East Rutherford, NJ --- Swedish champion Sebastian K added to his lore with another convincing win, this one the $175,000 Arthur J. Cutler Memorial final at The Meadowlands on Saturday night (May 17) in 1:50.2.
The Cutler was the first major test of the season for the Free For All trotters, promising a battle royale between last week’s elimination winners Sebastian K and Market Share and record speed possibilities that went awry when Market Share made an uncharacteristic break in the first turn.
As the race began Modern Family was put into play early by David Miller, using his keen gate speed to clear to the front before the turn with Sebastian K protecting the rail for Ake Svanstedt and securing the pocket through the :27.1 opener.
|USTA/Ken Weingartner photo|
|Tristan Sjoberg, Sandra Knutsson and Michael Knutsson celebrate Sebastian K’s win.|
With Market Share out of contention, there was little movement as the field passed the half in :55.2. Approaching the final bend Sebastian K was flushed out, trotting alongside Modern Family and they raced as a team past the 1:22.4 three-quarters. By mid-stretch he was edging by that rival on his way to a 1-1/2 length win in a stakes record 1:50.2.
Modern Family held well to be second while Sevruga followed up close throughout and was third. Market Share’s break seemed to have his disappointed camp puzzled post-race.
The winner is a majestic specimen who again raced sans shoes as he had done in his record elimination win a week ago. He is raced by Swedish interests, trained by his driver Ake Svanstedt and owned by Knutsson Trotting.
“They were slowing down after the half and there weren’t really fast fractions going to the half,” said Sebastian K’s second trainer Bernie Noren. “The time was fast, but you can see they were slowing down going to the half. It was close, but not (a world record).
“I don’t think so (if there was a change in strategy after Market Share broke). He (driver Ake Svanstedt) was not going to get locked in because he knows he has a real good horse and he was going to make sure he didn’t get locked in.
“He had plenty of horse left today. As soon as he showed him the whip he just took off. He could have gone faster too, but we have plenty of racing left this year.”
“He’s just awesome, added owner Michael Knutsson. “ It’s fantastic – and our first time here at The Meadowlands and it starts like this. It’s absolutely amazing.
“We talked (after the 1:50.1 elimination win) and we all could see, I think, that he had more in him. He had a shot at it (the world record) today. It didn’t work out, but the time today is tremendous also. I mean fantastic.
“I’m not sure he has actually (ever been better). I think he’s in superb form right now.”
Immediate plans for the winner include a few weeks off before returning for a leg of the TVG Free For All series on June 13.
Yannick Gingras was the driving star of the night, winning seven of the 14 races contested, including the $30,000 Free For All Handicap Pace with Allstar Legend in a lifetime best effort of 1:48 for Ron Burke and owners Brittany Farms and John Cherveny.
Total handle on the 14-race program was $3,399,248, a 10 percent increase over the previous year. Additionally, on-track handle yielded a 26 percent increase.