BY Ken Weingartner
JULY 19, 2019–No 2-year-old trotter was faster than Cantab Fashion last season, but it’s been a slow trek back to action for trainer Jim Campbell’s colt. Cantab Fashion will make his 2019 debut Saturday (July 20) in the first of two $50,450 divisions of the Tompkins-Geers Stakes at The Meadowlands, where his performance will help determine whether he can be ready for the sport’s premier event for 3-year-old trotters, the Hambletonian, Aug. 3 at the Big M.
Last year, Cantab Fashion put together a five-race win streak, including two stakes victories at Lexington’s Red Mile, during his seven-start campaign and tied for the season’s fastest time with a 1:51.4 mile.
“He’s definitely a talented colt, has got a lot of speed, but it hasn’t been easy this year, that’s for sure,” said Campbell, who trains Cantab Fashion for breeder/owner Fashion Farms. “I wish we were coming in under different circumstances, but he’s had some issues, which is why we’re starting in the middle of July instead of the middle of May.
“I’ve got no bold predictions or anything like that. I don’t know how he’s going to be. The Hambletonian is coming up in two weeks and I don’t know if we’re going to make it, or not make it, or what the deal is. That’s why we want to get him raced on Saturday and see how he does. If he goes good Saturday night, we could come back and get a race into him the following week as well.
“It’s hard to get a good reading on him because he doesn’t train as well as he goes in a race. You’ll know (how he is) when I know.”
Cantab Fashion is among 17 Hambletonian-eligible trotters in the two Tompkins-Geers divisions. Following this weekend’s action, there is one more stakes prep for the Hambletonian, the Reynolds on July 27 at The Meadowlands.
Campbell is not alone in wanting to get a look at a Hambletonian hopeful prior to the big event. Aldebaranwalkabout, who won two of seven races last year for trainer Jonas Czernyson, is making his second start of 2019 in the first division of the Tompkins-Geers. He finished fourth in a conditioned race June 28 at The Meadowlands, timed in 1:53.1 with a final quarter-mile of :26.3.
“We got a slow start with him, but I think he’s pretty nice right now,” said Czernyson, who trains the colt for Aldebaran Park Inc. “I let him tell me when he was ready, and it looks like it’s paying off. I like him a lot the way we are right now. I think we’re going in the right direction. I wanted to have one more start in him, like last week, but I couldn’t get him in. I trained him up good and he’s having a very good week at home, so I’m excited.
“I’m going to see how he races Saturday and make up my mind from there. I don’t know if I want to go three weeks in a row (prior to the Hambletonian). But I might race him in the Reynolds to make sure he’s tight and ready.”
Aldebaranwalkabout was second-placed-first in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes last year.
“We had some issues last year; he was growing a lot,” Czernyson said. “He was tall and gangly. He’s filled out now. He needed a little more time last year, but he showed me a couple of times that he acted like he wanted to be a good horse.”
Cantab Fashion is 10-1 on the morning line while Aldebaranwalkabout is 12-1. The first division’s 2-1 favorite is Green Manalishi S, who finished second to Swandre The Giant last week in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial. Green Manalishi S has won six of 13 career races, with six seconds and a third.
“We thought he raced OK,” said trainer Marcus Melander, who trains the colt for Courant Inc. “You always want to win but I think he needed that race. It was only his third start of the year and after the race we decided we wanted to race him one more time. He’s a big horse and he needed one more race. I think this race was the perfect race to be in because we’ll have two weeks to the Hambo.”
Green Manalishi S is No. 5 on Meadowlands Racetrack announcer/analyst Ken Warkentin’s Road to the Hambletonian Top 10. Pilot Discretion, who is No. 3, and Marseille, who is No. 9, are in the second division of the Tompkins-Geers.
Saturday’s Meadowlands card also includes two divisions of the Tompkins-Geers for 3-year-old female trotters, with 15 Hambletonian Oaks-eligible fillies in action, and the final of the Mr Muscleman Series for open trotters.