06/21/2017 8:14PM

Pocono: Devious Man looks to remain unbeaten in 2017

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Frances Blazer
Devious Man will start in one of three Earl Beal elimination at Pocono on Saturday.

Less than a week ago, trainer Julie Miller was uncertain whether she would send Devious Man to the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial. Devious Man’s performance in last Sunday’s Empire Breeders Classic made the decision easier.

Devious Man won the EBC championship by four lengths over Bill’s Man in 1:52 2/5, prompting Team Miller -- Julie and husband Andy -- to enter the colt in the Beal. The event for 3-year-old trotters attracted 23 horses, including award-winning filly Ariana G, so three eliminations will be contested Saturday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Devious Man is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the second division.

Giveitgasandgo, coming off a win in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, is the 5-2 favorite in the first elimination and New Jersey Sire Stakes filly champion Ariana G is the 2-1 choice in the third. The top three finishers from each elimination advance to the $500,000 final July 1.

Eliminations for the Ben Franklin for older male pacers, Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old male pacers, and James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old female pacers are also on the Saturday card at Pocono.

Devious Man, owned by Stroy Inc. and the Andy Miller Stable, is undefeated in three races this year. For his career, he has won 10 of 15 starts and earned $455,393.

“We were on the fence about going to the Earl Beal, but that last start solidified that he deserved a chance,” Julie Miller said. “We were really happy with that start. You couldn’t have mapped it out any better; when Andy (came off cover from second over) he just scooted down the lane.

“He didn’t have to over-exert himself in his last couple starts, so we should have a nice fresh horse going to the Earl Beal. These starts this year have been confidence boosters. I’m really pleased with that.”

Of Devious Man’s 10 lifetime wins, nine have come in races restricted to New York-bred horses. But the colt did win on the Grand Circuit last season, capturing a division of the International Stallion Stakes in 1:53 2/5 at Lexington’s Red Mile. The clocking was the sixth-fastest win time of 2016 for a 2-year-old trotter.

“He was solid last year and he won in Lexington so I thought he could maybe step up to the Grand Circuit level, but you don’t want to put that kind of pressure on them,” Miller said. “You don’t want to over-stake them or over-train them trying to work on a schedule. We pretty much let him decide how he was going.

“He trained down good this year. He gave me every indication we could enter him in these kinds of stakes races. I know he’s only faced New York company so far this year, but he’s raced really well. I think he deserves a chance against open company in the Earl Beal.”

Devious Man is among a group of 19 Beal participants eligible to the $1 million Hambletonian Stakes on Aug. 5 at the Meadowlands. Devious Man, a son of Credit Winner out of the mare Miss Garland, is a half-brother to 2005 Hambletonian winner Vivid Photo.

“If my horse can work it out, that’s great for us,” Miller said. “I think he’s a smart horse and a very versatile horse. No matter the size of the track Andy can drive him the way the race develops for him. We don’t always have to be on the front, we don’t always have to have cover.

“There are three (Beal) divisions, which shows there are a lot of nice horses. No one is bowing out. But I feel confident in our chances. He’s given us no reason not to give him a chance.”

Ariana G, who received the 2016 Dan Patch and O’Brien awards for best 2-year-old female trotter in the U.S. and Canada, is bidding to become the first filly to win the Beal in its seven-year history. She is this year’s fastest 3-year-old trotter, with a mark of 1:51 1/5. Her trainer, Jimmy Takter, has won the Beal three times.

-Courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com