By Bill Finley
Photo: Lisa Photo
JL Cruze is obviously for real.
For the second straight week, the gelded son of Crazed beat the highly regarded Father Patrick, this time in the latest leg of the Graduate Series at the Meadowlands.
Two weeks earlier, JL Cruze defeated Father Patrick by a neck in the Graduate series, but it was easy to dismiss that win as a fluke. Even though JL Cruze came into that race with 11 wins from 13 starts on the year many of his victories had come against lesser company in wintertime stakes races, while Father Patrick had been hyped as one of the best ever.
But, at least right now, it looks like JL Cruze is the better of the two. With John Campbell driving, he made the first move, gaining the lead on the backstretch, but Father Patrick, with Yannick Gingras in the bike, quickly pounced and easily passed him. That put Campbell in a bad spot as he was locked in along the pylons as Sumatra had taken the spot to the outside of Father Patrick.
For a moment, it didn’t look like Campbell would get through, but he found a narrow seam, and that was all it took.
“I didn’t get room until really, really late,” Campbelll said. “It’s pretty impressive to get room that late. I checked him a couple of times and when he did get room he just shot right through. There was no doubt he was going to win when he got room.”
Though his horse wasn’t beating much at the time, Campbell believes all those winter series wins have made a huge difference in JL Cruze’s career.
“I don’t think anybody did when he started in January,” Campbell said when asked if he envisioned a day when JL Cruze could beat Father Patrick. “But as the year progressed he kept getting stronger and more and more confident because he was winning all the time. I’m not going to say I knew he could beat these horses but I knew he could trot with them and compete at this level just because he was doing everything so easily and gaining so much confidence as he went along.”
JL Cruze won by half-length and paid $5.80. The mile went in 1:50.4.
Campbell came right back to win the Graduate division for pacers as he guided Doo Wop Hanover to a victory over Rockeyed Optimist. The race was contested at the rare distance of a mile-and-an-eighth and Doo Wop Hanover set a world record of 2:02.3.
Though both of the Steve Elliott-trainees Rockeyed Optimist and Doo Wop Hanover had each won two Graduate legs the betting public made Rockeyed Optimist the heavy favorite.
Rockeyed Optimist had the lead turning for home as Campbell took a crack at him first over and without cover. Though not getting the best trip, he outgamed his barnmate in the stretch to get the win.
“He didn’t get a great trip. He had to rough it,” Campbell said. “He had no cover for a mile and an eighth but he relaxed out there and there was no wasted energy. That was the key. He just sat there and when I called him he responded very well. I wasn’t sure I could run Rockeyed Optimist down but at the top of the stretch I thought I had a pretty good shot at him.”
Doo Wop Hanover paid $9 for the win.