By Ken Weingartner, USTA — Braxten Boyd and Lucky Artist A came a head short of collecting their first Grand Circuit victories in last week’s opening round of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series, but the driver and mare will get another chance Friday as the six-weeks event for older female pacers continues at MGM Yonkers Raceway.
Lucky Artist A and Boyd will start from post four in a field of six in the second of Friday’s four $40,000 Matchmaker divisions. Lucky Artist A is 5-2 on the morning line, the second choice behind Gia’s Surreal at 2-1.
“It’s exciting to be able to drive this mare in this series,” said Boyd, who has appeared in a handful of Grand Circuit events during his budding career, but almost entirely with longshots. “I’ve gotten some checks, but I’ve never had a chance like I do in this one. She’s a legitimate horse.”
Boyd, who turned 23 on March 8, is coming off a 2022 campaign that saw him set career highs for starts with 2,245, wins with 270, and purses with $3.96 million, which more than doubled his previous best in the money column. He entered Wednesday with 617 lifetime triumphs, including several in state-bred stakes.
“I’ve got to keep putting my time in, but you always want to latch on to a real good horse,” said Boyd, who put more than 90,000 miles on his car last year as he competed up and down the East Coast, from New York to Florida. “You’re always trying to improve. It’s a grind, but it’s better to be busy than not. It’s been good.”
Boyd began driving Lucky Artist A for trainer Ricky Bucci in October. The two have clicked, with five wins and five seconds in 14 races together. Three of the wins, and three of the seconds, came in the Open Handicap for female pacers at Yonkers.
“Right from the get-go, I loved her,” Boyd said. “She’s a tough gritty mare, and she will race any way you want. She can literally do anything. She can race from the back, she can cut it, come first over, come out of a hole very hard, she can grind; she’s not anything specific.
“She’s not super fast off the starting gate, but she’ll get there, and she’ll do anything you want. She’s a very nice mare.”
Australian-bred Lucky Artist A, a 10-year-old daughter of Artistic Fella-Corella Magic, has won 24 of 106 races and earned $421,966 since arriving in the U.S. from Down Under in 2019. Overall, she has captured 35 of 159 starts and banked $468,184.
In last week’s Matchmaker opener, Lucky Artist A got away fourth in an eight-horse field, moved second over at the half, and battled down the stretch to finish second to Karma Seelster in 1:52.4.
“She just got outpaced a little bit, but she raced very well,” Boyd said. “She’s been in very good form.
“She’s got a good foundation under her right now. Ricky did the smart thing and gave her the week off before the series. Hopefully we can accumulate enough points that he can pick a spot (to take a week off during the series).”
The top-eight horses at the completion of the series’ five preliminary legs are eligible to advance to the Blue Chip Matchmaker final on April 24 at Yonkers. Horses receive 50 points for winning, 25 for second, 12 for third, eight for fourth, and five for fifth. In addition, all starters in each round receive 25 points.
Joining Karma Seelster in the win column last week were Drama Act and Amazing Dream N.
Six-year-old Karma Seelster is the 3-1 second choice behind Racine Bell at 7-5 in the third of Friday’s four divisions. Drama Act, a 6-year-old who is the Matchmaker’s defending champion, is the 9-5 choice over 7-year-old Amazing Dream N at 5-2 in the fourth division.
The 2-1 favorite in the first division is 6-year-old Mabalene N, who was scratched sick from last week’s first round.
Another newcomer to the series this week is 5-year-old Hot Mess Express, a multiple winner on the Grand Circuit who is making her seasonal debut.