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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

ALAGNA: 2 FOR BIG M PACE

By Ken Weingartner, USTA — Tony Alagna will send two horses to Saturday’s $668,000 Meadowlands Pace, and although neither of his 3-year-old colts has posted a win this season, the trainer is happy with the way El Rey and Hungry Angel Boy have raced heading into the weekend.

El Rey was second in last week’s second of two Meadowlands Pace eliminations at The Meadowlands, finishing a half-length behind Confederate in 1:47.3. El Rey, who capped his 2-year-old campaign with a victory in the Governor’s Cup at the Big M, will start Saturday from post seven with Scott Zeron in the sulky. He is the 9-2 third choice on the morning line, behind 6-5 favorite Confederate and 7-2 Voukefalas.

For his career, El Rey has won five of 18 starts, hit the board an additional six times, and earned $310,650. The colt is winless in six races this season, but also dropped his first six starts in 2022 before reeling off victories in five of six to close out the year.

“He was excellent; I couldn’t be happier with how he raced,” Alagna said about El Rey’s performance in his Pace elim. “He had a little road trouble, but he was very good. I wish he was one number in (for his post Saturday) but it is what it is. With his kind of trip, third-over is a great spot. Hopefully, that’s where he’ll end up, but it will be up to Scott to see what he can do depending on what the outside horses do.”

Zeron has driven El Rey in his past eight races dating back to the Governor’s Cup and decided to stay with the colt for the Meadowlands Pace final after also driving Cannibal in last week’s elims. Cannibal, trained by Nancy Takter, was a winner in 1:48.1.

“Scott is a great fit for the horse,” Alagna said. “He’s done a great job with him. I’m so happy he had confidence to stick with him going into the final. I know he likes the horse. We both felt going into the elimination of the Pace that it was going to be his night to get his respect back. Even though the trip didn’t work out to win, I think with the way he raced to be second, he opened a lot of eyes.

“I hadn’t lost confidence, Scott hadn’t lost confidence, he just needed to show everybody he’s every bit the horse he was last year when we put him away.”

As for El Rey’s season prior to his Pace elim, Alagna said, “I think he’s raced very good, he just hasn’t had the best of luck. He’s been a victim of the trips, through no fault of anybody, that’s just the way it’s worked out.”

El Rey is a son of Captaintreacherous, who won the 2013 Meadowlands Pace for Alagna, out of the mare Mystery Game. He was bred by Riverview Breeding and is owned by Brittany Farms and El Rey Racing.

Hungry Angel Boy has five top-three finishes in six races this season. He finished fourth in his Meadowlands Pace elimination, beaten by 2-1/4 lengths. He settled in second after Bamboozler took the lead in a :26 opening quarter-mile. He was shuffled back to sixth by the head of the stretch but rallied to advance to the final.

“I was very happy with him,” Alagna said. “He got stuck behind Bamboozler and lost some momentum, but when he shook loose, he had good pace. It was a very good effort. It was his first start on Lasix, we put aluminums (shoes) on him for the first time, so I think he’ll be nothing but better (in the final).”

Todd McCarthy will drive Hungry Angel Boy in the Pace final, starting from post six. Hungry Angel Boy is 20-1 on the morning line.

Hungry Angel Boy entered his Pace elim off a third-place finish in his North America Cup elimination on June 10 (he lost a draw among third-place finishers to reach the final), was second behind Stockade Seelster in the NA Cup consolation on June 17, and second in a conditioned race on July 1.

“He’s been good this year,” Alagna said. “He had an unlucky draw or he would have made the North America Cup final. Then he got blocked in the stretch in the consolation but was a good second to Stockade Seelster. He’s been knocking on the door. He shouldn’t be winless this year, but it’s just the way it is. Hopefully, he’ll get a big one.

“He’s in good shape. He’s very versatile. He’s just a great little horse to be around. He’s got a great attitude, loves his job.”

Last year, Hungry Angel Boy won a division of the Kindergarten Classic Series in his debut on July 15 at The Meadowlands, then won a leg of the Dream Maker Series on July 28 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. He finished eighth in the Dream Maker final on Aug. 13 in his last appearance for the season.

“He got a little sore, so we just shut him down,” Alagna said. “We liked him very much, and he’s come back well.”

Hungry Angel Boy, a son of Stay Hungry-Angel Scent, was bred by Doug Millard and Spring Haven Farm. He is owned by Alagna Racing, Pryde Stables, Pit Bull Stable, and Brittany, Head, Riverview Racing.

Meadowlands Pace Night at the Big M begins at 6:20 p.m. (EDT). The card also includes the Hambletonian Maturity for 4-year-old trotters, the William R. Haughton Memorial for older male pacers, Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older female pacers, Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old female pacers, and two divisions each of the Stanley Dancer Memorial and Delvin Miller Memorial for 3-year-old male and female trotters.

Free TrackMaster past performances for the Big M can be found here.

Following is the field for the $668,000 Meadowlands Pace final in post-position order, with drivers, trainers, and morning-line odds:

1 – Fulton – Dexter Dunn – Linda Toscano – 8/1
2 – Voukefalas – Jordan Stratton – Michael Russo – 7/2
3 – Christchurch – Yannick Gingras – Nancy Takter – 10/1
4 – Cannibal – Andrew McCarthy – Nancy Takter – 6/1
5 – Confederate – Tim Tetrick – Brett Pelling – 6/5
6 – Hungry Angel Boy – Todd McCarthy – Tony Alagna – 20/1
7 – El Rey – Scott Zeron – Tony Alagna – 9/2
8 – Its A Me Mario – Lauren Tritton – Shane Tritton – 20/1
9 – Ammo – David Miller – Joe Holloway – 30/1
10 – Save America – Matt Kakaley – Nancy Takter – 30/1

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