05/04/2017 9:43AM

The Meadows: Huntsville, Downbytheseaside make 2017 debut in Sire Stakes

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Chris Gooden
Huntsville is coming off a sharp 1:51 3/5 qualifying win at The Meadowlands.

Huntsville and Downbytheseaside, harness racing’s top 2-year-old colt pacers in 2016, will launch their sophomore campaigns — and quest for divisional and Horse of the Year honors — in Saturday’s $151,280 Pennsylvania Sires Stake at The Meadows.

The Kentucky Derby Day card at The Meadows marks the kickoff of the spring/summer meeting after a two-week hiatus and also features an $80,000 PA Stallion Series event for 3-year-old colt and gelding pacers. Special post time is 11:25 AM.

Huntsville won the Dan Patch Award as the best 2-year-old male pacer, sealing the deal with an impressive victory in the Breeders Crown final. Pennsylvania’s 2016 champion, Huntsville is the fastest freshman ever at The Meadows with a 1:50 clocking in an August PASS split. Trained by Ray Schnittker, the son of Somebeachsomewhere-Wild West Show earned $689,814 — and never finished worse than second in 11 outings — for his owners Ted Gewertz, Charles Ianazzo, Steven Arnold and Schnittker.

Schnittker indicated he was pleased with Huntsville’s two qualifiers to prep for the PASS, which included a 1:51 3/5 mile at the Meadowlands. He said he’s switched Huntsville to an open bridle this year but won’t tinker much with his rigging.

“With the good ones, you usually don’t want to screw them up,” he said. “Right now everything looks good.

“I hope he gets a good trip. As long as he’s closing at the wire, I’ll be happy. I hope he wins, but horses like him are racing hard week after week.”

Huntsville goes from the rail in race 8 with Tim Tetrick aboard in the third of four $37,820 divisions. The champ must contend with a new shooter, Highalator, who, after a two-race freshman season, has won nine straight this year, including the championship of the Weiss series. Highalator leaves from post 3 with Vic Kirby.

Brian Brown, conditioner of Downbytheseaside, made what could be a significant change when he added Lasix for the colt’s two recent qualifiers. The son of Somebeachsomewhere-Sprig Hanover, who races for Country Club Acres, Joe Sbrocco, Richard Lombardo and Diamond Creek Racing, will use the medication Saturday.

“Last year, there was a hint of bleeding after training one day, just a spot,” Brown said. “Just to be on the safe side, we went ahead and did it.”

Lasix seemed to settle the horse in his qualifiers, when he raced off the pace — at least for a while.

“He’s not two fingers to drive, so we were very happy that he could sit that long,” Brown said. “And when he moved he went right by.”

Brown indicated he’s pleased that Downbytheseaside and Huntsville didn’t draw into the same division.

“That’s not to say Huntsville is the only horse to beat — I have six horses to beat. They’ll meet eventually; I just didn’t want it to be in their first race.”

Downbytheseaside last year set world records on half-mile and mile tracks. He was runner-up to Huntsville in the Dan Patch Award voting but got a measure of revenge by defeating his archrival in the Governor’s Cup. He leaves from post 3, with Chris Page in the sulky, in race 9.

-edited release (Evan Pattak for The Meadows)