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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

CROWN: ‘STING’ vs ‘CHARLIE’

By Ken Weingartner for USTA Media — Perfect Sting and Charlie May both won a Breeders Crown elimination for 3-year-old male pacers, and their connections will be looking for another victory in Saturday afternoon’s $600,000 final at The Meadowlands with the hopes of taking control of the division.

Racing begins at noon Saturday at the Big M and features eight Breeders Crown finals for horses ages 3 and up.

Charlie May is ranked No. 10 in this week’s Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll with 71 points. Perfect Sting sits right behind with 64 points. No other 3-year-old male pacer received more than one point.

Perfect Sting, who won his elimination last week by three lengths over Chase H Hanover in 1:49.2 is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the final. Charlie May, who took his elim by three-quarters of a length over Southwind Gendry in 1:49.1, is the 3-1 second choice.

“We’re really looking forward to the Perfect Sting showdown,” said Don Tiger, who bred and owns Charlie May.

Said Joe Holloway, who trains Perfect Sting, “I’ve had some success (in the Breeders Crown), but this would be extra special.”

Perfect Sting won last year’s Breeders Crown for 2-year-old male pacers in a dead heat with Summa Cum Laude. It was the first dead heat for win in Breeders Crown history. He finished the season 10-for-10 and received the Dan Patch Award for 2-year-old male pacers.

This year, the son of Always B Miki-Shebestingin has won six of 15 races, finished second on eight occasions, and third once for Holloway and regular driver David Miller. His earnings of $973,847 top all horses in North America.

His second-place finishes this season include six in races worth more than $275,000: the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace, Tattersalls Pace, Little Brown Jug, Max C. Hempt Memorial, and Cane Pace. Two of those losses have been by a nose, one by a neck. He has never been beaten by more than three-quarters of a length.

“Like I tell David, he’s six feet from greatness,” Holloway said. “There could be another million dollars on his card if you just give us six feet.”

Perfect Sting, who is owned by breeders Brittany Farms and Val D’Or Farms, will start Saturday from post five. He will attempt to become the first male pacer to win Breeders Crown trophies at ages 2 and 3 since Artiscape in 1997-98.

“That would cap it off,” said Holloway, who has won eight Breeders Crown trophies in his Hall of Fame career. “I’ll explain to him that if he wins this, he doesn’t have to see a harness again.”

Holloway, who recently made a bridle change with Perfect Sting, was pleased with the colt’s performance in his elimination.

“That’s the best he’s been since his first qualifier this year,” Holloway said. “It was the only time I’ve breathed easy since he’s raced all year.

“He got home well. He paced through the wire strong, so I was happy to see that.”

Charlie May, a son of McArdle-Stipple Hanover trained by Steve Carter and driven by Brett Miller, has won nine of 18 races this season and finished second five times. He has earned $622,025, which is good for second among all 3-year-old male pacers.

He did not race in last year’s Breeders Crown, when he won seven of nine races, finished second twice, and was named Ohio’s best 2-year-old male pacer.

“I expect him to finish up the year with a bang,” said Carter, who is appearing in his first Breeders Crown. “I was really confident when I came out because he’s in really good form. He’s a great horse. He shows up every time he’s behind the gate.”

Charlie May’s wins this year include the Carl Milstein Memorial at Northfield Park, where his 1:48.4 mile was the fastest ever by a 3-year-old on a half-mile track. He also won a division of the Bluegrass Stakes, with Perfect Sting finishing second. He was first across the wire in the Meadowlands Pace but placed ninth for interference.

The gelding added Lasix after losing the Ohio Sire Stakes championship in early September.

“It was unexpected to lose that, and unexpected that he bled,” Carter said. “That was really a disappointing loss for me. But he’s bounced back and raced good.”

In his start prior to the Breeders Crown elimination, Charlie May finished fourth in the Tattersalls Pace. He was seventh, five lengths off the lead, at three-quarters but came home in :25.4 to end up only a length behind winner Abuckabett Hanover.

“He was in an impossible spot,” Tiger said. “This is going to sound crazy, but that was the best he ever raced. Brett and I spoke after the race, and he said he was phenomenal.

“He’s a beast.”

Southwind Gendry and Abuckabett Hanover join Perfect Sting as the only returning Breeders Crown finalists from last year. Southwind Gendry will start Saturday from post one and is the 5-1 third choice. Abuckabett Hanover, leaving from post four, is 6-1. He was third in Perfect Sting’s elimination.

Cane Pace winner Rockyroad Hanover is the only other horse with single-digit odds. He is 8-1 and will start from post seven after finishing third in the elimination won by Charlie May.

The Breeders Crown for 3-year-old male pacers is race six Saturday, and the third of the eight Breeders Crown finals. Free full-card TrackMaster past performances are available for Friday and Saturday by visiting the Meadowlands website here.

TEST OF FAITH AIMS TO MAINTAIN TOP STATUS

Brett Pelling-trained Test Of Faith, the No. 2-ranked horse in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll, will head to Saturday’s $600,000 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old female pacers at The Meadowlands as the 2-1 morning-line favorite.

A daughter of Art Major-Cannae Cammie, Test Of Faith has won 12 of 14 races this year and 20 of 23 lifetime, earning $1.20 million. She has never finished worse than second.

Test Of Faith received a bye to the Breeders Crown final. Her most recent start was a track-record-equaling 1:50.2 triumph in the Courageous Lady Stakes at half-mile MGM Northfield Park on Oct. 16. It was her third consecutive win.

“She’s very, very special,” Pelling said prior to the race. “I think she’s a bit of a freak. She’s push-button, and she’s bottomless. She’s unreal.”

Pelling has won 11 Breeders Crown trophies in his career, which is fifth most in the event’s history despite a decade-long hiatus from training that ended in 2017.

Test Of Faith will start the Breeders Crown from post eight with driver David Miller. She did not race in last year’s Breeders Crown for 2-year-old female pacers, which was won by Fire Start Hanover. Last week, the Richard “Nifty” Norman-trained Fire Start Hanover finished second by a head to stablemate Grace Hill in the Breeders Crown elimination.

Grace Hill, leaving from post five with Todd McCarthy, is the 7-2 second choice. Fire Start Hanover, starting from post nine with Dexter Dunn, is 4-1. The two fillies have combined to win 11 races in 2021 and nearly $1 million.

“I thought Grace Hill was very good,” said Norman, a six-time Breeders Crown winner. “She raced real tough and held off her stablemate and (third-place Blue Diamond Eyes) coming at her. She’s been rock solid all year.

“Fire Start was very good too. She came first-over a long way. She drew nine, but Test Of Faith drew eight, so maybe she can get a trip behind her. She just has to get lucky. Her year has been pretty good. She hasn’t done much wrong. Test Of Faith is just sort of better than her, but otherwise she’s been solid.”

Blue Diamond Eyes, who was beaten a neck in the elimination, will start from post seven with Yannick Gingras driving for trainer Ron Burke. She is 5-1.

“I raced her from the back, and she had good pace finishing, but I still don’t think she’s giving me a hundred percent,” Gingras said. “I talked to Ronnie and we’re going to do some equipment changes on her this week, and I really think it’s going to help her.

“I think she is in a good spot. Post seven might not be ideal, but all the speed drew outside of her. Obviously, we’re going to go forward to try to get position somewhere and then get a trip after that. It’s a great group of fillies. Test Of Faith might be a little notch above the rest of them right now, but it’s a horserace, and we’re going to race.”

The Breeders Crown for 3-year-old female pacers is race four Saturday, the first of the eight Breeders Crown finals. Free full-card TrackMaster past performances are available for Friday and Saturday by visiting the Meadowlands website here.

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