All four 3-year-old Breeders Crown champions — Dancin Lou, Gimpanzee, Warrawee Ubeaut, and Winndevie — return to action for the first time since their Crown triumphs when Dover Downs hosts Matron Stakes for sophomore pacers and trotters on Thursday.
A total of 19 Breeders Crown finalists will be racing in the Matrons, including the top-six finishers from the 3-year-old filly pace (won by Warrawee Ubeaut) and the top-four finishers from each the 3-year-old filly trot (won by Winndevie) and 3-year-old colt-and-gelding pace (won by Dancin Lou).
Gimpanzee, who won the 3-year-old colt-and-gelding trot, faces four Breeders Crown finalists, including recent Carl Erskine Trot winner Don’t Let’em and Erskine runner-up Chin Chin Hall. Gimpanzee is a two-time Breeders Crown champion and was the 2018 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter.
He starts Thursday’s $208,300 Matron for 3-year-old male trotters from post five with Brian Sears driving for trainer Marcus Melander. He is the 2-1 morning-line favorite.
“He’s doing great,” Melander said. “He came out of (the Breeders Crown) really well and he’s been training good ever since. I’m confident going into the race. He’s raced good all year, never done a bad race really. There are some nice horses in there, of course, but he’s pretty good himself too.”
Gimpanzee has won seven of 12 races this year and earned $997,163. In addition to the Breeders Crown, his wins include the Yonkers Trot, New York Sire Stakes championship, and Empire Breeders Classic. He finished third in both the Hambletonian and Kentucky Futurity.
The colt could join recently retired 3-year-old colt stablemate Greenshoe with more than $1 million this year, which would make Melander only the second trainer ever to have two million-dollar-earning trotters in the same division in the same season. Jimmy Takter accomplished the feat in 2014 with Father Patrick and Nuncio.
“That’s cool,” Melander said. “(Gimpanzee) has had a great year. He couldn’t have done too much more.
“I think he will be as good as he’s been all year on Thursday. He’s feeling great here at home. He really feels like he has all year. He’s happy, so I’m happy.”
For his career, Gimpanzee has won 16 of 21 races and $1.58 million for owners Courant Inc. and S R F Stable. If all goes well, the son of Chapter Seven-Steamy Windows could finish this season by facing older foes in the TVG championship on Nov. 23 at The Meadowlands.
“Hopefully he does a good race Thursday and then we’ll probably race in the TVG,” Melander said, adding the plan is to bring back Gimpanzee next year at age 4.
“It feels like he could be a good aged horse too. He only had nine starts last year and 12 so far this year. I think that’s perfect if we want to continue to race him. He feels like a horse that’s not been pushed too hard. If nothing happens, it’s a big chance he comes back.”
In the $248,350 Matron for 3-year-old male pacers, Bettor’s Wish is the 5-2 morning-line favorite. The Chris Ryder-trained colt leads the sport with $1.43 million in purses. He was beaten by a head by Dancin Lou in the Breeders Crown. He has won 12 of 17 races and finished no worse than second in any start, with each of his last four runner-up finishes coming by no more than a neck.
Dancin Lou is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. He brings a three-race win streak to the Matron.
“I’m so proud of that horse, my heart could burst,” trainer Tahnee Camilleri said about Dancin Lou, who has won 11 of 18 starts this season.
She added about his Breeders Crown victory, where he rallied from fourth with a quarter-mile to go, “I was in shock. He did it the hard way. It’s just unbelievable. What a little champion.”
Camilleri, a native of Australia, gave up a career practicing law to pursue her passion by moving to the U.S. to train horses. She is in her first full season with her own stable. The 32-year-old Camilleri conditions Dancin Lou for owners David Kryway and 1362313 Ontario Ltd.
“I didn’t appreciate how hard it was going to be to come over here,” Camilleri said. “I got terribly homesick and I’d lie in bed at night and wonder if I made the right decision. I toughed it out. For something like this to happen, I know in my heart I made the right decision. I’m so glad I’m here and so glad I did this.
“I’ve had a lot of help, and I’m thankful to the owners for picking me to train their horse. They could have picked a bigger name, but they gave me a shot. I’m tickled pink that I could get such a good result for them.”
The field for the Matron colt-and-gelding pace also includes 2018 Dan Patch Award winner Captain Crunch and recent Monument Circle Stakes winner De Los Cielos Deo.
In the $176,150 Matron for 3-year-old filly trotters, Trond Smedshammer-trained Winndevie is the 5-2 morning-line favorite. The field includes Hambletonian Oaks winner When Dovescry, who was second in the Breeders Crown, as well as Crown third- and fourth-place finishers The Ice Dutchess and Only Take Cash, plus Elegantimage Stakes winner Evident Beauty.
Warrawee Ubeaut, from the stable of trainer Ron Burke, is the 2-1 favorite in the $165,900 Matron for 3-year-old filly pacers. Tall Drink Hanover, who was second in the Breeders Crown, is 3-1. The remaining fillies from the Crown final are Stonebridge Soul, Sunny Dee, Treacherous Reign, and Queen Of The Pride
KEN WEINGARTNER for U.S. Trotting Association