second final quarter to rally past Mel Mara for the 1:51 3/5 victory.

In a post-race interview, MacDonald admitted that he was “lucky” to get out. Bolt The Duer who paid $3.80 is pointing toward the Art Rooney (June 2) at Yonkers.