By Ken Weingartner for U S Trotting Association — After giving Jaya Bae additional time to mature during the summer, trainer Marcus Melander is looking forward to seeing what the filly can do in her Breeders Crown elimination for 2-year-old female trotters Friday (Oct. 22) at The Meadowlands.
Jaya Bae was known as Kadena when she was purchased at the 2020 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale for $725,000, a price that at the time was the record for a filly sold at auction. The daughter of Walner-Mission Brief was unraced until earlier this month when she won two $10,000 conditioned races at Lexington’s Red Mile.
Her second victory, in 1:53.2, earned Jaya Bae a spot in the Breeders Crown eliminations. She will compete in the first of the two $25,000 elims for 2-year-old female trotters and is 5-1 on the morning line. Venerable, who won the Mohawk Million in her most recent start and is undefeated in eight races, is the even-money favorite.
The top-five finishers from each elimination will return to the Big M on Oct. 29 for the $600,000 final. Elimination winners will draw for a starting spot in posts one through five for the final. The remaining finalists will participate in an open draw for their post.
“She trained down very well and then she ran into some problems,” said Melander, who trains Jaya Bae for owner Anders Strom’s Courant Inc. “She had three qualifiers in the summer, and after the last one, me and Anders decided to step back a little bit. She was growing a lot and just needed some time to develop.”
After returning to training and qualifying once in late September, Melander shipped the filly from his base in New Jersey to Lexington to race at Red Mile.
“She had no races up here and I wanted to race her on a big track, so we decided to bring her down there,” Melander said. “She did great down there. She’s a very nice filly. I had high expectations for her as we trained her down.”
Jaya Bae won her first start with a rally from mid-pack in 1:54.2. In her second, she got the lead in a :55.3 opening half on her way to the 1:53.2 victory with driver Brian Sears. The time is the eighth-fastest winning mile for a 2-year-old female trotter this season.
“The first week, Brian drove her perfect and she finished strong,” Melander said. “The second week, she got a little grabby coming to the lead, so it was a fast first half. But he never asked her for anything in (1):53.
“If you look at the Grand Circuit races that day, they went around (1):53 as well, and she did it as easy as they did, so we decided to put her in the Breeders Crown. Maybe we would have wanted to have a couple more starts in her, but I’m confident in my horse. I really like her. But those other fillies have more experience and are nice horses too. We’ll see.”
Melander also has a starter in the second elimination for the trotting fillies. Joviality S, the winner of seven of nine races this season, is the 5-2 second choice for Melander and owner Courant. Her victories include the Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes, a division of the International Stallion, and the New York Sire Stakes championship.
“She’s done everything right,” Melander said about the daughter of Chapter Seven-Pasithea Face S. “I really like her. She always tries her best. She’s easy to be around, easy to drive, Brian can do whatever he wants with her. She’s a really nice filly.”
Melander also will send out four horses in the three $25,000 Breeders Crown eliminations for 2-year-old male trotters. The top-three finishers from each elimination plus the fourth-place finisher with the highest earnings will advance to the $600,000 final.
His hopefuls are Letsdoit S (3-1) and Temporal Hanover (7-2) in the first elim, Classic Hill (6-1) in the second, and Periculum (5-1) in the third. Letsdoit S, Temporal Hanover, and Periculum all have Grand Circuit triumphs to their credit. Classic Hill was second to King Of The North in the Peter Haughton Memorial.
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The 5-2 morning-line favorite in the first Crown elimination for the male trotters is Testing Testing from the stable of trainer George Ducharme. Testing Testing has won three of six races this season for owners Bill Donovan, Purnel & Libby LLC, Joe Sbrocco, and Jim Winske. The son of Walner-Sound Check raced only once prior to September and counts a preliminary round of the Kindergarten Classic Series among his victories.
“When we qualified (in June) to get ready for the New Jersey Sire Stakes, he just wasn’t a hundred percent,” Ducharme said. “He had growing pains, more or less. The owners let me take my time with him and I backed off and got him ready for the Kindergarten legs in September. He just needed that time.
“He’s come along good. I can’t complain with the way he’s been the last month or so. He’s gotten himself right into the shape he’s in now to be ready to go to the Breeders Crown eliminations. It’s not going to be easy.
“It’s a good bunch of horses. But that’s what you look forward to at this time of year, racing those horses. You know it’s going to be tough, you just hope you have one that can compete and be competitive.”
In his most recent start, Testing Testing won a $15,000 event for Bluegrass Stakes eligibles in 1:54 at Red Mile.
“I like his attitude,” Ducharme said. “He’s really game. He likes to do his job and he’s very willing. He tries and he fights through any adversity. We liked him a lot to pay him into everything we did. Everything has gone to how I thought he would be, we just had to take our time with him.”
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Rebuff, who is 5-1 in the second Crown elim for male trotters, also has developed through the course of the season. He has hit the board in his three most recent races, winning a division of the International Stallion in 1:52.2 after finishing third in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes and second in the Kentucky Championship Series final.
The son of Muscle Hill-Meucci Madness has won two of nine races overall for owners Kjell Andersen, Pieter Delis, and trainer Lucas Wallin.
“I think he’s going to be all right,” Wallin said. “We had high hopes for him, pretty much right away. He showed he had a lot of speed, but he was very immature when we trained him down. He was very, very green; as green as grass.
“He’s gotten better and better. Now, the last couple races, he’s been really good. I think he matured a lot. We’ve trained him twice since getting back from Kentucky and he feels good, so we’re going into Friday with a good feeling. He’s always been very special so it’s nice that he’s starting to show what he can do. It’s a tough race, but it’s going to be exciting.”
Slay, who won a Bluegrass Stakes division and has hit the board in all four career starts, is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the second elimination.
Branded By Lindy, on a six-race win streak that includes divisions of the Bluegrass and International Stallion, is the 5-2 favorite in the third elimination