01/08/2015 9:55PM

Meadowlands: Toscano barn heating up in 2015

Lisa Photo
Doctor Butch leads the seven horses from the Linda Toscano barn racing on Saturday at the Meadowlands.

With three wins and two seconds in the first weekend of 2015 action at The Meadowlands, trainer Linda Toscano is off to a fast start. One of the sport’s leading conditioners hopes to have more in store this Saturday night when she’ll send out seven pacers over the 13-race program.

Saturday marks the opening leg of the Escort series, a late closer for three and four-year-old male pacers that were non-winners of three pari-mutuel races or $35,000 lifetime through December 1, 2014. Three $15,000 divisions are spread throughout the card with Toscano sending out a pair in the first and third races.

Of Khan Blue Chip, a four-year-old by Bettors Delight, Toscano has been pleased so far. “Sam (Schillaci) goes back to Ohio during the winter and he lets me babysit,” said Toscano. “This horse tends to see a lot of things on the racetrack and I think that’s what happened to him when he broke along the pylons two weeks ago.”

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Khan Blue Chip rallied back last week with a solid 1:52 2/5 performance. “Khan” landed post eight and will have to deal with Major Uptrend, a 1:51 3/5 winner in his last start for trainer Doug Lewis. The four-year-old has since changed trainers and goes out for the Ron Burke stable with Yannick Gingras from post three.

The second Escort division finds Toscano’s J K Patriot starting from the pole position. Also a four-year-old by Bettors Delight, J K Patriot has been sharp since the outset of the Meadowlands meet.

“He’s had no luck drawing outside every time,” said Toscano. “But he’s a tough horse and he keeps going forward.”

J K Patriot’s dam, J K Majorette, raced for Toscano some years back and she can see some similarities between the two. “They’re very similar looking. J K Majorette was very good from the start winning her first five starts as a two-year-old,” said Toscano.

Sassy Hanover makes his second start for Toscano after shipping south from Saratoga. “He was a little short last week and I think we had to expect that,” said Toscano. “With the track thawing early at Saratoga they had all sorts of problems and many horses couldn’t jog or train.”

Sassy Hanover drew post five in the fourth race, a non-winners of three pari-mutuel races or $40,000 lifetime. Despite a four week layoff Sassy Hanover managed a fourth-place finish in a 1:50 2/5 mile.

The now five-year-old Doctor Butch appears to be living up to his potential after all. Last week after celebrating his birthday, Doctor Butch captured the $30,000 feature impressively in a 1:49 clocking, the fastest of his career. That it came over a sloppy surface is something else.

“People don’t realize how difficult it is for these horses to transition from two and three to four-year-olds. They have limited starts at two and three and then they’re racing every week. Doctor Butch had the respect of the others when racing in the New York Sire Stakes, but after that he’s in against good horses every week. I think he’s finally getting the hang of it,” said Toscano.

Doctor Butch, a son of Art Major, could be ready for a breakout season for Toscano. “What’s best about him is that he can go and race on any sized track. He reminds me a little of Jet Laag,” said Toscano of the tough veteran pacer she trained in the late ‘90s.

Doctor Butch starts from post six in the nine-horse $30,000 A-2/A-1/FFA Handicap with Tim Tetrick in the bike.

Toscano is hopeful that the four-year-old Winds Of Change can reach the winner’s circle soon. “He was much better last week,” said Toscano, “It would be nice if they could race against four-year-olds, but I guess there aren’t enough of them around now.”

Winds Of Change drew post four for driver David Miller in the ninth race, a B-2 event.

“A Cool Card qualified back very well,” said Toscano of her entrant in the 12th race. He’s a solid claimer.”

Cabbies Delight is heading for the Meadowlands Winter Mixed Sale (Jan. 19), but first makes a stop in the evening’s nightcap from post three.

Toscano reported that top trotter Market Share is on the comeback trail and should begin training towards his 2015 season in a few weeks.

“I think I screwed it up a little last year,” said Toscano of Market Share’s campaign. “I was trying to get him ready to race in the Elitlopp and experimenting with his shoeing. He would have had to race without hopples and I was trying to get him just right.”

Toscano won’t be planning any European journeys for Market Share in 2015 and hopes going back to the basics will pay off in a big way.