08/31/2016 3:37PM

Yonkers: Alagna sends out a powerful combo in Messenger

Nikki Sherman
Dr J Hanover has won five of six starts at Yonkers Raceway this year.

Dr J Hanover has made winning a habit this year at Yonkers Raceway. On Saturday, he will try to continue his success at The Hilltop in the $500,000 Messenger Stakes for 3-year-old pacers.

The Messenger is the second jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown. Dr J Hanover is joined in the eight-horse field by multiple-stakes-winning stablemate Racing Hill, who is on the verge of $1 million in seasonal earnings. Both horses are trained by Tony Alagna, who won last year’s Messenger with Revenge Shark.

Dr J Hanover has won six of seven races this year, including five of six starts at Yonkers, and earned $148,700. He raced exclusively in conditioned races this year at Yonkers before heading to The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono to win the $200,000 Battle of the Brandywine Consolation I on Aug. 20.

Scott Zeron has driven the horse in all of his races this season. Dr J Hanover is owned by Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, John Cancelliere, and the Dr J Partners.

“He’s been great,” Alagna said about Dr J Hanover, who last year won one of four races and earned $10,057. “Yonkers has really made him a horse. We’ve been able to educate him and get lots of nice miles in him in the non-winners (conditions). We felt good taking him over there to Pocono and he was fantastic. We thought he definitely deserved a chance to go in the Messenger because he’s been so good at Yonkers.

“He’s maturing and Scott has done a great job educating the horse. He’s really helped this horse learn to be a successful horse. He’s done a very good job racing him the right way.”

Dr J Hanover, named in honor of Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky, the farm manager at Hanover Shoe Farms, was purchased under the name Stepenwolf Hanover for $300,000 at the 2014 Standardbred Horse Sale. He is a son of stallion Somebeachsomewhere out of the stakes-winning mare So Perfect and his family includes stakes-winners Perfectionist, Lifetime Member and Copywriter as well as millionaire Image Of Dawn.

Following his campaign at age 2, Dr J Hanover was gelded.

“Last year he didn’t show up like we thought he should,” Alagna said. “We castrated him at the end of the year when we put him away and he came back this year much better. I think that’s part of the equation. Maybe just another year of maturing helped him too. But we weren’t going to take a chance and wait another year and find out we should have done it, so we took care of it last year when we put him away.

“I think he’s got the potential to be a very useful stakes horse. I don’t know that he’s going to go out and beat Betting Line or Racing Hill or any of those horses, but I think as far as the rest of them he’s as good as anything out there right now. We’re very pleased with him.”

Dr J Hanover will start the Messenger from post seven with Zeron at the lines. Alagna’s other entry, Racing Hill, will leave from post three with regular driver Brett Miller.

Racing Hill has won four of 10 races this year and earned $961,702 for breeder/owner Tom Hill. His victories include the Max C. Hempt Memorial and Delvin Miller Adios and he finished second in the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace, and the Battle of the Brandywine’s $500,000 main event.

The Messenger will be Racing Hill’s first try on a half-mile track.

“He’s had a good week and trained very good on the half (mile track) here at Gaitway,” Alagna said, referring to the training center where his stable is located in New Jersey. “It’s a very flat half-mile track here at Gaitway, so if they can get around here they can usually go anywhere and be OK.”

Alagna said Racing Hill scoped sick following his second-place finish to Casie Coleman’s Betting Line in the Battle of the Brandywine.

“Casie’s horse was phenomenal; we weren’t beating him,” Alagna said. “But I didn’t think we should lose lengths in the stretch, so I scoped him and he scoped with some mucous. We treated him and he scoped back clean yesterday.

“I’m happy with how he is and pleased with how he’s coming into the race.”

Control The Moment, who was not staked to the Messenger, won the Pacing Triple Crown’s first jewel, the Cane Pace, on Aug. 6 at the Meadowlands. The third jewel is the Little Brown Jug, which is Sept. 22 at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in central Ohio.

Following is the field for the Messenger Stakes.

$500,000 Messenger Stakes

3-year-old pacers

Race 9/Post 9:50 p.m. (EDT)

PP – Horse – Driver – Trainer

1 – Stonebridge Beach – Pat Lachance – Pat Lachance

2 – Don’tcallmefrancis – Joe Bongiorno – Ron Burke

3 – Racing Hill – Brett Miller – Tony Alagna

4 – Western Fame – Mark MacDonald – Jimmy Takter

5 – Fernando Hanover – George Brennan – Ron Burke

6 – Another Daily Copy – Corey Callahan – Nicholas Devita

7 – Dr J Hanover – Scott Zeron – Tony Alagna

8 – Manny – Chris Lems – Jessica Okusko

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