05/11/2017 9:38AM

Yonkers: Croghan mares primed for Friday Features

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Trainer Ross Croghan will send out strong contenders in both of Yonkers Raceway’s top classes Friday night. A pair of 4-year-old mares, Prairie Sweetheart and Call Me Queen Be, are primed for the Filly and Mare Preferred Pace and the Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace, respectively.

Prairie Sweetheart is the 2-1 morning line choice from post three in the $40,000 Filly and Mare Preferred Pace, the seventh on the 11-race card. A Florida bred by Royel Millennium out of the Masterman mare Taylors Lady, Prairie Sweetheart first caught Croghan’s eye when she won a string of races at Yonkers and Pocono last summer for Mike Deters. Croghan purchased the filly just before departing for the Little Brown Jug and Lexington, and although she wasn’t staked to anything, decided to bring her along.

“I didn’t want to be away from her the first month after I had just given a sizable amount of money for her, so she came down to Lexington with the rest of the horses just so I could get used to her,” he said. “The second time I trained her down there, I was actually blown away by how talented she was. The way she felt, there was only one mare that could possibly beat her, and that’s Lady Shadow.”

Croghan consulted Prairie Sweetheart’s owners, Eric Cherry of Let It Ride Stables and Dana Parham, who gave him the green light to supplement her to the Allerage Farms Filly and Mare Open Pace. She sat a pocket trip to Lady Shadow before powering away in the stretch to win in a career best 1:49 1/5, beating older mares as the lone 3-year-old filly in the field in her first start for Croghan.

“We did and it worked out. It wasn’t preplanned, it was just a last minute thing and it made everybody look very smart,” Croghan joked.

Prairie Sweetheart suffered the first loss of her 15-start career in her seasonal debut at The Meadowlands April 14. She brushed to the lead up the backstretch that night and despite pacing a final quarter in 27 1/5, was passed in the final eighth by favored Windsun Glory and Inittowinafortune.

“Her first start back was disappointing,” Croghan admitted. “I took her blood and she had a little blood infection, so we waited a couple weeks and everything seems good right now.”

Back in good health, Prairie Sweetheart prepared for her comeback with a qualifier at Harrah’s Philadelphia May 2. She finished second in 1:52 3/5, beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Nike Franco N, who will challenge Prairie Sweetheart again Friday as the 5/2 second choice on the morning line from post four.

“I know in the qualifier, she had been a couple weeks with hardly any training, just a couple light miles waiting for the blood to get corrected. I just thought that qualifying mile would top her off. She trained back sensational. Nike Franco, she’s very talented, so it’s not an easy race, but I think she’ll perform very well.”

One race later, Croghan will send out Call Me Queen Be in the $55,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. From post three, she is a 5-1 chance on the morning line behind favored Mach It A Par at 5/2. Croghan didn’t mince words about his expectations for the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere and Preppy Party Girl.

“I’m expecting her to go straight to the top and dominate the race. That’s what I’m expecting,” he said without hesitating. “I’ll be disappointed if that doesn’t happen.”

In 31 starts, Call Me Queen Be has amassed a bankroll of $1,042,099. Last year, she showcased her talent by winning the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Final for 3-year-old fillies and capturing the first heat of the Jugette before finishing second in the final. She closed the season with a victory in the Breeders Crown Final for 3-year-old fillies.

“The second half of the season, she did show that she was, I thought, the best filly out there,” Croghan said. “That’s as good as a horse can race in that Breeders Crown. First-up. It was very, very strong.”

In her first start of the year at The Meadowlands April 21, Call Me Queen Be led at every call but the last, finishing second to Inittowinafortune in 1:52 with an individual final quarter of 26 3/5. Last time out, she blasted to the front from post seven at Yonkers April 28, but faded in the final quarter to finish an uncharacteristic eighth.

“For the first time in her life, she had an atrial fibrillation and quit at the three-quarters, which is what they do when their heart rhythm gets out of whack,” Croghan explained. “She’s been treated for that and she trained sensational the other day. Her heart rate was perfect, so I’m not expecting her to do that again.”

Call Me Queen Be’s biggest strength is her early speed. She is capable of posting sub 26 opening quarters, like she did at Pocono Downs last summer, and still comes back to her driver, Scott Zeron, after making those moves.

“Scott has told me 20 times she is the fastest horse off the gate he has ever sat behind,” Croghan said. “He’s got there in 25 4/5 with her and said he never started her up. She’s got that good tactical gate speed which is going to put her into every race she’s in.”

Like her stablemate, Eric Cherry’s Let It Ride Stables and Dana Parham own Call Me Queen Be. Longtime owners for Croghan, they are looking forward to the season ahead.

“They’re both great guys, they both love racing horses, and it’s a good little setup,” Croghan said. “We’re looking forward to a fun season. We had fun last year and both fillies are very, very sound. We’re going to be there.”

First post time at Yonkers is 7:10 p.m. Click here for entries for the card.

-Edited release (Brandon Valvo for SOA of NY)