By Ken Weingartner, USTA — A returning Dan Patch Award winner, Special Way needed two starts last year before everything clicked, but once it did, she was unbeatable. She finished her campaign with seven consecutive victories, capped by a Canadian-record 1:52 mile in the Breeders Crown final for 2-year-old female trotters at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
For the season, the daughter of Walner-Special Hill earned just shy of $700,000, tops among freshman filly trotters.
“It took a couple of races, but she has that winner’s instinct,” said Svanstedt, who trains and drives Special Way. “She’s a very strong horse. She just really wants to pass horses, but she is waiting for me to ask her.
“I have trained horses for 40 years, and driven a lot of horses, but it’s just a few horses that have had this instinct. She has it. When I tell her to go, she throws her head forward and fights. It’s a nice feeling to feel that when you drive.”
On Saturday, Special Way will make her seasonal debut in the second of two $30,000 first-round divisions of the New Jersey Sire Stakes for 3-year-old female trotters at The Meadowlands. She will start from post seven with Svanstedt in the sulky and is the 4-5 morning-line favorite in the nine-horse field.
The filly prepped for the start with a 1:55 win in a qualifier April 29 at the Big M.
“She trained back good, and she qualified good, so I’m satisfied,” Svanstedt said. “I’m excited to see how she’s going to race. She grew over the winter. She is a bigger horse, taller and wider, and she feels stronger. Last year, she had a little problem with hitting her knee and hitting her shins, but this year she doesn’t do that anymore.”
In addition to the Breeders Crown, Special Way’s wins last year included the Kentucky Championship Series final and a division of the Bluegrass Stakes. She is owned by breeders Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, and Al Libfeld.
Special Way is among 14 Hambletonian Oaks-eligible fillies in the two NJSS divisions. That group includes Mambacita, the 5-2 morning-line second choice behind Special Way in the second division, as well as Walner Payton, the 9-5 favorite in the first division. Walner Payton was last year’s New Jersey Sire Stakes champ.
Svanstedt also has a filly in the first division, Oaks-eligible Life Itself. She finished third in last year’s Kentucky Championship Series final, behind Special Way and Walner Payton.
The $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks is the filly companion event to the $1 million Hambletonian Stakes. Both races are on Aug. 5 at The Meadowlands.
Saturday’s card at The Meadowlands also features two opening-round divisions of the New Jersey Sire Stakes for 3-year-old male trotters. Svanstedt’s Kimmeridgian is the 9-5 morning-line second choice in the first division, where Ari Ferrari J is the 8-5 favorite.
Kimmeridgian, a son of Walner-Foxy Fantasy, won last year’s Matron Stakes for 2-year-old male trotters, his lone victory in 11 starts, and was second in the Valley Victory as he closed his season with five straight top-three finishes.
“He had a little problem with growing pains last year, but he feels better and stronger this year,” Svanstedt said about Kimmeridgian, who is among 11 Hambletonian eligibles among the boys. “I hope he can compete and be in the big races.”
Oh Well, last year’s New Jersey Sire Stakes champ, is the 9-5 favorite in the second NJSS division. He is one of six horses in action for trainer Marcus Melander.
The second round of the New Jersey Sire Stakes for 3-year-old male and female pacers also are on tap Saturday at The Meadowlands. Racing begins at 6:20 p.m. (EDT). Free TrackMaster programs for the Big M can be found here.