By Ken Weingartner
July 16, 2019–It took Best In Show a minute and 48 seconds to win the Meadowlands Pace. It took trainer Linda Toscano nearly as much time to allow herself to believe it was true.
“I would not get in the car until his number came up,” Toscano said, referring to the vehicle that shuttles people between the paddock, where Toscano had watched the race, and the winner’s circle at The Meadowlands. “I was not getting in the car.”
After a minute-and-a-half wait, Best In Show was declared the winner of Saturday’s $682,650 event for 3-year-old pacers in a four-horse photo, beating Bettor’s Wish and Workin Ona Mystery both by a head and Captain Crunch by three-quarters of a length. Then, Toscano could enjoy the ride.
“Oh, gosh; this is home,” Toscano said as she discussed the emotions surrounding her first Meadowlands Pace win. “Lately I’ve been training a lot of trotters, and I’ve always had a lot of fillies, and the one shot I thought I had at this race was with Heston Blue Chip (in 2012) and it just didn’t work out.
“Just to get another shot at this race, this is another one I can check off the bucket list. It’s cool.”
Toscano, a New Jersey resident who six days prior to Best In Show’s victory was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame, became the seventh trainer to win the Meadowlands’ two premier races for 3-year-olds, the Meadowlands Pace and the Hambletonian. She captured the Hambletonian, for trotters, in 2012 with Market Share. The other trainers to win both races were Billy Haughton, Ray Remmen, Chuck Sylvester, Blair Burgess, Steve Elliott, and Ray Schnittker.
“It’s been a big week,” Toscano said. “This is what you try to get to.”
Best In Show raced only three times at age 2 before being shut down to provide the colt more time to develop physically. This year, he won a conditioned race at The Meadowlands before heading to Canada and winning on the Ontario Sire Stakes circuit.
He then finished second in a division of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes, sixth in the North America Cup final after a third-place performance in his elimination, and second in another Ontario Sire Stakes start.
Best In Show returned to The Meadowlands and finished second to Bettor’s Wish in his Meadowlands Pace elimination.
“When he came back this year, he was behind on experience, he was behind on everything,” co-owner Richard Young said. “These horses were racing in big stakes last year and we were in non-winners of two in his fifth lifetime start here at The Meadowlands (in May), so we’ve come a long way in a relatively short period of time. The progress has been rather quick.
“I’m elated. I kept telling people I thought he could win. He has tremendous gate speed for position and if they fought it out, who knows. I always thought we had a shot. I think he’s shown that he belongs.”
Said Toscano, “We thought he was a quality horse. He came back and we brought him along the right way. Fortunately for us, we had a great jump-start program being able to go up to the Ontario Sire Stakes so we didn’t have to go against these gorillas every single week. It was a great place to get him started and get his sea legs under him. Every week he’s been progressing just a little bit more and more.
“Finally, the rookie thing is gone, he’s starting to figure this out. He’s got good gate speed, he’s an honest horse, and he’s an easy horse to drive. I love his attitude.
He’s totally nonplussed by shipping. I shipped him back and forth to Canada every single week, I never left him there, and he just gets out of the truck and eats his dinner. Those kinds of horses help. I went to check on him in the detention barn (Saturday) and he was lying down when I got there. That’s basically what you have to like the most about him.”
Best In Show is a son of Bettor’s Delight out of the mare Put On A Show. Young was among the owners of Put On A Show during her racing career, which saw her earn $2.40 million lifetime and take home a Dan Patch Award at age 3 in 2010. Best In Show was her third foal, and first colt.
“We’re talking about a great mommy, a great daddy; we had a shot here,” Young said. “We kept Put On A Show for one reason — we thought she would produce a champion. We were just going to wait on it until it happened.
“I think I have a potential sire here, which is really exciting.”
In the Meadowlands Pace, Best In Show was the fourth choice in the betting, at odds of 27-1, behind favorite Captain Crunch, Bettor’s Wish, and Workin Ona Mystery.
Best In Show started from post seven and used his gate speed to get to the lead in a :26.2 opening quarter mile. The three top choices all passed Best In Show on the backstretch and battled to the half in :52.4 and three-quarters in 1:19.3.
As the group continued its fight in the stretch, driver Brian Sears found room inside his three leading rivals and guided Best In Show through to victory.
Toscano said she thought Best In Show was primed to get a good piece of the purse, but was not going to predict victory prior to the race.
“Then you see where you’re sitting and you see a half in :52 come up, you go, oh, this is kind of looking pretty good here,” Toscano said.
“You know the right horses are all around you and are going to carry you. Then it’s just hope for room and hope your horse is going to show up at that point. So, it worked out really well.”
The horse showed up. Best In Show.