Among the finalists is an unbeaten son of Muscles Yankee, Smilin Eli, who won both of his New Jersey Sire Stakes preliminary legs. Unraced at two, those victories were in his only two career starts. He has now banked $33,500, with a mark of 1:54.2 taken on a “sloppy” track in his last outing on May 24 at the Meadowlands.
It has his trainer, 39-year-old Deshawn Minor, not only thinking about Saturday’s final but the $1.5 million Hambletonian on the first Saturday in August.
“He’s obviously a green horse, and you have to be skeptical about what the next few weeks are going to bring,” Minor, a native of Detroit, admitted. “I don’t want to guesstimate, but after speaking with (driver) Tim Tetrick, he believes this horse has the special kind of ability to climb that mountain. Tim has let the colt figure things out. He told me to just call him when we need him to drive this colt. I guess he also drank the Kool Aid.
“The owner and breeder Nick Cimino (of Pompano Beach, Fla.) sent him up to me around the end of April,” Minor explained. The trainer is based at Magical Acres in Chesterfield, N.J. “I’ve known Nick for about eight years. He’s been around and he’s a student of pedigrees. (Smilin Eli’s) dam Gerri’s Joy won the 2006 Merrie Annabelle. He mentioned this colt was coming along pretty good. Well, we’ve discovered he’s quite a fabulous horse. He has a lot of raw talent and he’s a pleasure to be around.
“As a two-year-old he had some soreness and was just a big, growthy colt,” Minor noted. “He was trained down to about 2:15 and was shut down. His knees were pretty wide open, and it just wasn’t a good idea to continue with him.
“To me, being affiliated with the Perretti Farms, I got the chance to see Muscles Yankee (his sire) a lot,” Minor observed. “This colt has his bone structure. He’s a big, wide colt, and does everything right. Hopefully, we can keep him healthy and strong. At this point I think we can actually make some money in the Hambletonian. I do believe we have a Hambletonian horse.
“He’s staked up to everything, but our immediate plans are to just get him through the sire stakes final,” Minor continued. “We can’t throw him to wolves right away. Everybody will want to see him up against stakes company. We’ll aim for that, but you have to take it race-by-race in small steps and with the right combination. We’re really happy where he’s at, and we’re hoping the talent we see now continues to surface. We’ll just pick and choose our spots with the biggest thing on our list being the Hambletonian.
“We’ve been there with Legendary Lover K (sixth in 2000), and my brother DeWayne was third with Wishing Stone (in 2010) and we know it takes a lot of luck,” Minor noted. “DeWayne is on the same boat with me this time. All we can do is make sure the horse in the best physical shape and let him take it from there. This colt is absolutely a longshot, but it’s okay to dream. I mean, it’s the Hambletonian.”
Smilin Eli drew post three for the New Jersey Sire Stakes Final, race two. He will take on Super Classic, Corky, King Muscles, Timo Deo, Amalfi Coast and Muscle Mountain. All are sons of Muscles Yankee.
The colt stakes record of 1:52.1 was set by Manofmanymissions, in 2011, and the gelding record of 1:54.1 has been held by Green Day since 2007.
Three-year-old trotting fillies will go postward in the fourth race, which will feature preliminary leg winners Silver Credit and Shared Past, who drew the outside posts in the field of nine. They will take on Time To Kill, Southwind Cocoa, World Tour, Vida De Vie, Vintage Oaks, Miss Steele and Lady Dynamite.
Shared Past and Southwind Cocoa are daughters of Chocolatier and all the others are by Muscles Yankee.
The stakes record for fillies is 1:52.4, established in 2006 by Passionate Glide.
Breeders Crown winner Rockin Amadeus, who captured the opening round of the New Jersey Sire Stakes preliminaries for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings, drew the rail for the eighth race final.
Emeritus Maximus (post five), Real Rocker (post six), and Johny Rock (post seven) are also preliminary round winners.
The finalists, in post order, are Rockin Amadeus, Rocnrolwilneverdie, Rocks N Bonds, I’ma Giggity Fool, Emeritus Maximus, Real Rocker, Johny Rock, Rocky Mountain Guy, Lucan Hanover and Wake Up Peter.
Rocknroll Hanover is the sire of all the finalists, except Ima Giggity Fool (Cam’s Card Shark) and Lucan Hanover (Western Ideal).
Rock N Roll Heaven’s 1:48.3 mile in 2010 is the stakes record for colts and Die Lute’s 1:49.3, in 1999, is the gelding mark.
Seven pacing fillies will face-off in the 11th race final. I Luv The Nitelife and Ms Caila J Fra were the preliminary leg winners.
The field, from the rail out, includes I Luv The Nitelife, Authorize, O Narutac Rockette, JK Letitgo, Ms Caila J Fra, Jerseylicious and Panera Hanover.
Western Ideal sired Authorize, JK Letitgo, Ms Caila J Fra and Jerseylicious and the other three are by Rocknroll Hanover.
The filly stakes record of 1:49.4 was set by Apple Krisp, in 2004.
The 14-race program will also feature two ($90,450 and $92,950) divisions of the Golden Girls for Free For All pacing mares that will go as races one and seven, and the $50,000 TVG Free For All, which will be the 10th race.
-- Quotes courtesy of Ken Weingartner of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association