07/07/2012 10:13PM

Meadowlands: Sweet Lou and Heston Blue Chip capture Pace elims

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Derick Giwner
Driver Dave Palone is all smiles before he guides Sweet Lou on the track for the Meadowlands Pace eliminations.

Typically elimination races provide insight into which horse might win the final. The Meadowlands Pace eliminations on Saturday July 7 provided very few clues and did little to separate the contenders for the $600,000 final.

Sweet Lou headlined the first elimination and took care of business albeit in less spectacular fashion than most have become accustomed. After an early move by Allstar Legend and a subsequent brush to the front by A Rocknroll Dance, Sweet Lou was edged off the cones just past the opening :27 fraction and moved to command past the three-eighths marker.

The outer flow was live and Sweet Lou would meet up with 14-1 longshot State Treasurer well past the :54 3/5 half marker. As the duo battled by three quarters in 1:22 2/5, Simply Business was starting to catch up with cover and Hurrikane Kingcole was setup third on the rim.

In the stretch, Sweet Lou was asked for all he had by driver Dave Palone and he just fended off a somewhat traffic-troubled pocket-sitter A Rocknroll Dance and a late closing Simply Business in 1:49 1/5.

“I always thought I had enough and I knew I had a handful,” said Palone on his chances in the stretch. “I had Yannick (Gingras – A Rocknroll Dance) right where I wanted him and I wasn’t going to let him out until late.”

Although happy about the victory and his ability to pick a post in the final on July 14, Palone did not feel we saw Sweet Lou at his best.

“I’ve seen him crisper than that,” said Palone. “He flagged his tail a couple of times and that is telling me that he is not as good as he can get.”

Second-place finisher A Rocknroll Dance lost by just a neck and did nothing to tarnish the reputation he restored after winning the $500,000 Max Hempt at Pocono Downs last week.

“We got out a little bit late but we still had a shot to win,” said Gingras. “[A Rocknroll Dance] had pace when I did get out but not as much as he did last week at Pocono.”

Sweet Lou is now 14 for 17 lifetime and has earned $953,375 under the care of trainer Ron Burke.

Allstar Legend and State Treasurer finished fourth and fifth but each lost by 1 ½ lengths or less and made the final.

The top five in the second Pace elimination were also separated by just 1 ½ lengths at the wire and left bettors with an interesting puzzle for the final.

The action was quick early as Heston Blue Chip used his inside post position to secure the front in :26 2/5 and forced others to find seats along the cones. Time To Roll was then sent to the front by driver Andy Miller and took charge before the halfway mark in :54.

Despite the quick fractions, the outside flow was slow to develop as Pet Rock was taking his time to move up uncovered and certainly hurt the chances of the second-over Thinking Out Loud and the three-hole positioned Bolt The Duer.

Sensing the time was right, driver Tim Tetrick popped the pocket with Heston Blue Chip right at three quarters in 1:22 1/5. The pair edged to the front and would have to hold off a myriad of pursuers.

In the end things worked out nicely for Heston Bliue Chip, as Bolt The Duer was hopelessly blocked and Thinking Out Loud could not overcome the somewhat slow outside flow. Heston Blue Chip finished a half-length ahead of Thinking Out Loud and Pet Rock in 1:49.

Heston Blue Chip pushed his perfect 2012 record to 5 for 5 and scored his first major score outside of New York.

“I firmly believed in him since the first day I qualified him as a 2-year-old,” said Tetrick. “I traveled all around the New York circuit just to drive him and we’ve been pointing him to this all along.”

With the finish as tight as it was, nearly every driver came out of the race feeling confident about their horse going into the final, and many had troubled trips to point to for their losses.

Randy Waples, who drove Thinking Out Loud was sure that some bumping in the stretch between him and Pet Rock cost him momentum and nearly three lengths, while Mark Macdonald on Bolt The Duer felt his horse was loaded with pace.

“He was tons the best if I just got him a seam,” said Macdonald. “It looked like it was going to open up for me and I was trying to be patient and get him through late, but it never worked out.”

Heston Blue Chip posted his 16th career win in 18 starts for trainer Linda Toscano and owner Kenneth Jacobs. He will be joined in the final by the previously mentioned Thinking Out Liud and Pet Rock, along with fourth and fifth place finishers Bolt The Duer and Time To Roll.

The post draw for the $600,000 Meadowlands Pace final will take place on Tuesday afternoon (July 10). The final is the marquee event on a card that will also feature the Stanley Dancer, Del Miller and Mistletoe Shalee stakes.