By Ken Weingartner, USTA Media — As trainer Greg Wright Jr. got ready to watch Jujubee race in his Breeders Crown elimination for 3-year-old male trotters at The Meadowlands last week, he looked at the television screen in the paddock and saw his colt was the 1-5 favorite.
Almost a year ago to the day, Wright had driven Jujubee to his first win in a conditioned race at The Meadows. To think of him capturing the Kentucky Futurity, the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship, and become history’s first 3-year-old male trotter with two sub-1:50 winning miles since then all hit home at that moment.
“I couldn’t believe I was in this situation,” Wright said. “It’s real special. It’s just been unbelievable.”
Jujubee missed winning his Breeders Crown elimination by a neck to fast-closing Cuatro De Julio in 1:52.2, snapping a six-race win streak, but enters Saturday’s $650,000 final as the 2-1 morning-line favorite. Ambassador Hanover, the event’s other elimination winner, is the 4-1 second choice followed by Cuatro De Julio at 9-2.
Andy McCarthy will drive Jujubee, leaving from post six.
Racing begins at noon Saturday at the Big M and features eight Breeders Crown finals for horses ages 3 and up.
“Andrew said he was struggling with the track (in the elimination); it was real deep,” Wright said. “But Cuatro De Julio is a good horse too. I’m a little disappointed, but I feel a little guilty for being disappointed. He’s spoiled me a little bit.
“The track I think played a little factor, and having the rail, he didn’t get away the best. But Andrew said he wasn’t disappointed with him. I hadn’t made any changes with him shoeing wise coming from Lexington, but it’s something to think about. We’ll see.”
Jujubee was supplemented to the Breeders Crown for $62,500 by breeder-owner Jon Erdner. He also was supplemented to the Kentucky Futurity for $75,000. For the year, Jujubee, a son of Creatine-La Cantera, has won 13 of 17 races and $623,791. He has finished worse than second only once.
He started his season in March in conditioned classes before hitting the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes series. He burst on the national scene on Hambletonian Day at The Meadowlands when he won the Muscle Hill in 1:49.4. Victories in the PASS championship, Phil Langley Memorial, and Kentucky Futurity followed, with his 1:49.3 score in the Futurity equaling the second-fastest mile ever by a 3-year-old.
“He’s been going for a long time, all year, and we haven’t had any problems with him,” Wright said. “He shows up every week and tries. He’s just such a good horse. When we brought him here on Hambo Day, the main reason we brought him was we were hoping to get a mark around (1):50 and change on him. Then, (1:49.4) popped up, and in Lexington he was so good there, it’s unbelievable.”
Wright is making his first trip to a Breeders Crown final. In 2000, he trained and drove 2-year-old male trotter Chipwitch in an elimination but did not advance. He also drove 3-year-old female pacer Armbro Ticket in an elim.
Ake Svanstedt will send out Ambassador Hanover and two other horses, Delayed Hanover and Fly Light, in Saturday’s final. Svanstedt is looking for his first Breeders Crown trophy. He has finished second on six occasions.
Ambassador Hanover, a son of Chapter Seven-Angel Eyes Hanover, won his elimination by 2-1/4 lengths over Logan Park in 1:51.2. The colt, who was second in the Yonkers Trot and third in the Hambletonian, will start from post two with Svanstedt in the sulky.
“He was the best I ever felt him,” Svanstedt said about Ambassador Hanover, who was making his second start after a month layoff.
Cuatro De Julio’s elimination win was his third victory of the season and came after finishing second in consecutive races that went in 1:49.3. He was second to Jujubee in the Kentucky Futurity one start after being runner-up by a nose to Dancinginthedark M in the Kentucky Championship Series final.
The son of Trixton-Clarabelle is trained by Marie Ortolan Bar and will start the Breeders Crown from post four with driver Lucas Wallin.
“We fixed his problem,” Ortolan Bar said. “We have some issues with his feet. Fortunately, we can fix the shoes so that he likes them. I’m super happy. My horse is very good. (His feet) are very sensitive, that is the only problem. But he’s a very strong horse.”
The Breeders Crown for 3-year-old male trotters is race eight Saturday, the fifth of the eight Breeders Crown finals. Free full-card TrackMaster past performances are available for Friday and Saturday by visiting the Meadowlands website here.
BELLA BELLINI LOOKS TO ADD CROWN
Hambletonian Oaks winner Bella Bellini will try to add the Breeders Crown to her credits in Saturday’s $650,000 final for 3-year-old female trotters at The Meadowlands. The filly, trained by six-time Breeders Crown winner Richard “Nifty” Norman, is the 9-5 morning-line favorite.
The most recent filly to win either the Hambletonian or Hambletonian Oaks and also capture the Breeders Crown was Ariana G in 2017.
Bella Bellini, a daughter of Bar Hopping-Bella Dolce bred and owned by David McDuffee, has been no worse than second in 15 of 16 races this year, winning nine. She has three wins, including the Hambletonian Oaks, and two seconds at the Big M this season.
She won her Breeders Crown elimination by 1-1/4 lengths over Herculisa in 1:52.4 and will start Saturday from post three with driver Dexter Dunn.
“She was dynamite,” Norman said. “She got a nice trip and trotted home good and strong. I think she likes the Meadowlands best.”
Altar won the other elimination, beating Iteration by 3-3/4 lengths in 1:51.2. She will start from post five with Yannick Gingras driving for trainer Nancy Takter. She has finished no worse than second in seven of her last eight starts, winning six, and is the 3-1 second choice for breeder-owner Diamond Creek.
“She was well in hand, I think,” said Takter, who has won seven Breeders Crown finals. “She’s been good. I’m just happy Yannick got a feel for her because he hasn’t driven her before. I know she can be a little difficult, or she was before, but it looks like she’s kind of turned herself into a racehorse.
“I think she’s just kind of gotten a little more confident. She used to look for excuses all the time. Once she hit her stride, she found it.”
The Breeders Crown for 3-year-old female trotters is race seven Saturday, the fourth of the eight Breeders Crown finals. Free full-card TrackMaster past performances are available for Friday and Saturday by visiting the Meadowlands website here.