By Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager — When Nancy Takter thinks about her three horses heading to Saturday’s $668,000 Meadowlands Pace, she also remembers the days that led to the achievement.
“That’s what we work for all winter when we sit outside and freeze our butts off,” Takter said. “We talk about days like the Meadowlands Pace.
“Everybody is super excited. It’s a testament to the hard work that everybody put in all winter and the work everybody puts in every day at the barn. Every single person in my barn should be proud of the accomplishment.”
Takter’s three Pace finalists are Cannibal, who won the first of last week’s two eliminations, Christchurch and Save America. The Meadowlands Pace, one of the sport’s premier events for 3-year-olds, is race 11 on Saturday’s card, with an approximate post time of 10:40 p.m. (EDT). It will be part of a 10 p.m.-midnight broadcast of Big M races on Fox Sports 1 as part of NYRA’s “America’s Day at the Races.”
Cannibal is 4-for-4 this year following his half-length victory over favored Voukefalas in 1:48.1 last week. The colt was fifth at the half-mile point and rallied off a second-over trip behind Voukefalas, who took the lead in the stretch but was unable to hold off Cannibal.
“I was super happy with his race,” Takter said about Cannibal, noting it was only his second start since May 28. “I think with this race he should go forward, be a little tighter this week. Having said that, he raced super. To pass a horse like Voukefalas down the stretch is pretty impressive because that horse is known for his quick speed.”
Cannibal was the Kentucky Commonwealth Series champion last year, when he won three of eight starts and hit the board three more times. This season, two of his victories prior to the Pace elims came in the Pennsylvania Stallion Series in May and the other was against older horses in a conditioned race on June 24.
“He showed a lot of ability last year, he just needed time to grow out of the growing pains that he had,” Takter said. “He’s always had a great attitude and been easy to deal with. He’s one of those horses that you almost forget you have because he’s never a problem. He’s like your straight-A student that does their homework every night and you never have to check on them.”
Cannibal will start the Pace final from post four with Andrew McCarthy in the sulky after Scott Zeron, who drove the colt last week, opted to drive El Rey on Saturday. Cannibal is 6-1 on the morning line. The homebred son of Sweet Lou-No More Losses has won seven of 12 career races and earned $175,798 for owner Diamond Creek Racing.
Christchurch finished third in the second Pace elimination, which was won by Confederate (the 6-5 morning-line favorite for the final) in 1:47.3. Christchurch went to the early lead and set fractions of :25.4, :52.1 and 1:20.1 while under pressure from longshot Lyons Surfing. He was beaten by one length.
“The horse raced a huge mile,” Takter said. “He just showed what a great horse he is because he fought all the way to the wire. He wasn’t beaten much for second, or even the win. I think most people were very impressed with his performance. We drew good for the final. I think we have just as good a shot as anybody else in the race.”
Christchurch will start from post three with driver Yannick Gingras and is 10-1 on the morning line. Takter and Gingras teamed to win the 2020 Meadowlands Pace with Tall Dark Stranger.
For his career, Christchurch has won five of 12 races and earned $71,825. A son of Always B Miki-Darlinonthebeach, he is owned by Diamond Creek Racing, Farhi Standardbreds Corp, and Spreydon Racing.
“I’ve been high on this horse pretty much since he was born,” said Takter, who trained millionaire Darlinonthebeach for most of her racing career. “I still am. It’s a family that’s close to my heart on both sides. My dad (Jimmy) loved Always B Miki and I loved Darlinonthebeach. It’s a special combination.
“(Christchurch) has got ability like no other. I think he’s going to have a good season this year, but I think there’s going to be a lot more coming down the road once he grows up, just like Miki did at 4, 5 and 6.”
Save America was sixth-placed-fifth in the second elimination to get the last spot in the Pace final as Stockade Seelster was disqualified for violating the breaking rule and interference. The gelding, a son of Captaintreacherous-My Lady Day, is owned by 3 Brothers Stables and Caviart Farms. He will start Saturday from post 10 with driver Matt Kakaley and is 30-1 on the morning line.
“He kind of got shuffled back last and then got a little interfered with coming down the stretch,” Takter said. “He doesn’t really like that kind of trip, he likes to be a little more forwardly placed and a little more involved. Then with traffic issues coming down the stretch, it didn’t really help his case any.
“He’s going to have to get lucky from post 10. Hopefully he can pick up a check.”
Save America, a four-time winner on the Grand Circuit, has five victories in 17 career races, earning $404,280.
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