05/19/2013 12:05AM

Meadowlands: Sevruga and Sweet Lou get their noses up to win Cutler, Maturity

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Lisa Photo
The connections of Sevruga are joined in the winner's circle by actor Emilio Estevez (far right) and Meadowlands operator Jeff Gural (2nd from right).

If Saturday night’s results in two significant stakes races at the Meadowlands are any indication of what’s to come, the sport has plenty to look forward to in 2013. First, Sevruga kept his nose in front of the competition despite being put to intense pressure from the halfway mark to capture the $180,000 Arthur Cutler Memorial. Then Sweet Lou, making just his second start as a four-year-old, overcame post nine and put his nose in front of Warrawee Needy to capture the $100,000 Meadowlands Maturity.

Sevruga, under sharp handling by Andy Miller, seized the front well before the :27 opening quarter, forcing Modern Family, Opening Night and Undercover Strike to find a seat in behind him in the Cutler. Undercover Strike and David Miller made a move before the half to engage the leader and the two Millers put on quite a show. With the half in a manageable 55 2/5 seconds, Sevruga and Undercover Strike went to war and left some of their rivals in the dust briefly through a :26 4/5 third quarter. Modern Family held the pocket but not in close range and Wishing Stone, with Yannick Gingras, was gapped off Undercover Strike.

In the stretch, everyone had a shot to overtake Sevruga, but the son of S Js Caviar was brilliant on this night and kept digging in each time Andy Miller gave him the cue. Modern Family was first to his right flank with Wishing Stone next, before Guccio suddenly emerged from between horses and rallied on the far outside.

The dramatic photo finish showed Sevruga a winner by the slimmest of margins, with Wishing Stone and Guccio finishing in a dead heat for second and Modern Family less than a nose back in fourth.

The mile of 1:51 equaled the stakes best and was a personal best for Sevruga, a winner for the sixth time in 2013.

“I just wanted to keep him moving. He’s such a tough and long-winded horse,” said Andy Miller about his strategy. “I didn’t know if I won it or not. I just hoped (sic) I had my nose up at the wire.”

Sevruga will race next on May 26 in the Maxie Lee at Harrah’s Philadelphia, according to trainer Julie Miller.

Yannick Gingras didn’t drive Sweet Lou as a three-year-old, but after one start behind the horse he was able to craft an overland trip to a nose victory in the Meadowlands Maturity.

Gingras has a rare knack for positioning his horses and in the case of Sweet Lou he managed to orchestrate a perfect game plan despite starting from post nine.

With stablemate Hillbilly Hanover doing some of the heavy lifting early, Gingras was able to settle Sweet Lou on the outside at the back of the pack in the first quarter.

Hillbilly Hanover had the top well before the quarter and parked Warrawee Needy past that station before relinquishing the lead. The quarter was :27 1/5 and Warrawee Needy and driver Jody Jamieson quickly stalled the pace in the second quarter.

In the meantime, Gingras had positioned himself next to Hurrikane Kingcole, the 7-5 favorite. Dan Dube, behind Hurrikane Kingcole, took the bait and made a strong move to the lead leaving Sweet Lou in arrears. Hurrikane Kingcole assumed command through a :54 4/5 opening half then sprinted a third quarter in 27 seconds.

Gingras again was fortunate to pick up the live cover of Mel Mara at the half and get carried second over into the homestretch.

Hurrikane Kingcole again showed a dislike for leading horses into the stretch. Warrawee Needy shook out of the pocket to go by him first and then Sweet Lou charged on the outside to win the photo in a respectable 1:49 mile.

Sweet Lou won for the 19th time in his career, this time at odds of 9-2 with Warrawee Needy holding second ahead of Domethatagain.

“I was just trying to get a spot somewhere in the middle,” said Gingras following the race. “Mel Mara is a real nice horse and I figured he was a good horse to follow because I didn’t want to come first up this week.”

The first round of New Jersey Sire Stakes for three-year-old pacers was held during the card. Gingras took the first division with last year’s Breeders Crown champion Rockin Amadeus. The son of the late Rocknroll Hanover broke the 1:50 barrier for the first time, scoring in 1:49 4/5 in a $25,000 leg for colts. Emeritus Maximus and driver Tim Tetrick took home the second division worth $25,500 in 1:50 1/5.

Tetrick came back later to capture the $45,500 first leg of the Sire Stakes for fillies with I Luv The Nitelife. The Chris Ryder-trained filly stopped the timer in 1:51 in her season’s debut.