by Ken Weingartner and Dave Briggs
Huntsville got to the lead in the first turn and never looked back, winning Saturday’s $334,325 Cane Pace for three-year-old pacers by a neck over R J P in 2:03 at the extended distance of 1-1/8 miles at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
Downbytheseaside was third.
Starting from post one in a field of 12, Huntsville and driver Tim Tetrick outdueled longshot Lawrencetown Beach for the lead as the field entered the first turn and reached the quarter in :25.4. Lawrencetown Beach remained parked out on the backstretch, with Downbytheseaside on the pylons in third, as Huntsville hit the half in :54.
R J P made a three-wide move around Lawrencetown Beach and moved into second as the group neared three-quarters, which was reached in 1:21.4. Huntsville and R J P battled through the stretch, timed in 1:49 for a mile, with Huntsville prevailing for his seventh win in 10 starts this year.
“He showed some toughness today,” winning trainer Ray Schnittker said. “After the first quarter I was a little concerned and (R J P) eyeballed him, but he’s just a very good horse.
“I don’t think they were going to beat us today.”
Just how tough is Huntsville compared to other horses Schnittker has had?
“He’s moving up the ranks a lot,” the trainer said. “I had Covert Action, he was a great horse years ago, but (Huntsville is) right there.”
Schnittker co-owns Huntsville with Ted Gewertz, Steve Arnold, and Crawford Farms Racing. The colt is a homebred son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the mare Wild West Show.
“Any time you have a top horse it feels great because the lesser ones outnumber the greater ones and the great ones have to pay for all the others,” Gewertz said. “So, it’s a relief when you have one like this, though, you are more or less holding your breath… hoping they don’t get him. Sometimes he holds them off and sometime they just nip him so you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Huntsville has won 14 of 21 career races and never finished worse than second. He has earned $1.58 million.
“I hope he goes the rest of the year like that,” Schnittker said. “I’d be very happy.”
The Cane Pace is the first jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown.
“At $300,000, I think it’s good,” Schnittker said. “Any time you win at the Meadowlands it’s exciting.”
The remaining two legs are the Little Brown Jug and Messenger. Schnittker said Huntsville would not go to the Little Brown Jug.
“He’s not eligible,” Schnittker said.
Huntsville paid $3.40, $2.60, $2.10. RJP returned $5.40, $2.60. Downbytheseaside paid $2.10.