Karl was stellar in Big M qualifiers

An early favorite for the Hambletonian, the trotter breezed to an impressive victory among a group of other stars that qualified Saturday.

by Brett Sturman

Saturday morning’s (April 27) 18-race qualifying card on the final Saturday in April from The Meadowlands could have easily passed as a late-season Breeders Crown card. Led by 2-year-old champion Karl, there were a host of other divisional and Grand Circuit-winning horses making their first appearance on the track since last year.

Here were some performances of interest by division:


In what doesn’t bode well for the competition in the division for the coming months, the sky truly looks like the limit this year for Karl following his triumphant return qualifier. Worked to the lead early from the outside post 7 for Gingras, he turned it on with a third-quarter in :27.3 to open up at will on the field and then followed that with a :26.3 final quarter, good enough to win by a ton in a time of 1:52.1, all accomplished with seemingly next to zero effort. With respect to others including T C I who hasn’t yet qualified back, it seems unlikely to envision anyone being able to catch up and challenge Karl for the Hambletonian.

Elsewhere in the division, Wild Ticket returned a winner to kick off the morning’s qualifiers in a time of 1:54.4, including a final quarter in :26.4. That winning time established a new lifetime mark for him, besting his time of 1:55.1 taken last year in a New York Sires Stakes win at Tioga. In the race, he led mostly throughout while cutting reasonable fractions as was the case for most races and kept together well while winning by about a measured length. In that same race, $325,000 Lexington Selected buy Mars Hill closed fastest of all in :26.2. A Bluegrass winner last year in 1:54.2 and near $200,000 earner, he tipped off the cones from third in the stretch and closed steadily when given his cue.

In one of the qualifiers grouped by newcomers, Memorial Fashion took to trotting hopples for the first time, put it all together and came out with an impressive 1:54.2. The well-bred Walner—Broadway Schooner gelding couldn’t stay flat last year but that was a nice-looking mile and there could be some potential here. In that same race, a colt by the name of Bella’s Musclehill trained by Nifty Norman made her racetrack debut and kicked home fastest of anyone in :27.2.


Racing far back throughout much of her return qualifier, last year’s KYSS Final champion Date Night Hanover finished off her mile with a :26.1 final quarter, easily the fastest final split of any others in her race. Dunn didn’t move her off the inside until right by three-quarters, but once he did, she found a couple different seams and was visually impressive. That race was won by Volcanic Blue Chip, but most of the action came from Glamourous Hanover who looked to be opening up by daylight at the top of the stretch before she broke. She did gather herself back together and was somehow able to re-rally to the outside of Date Night Hanover; last year’s near-90-1 upset winner in the Kindergarten final could be a player this year.

She Shaq closed out her season last year with a couple of smaller stakes wins in the Liberty Bell and Simpson in Pennsylvania, and won her return qualifier by three-quarters of a length coming off a perfect pocket trip. Even better perhaps from that race was The Moment, a 1:55.4 winner last year at 2, who was third for most of that mile but made a late move and was getting to She Shaq to her inside.


In the premier qualifier of the morning for the pacing glamour boy division, a couple of the best ones from last year didn’t disappoint. The defending upset Breeders Crown champion Gem Quality intently tracked every move by 2-hole sitting Mirage Hanover as those two threw down late in deep stretch and nearly dead-heated, with Gem Quality getting the decision. The winning time of 1:52.1 included a final quarter sprint time of :25.1. It was the second qualifier for Mirage Hanover who qualified last week and made a name for himself early in the 2-year-old season last year in Canada; he did well for himself once again. Booming Economy had things his own way for most of the race but was a tad short when push came to shove with the top pair.

Sir John B who won last year’s Kentucky Commonwealth final in a time of 1:51.4 at The Red Mile faced a host of pursuers throughout the stretch in his qualifier but was able to outlast them all and won in a time of 1:53.2. Hungry To Win who at times showed potential last year at 2 despite having never hit the board in five races, closed well while racing widest in the stretch posting the fastest final quarter in :26 flat. In a separate qualifier, Rock The Captain N and Total Stranger slugged it out through the stretch and came home with identical :25.4 final quarters off slow fractional times; both look decent.


In another superb morning performance from the connections of Takter and Gingras, Caviart Belle stamped herself early to once again vie for top spot in her division. She closed out last year with a win in the Three Diamonds and garnered attention for divisional honors that eventually went to Geocentric, but following that powerful qualifier she’ll be in position to even better her sub-1:50 mark from last year. In her qualifier, Gingras waited patiently before moving three-wide from third around the final turn as the pocket sitter also pulled, and she sprinted home powerfully with a remarkable final quarter of :25.2 to win under wraps. A 1:51.4 winner from last year, Pressure Cooker, set the pace in that race and tried to fight on through the stretch but was eventually no match for the winner. Rocket Deo rallied belatedly to just miss for second; encouraging effort.

Making her second qualifying start, Flawless looked just that en route to brushing to the lead and going all the way from there, winning in 1:51.3 with a last quarter of :26.1, her second straight good-looking outing. Direction kept up well enough in that race to chase after the winner and finish second. One of the sports best freshmen fillies from last year, Pass Line didn’t gain but didn’t lose any ground either through the stretch to the winner; honestly thought her qualifier from two weeks ago may have been a touch better.


Following up on last week’s 1:52.1 qualifying win, It’s My Show won again, this time in a time of 1:49.3 as predictably the morning’s fastest qualifier and he looks primed to follow up from last year’s million-dollar 3-year-old campaign. In the race, he pounced from the pocket against a fired up Save America who did pretty well for himself as the only other 4-year-old in that older qualifier. Last year’s divisional and Breeders Crown champion Bythemissal was third on his return to the track. He never threatened the top two but at the same time it didn’t seem like driver Gingras was particularly concerned about doing so.