Bill Finley

Bill Finley has been covering both thoroughbred and standardbred racing for more than 25 years. He is a racing columnist for ESPN.com and can also be heard on the Down the Stretch show on Saturdays on Sirius XM radio.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014


Sebastian K Sets Stakes Record in The Cutler


Swedish champion Sebastian K added to his lore with another convincing win, this one the $175,000 Arthur J. Cutler Memorial Final at The Meadowlands Saturday night in 1:50.2.

The Cutler was the first major test of the season for the Free For All trotters, promising a battle royale between last week’s elimination winners Sebastian K and Market Share and record speed possibilities that went awry when Market Share made an uncharacteristic break in the first turn.

As the race began Modern Family was put into play early by David Miller, using his keen gate speed to clear to the front before the turn with Sebastian K protecting the rail for Ake Svanstedt and securing the pocket through the 27.1 opener.

With Market Share out of contention, there was little movement as the field passed the half in :55.2. Approaching the final bend Sebastian K was flushed out trotting alongside Modern Family and they raced as a team past the 1:22.4 three quarters, by mid-stretch he was edging by that rival on his way to a length and a half win in a stakes record 1:50.2.

Modern Family held well to be second while Sevruga followed up close throughout and was third. Market Share’s break seemed to have his disappointed camp puzzled post-race.

The winner is a majestic specimen who again raced sans shoes as he had done in his record elimination win a week ago. He is raced by Swedish interests, trained by his driver Ake Svanstedt and owned by Knutsson Trotting.

“He’s just awesome, added owner Michael Knutsson. “ It’s fantastic – and our first time here at The Meadowlands and it starts like this. It’s absolutely amazing.

“We talked (after the 1:50.1 elimination win) and we all could see, I think, that he had more in him. He had a shot at it (the world record) today. It didn’t work out, but the time today is tremendous also. I mean fantastic.

“I’m not sure he has actually (ever been better). I think he’s in superb form right now.”

Immediate plans for the winner include a few weeks off before returning for a leg of the TVG Free For All series on June 13.

Yannick Gingras was the driving star of the night, winning 7 of the 14 races contested, including the $30,000 Free For All Handicap Pace with Allstar Legend in a lifetime best effort of 1:48 for Ron Burke and owners Brittany Farms and John Cherveny.

Total Handle on the 14-race program was $3,399,248, a 10-percent increase over the previous year. Additionally, on-track handle yielded a 26-percent increase.

Written by Darin Zoccali of Harness Racing Update

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