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Centurion ATM favored in Sunday feature at Yonkers
Saturday, July 01, 2017 - by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

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Yonkers, NY --- Centurion ATM has been a familiar name to fans of top-level trotters for the past few years. The son of SJ’s Caviar can typically be found competing in Grand Circuit races across North America or racing in the Open Handicap Trot at Yonkers Raceway. Lately however, the Åke Svanstedt pupil has been stacking victories in the conditions at the Hilltop Oval. Having won out of the conditions, Centurion ATM will jump back to the open level in Sunday’s (July 2) $68,000 trotting feature at Yonkers.

 
Jelena Gerga photo
Centurion ATM has an affinity for the surface and hopes to capture the featured trotting event at that facility on Sunday.

In his seasonal debut April 28, Centurion ATM captured a $32,000 overnight for non-winners of eight pari-mutuel races lifetime. Despite his impressive earnings of $670,709, Centurion ATM only won six races upon making his 5-year-old debut. He captured the Peter Haughton elimination and final and the John Simpson at 2, won the Colonial Trot at 3, and succeeded in a pair of overnights at 4. While his stakes wins and placings bolstered his bankroll, his low win tally allowed the dropdown in class prior to this Sunday.

“He was a bit unlucky with a couple second and third place finishes, both in Lexington as a 2-year-old, so he didn’t actually win too many races as a 2-year-old,” co-owner Tristan Sjoberg of Knutsson Trotting explained. “And then he got sick and he didn’t win until he got into the 3-year-old season; he didn’t win too many. That’s why he got stuck into the non winners of eight.”

Centurion ATM finished off the board in the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial at The Meadowlands before returning to Yonkers to finish second in the conditions May 19. After a crack at Yonkers’ Preferred Trot and the Charlie Hill Memorial at Scioto, Centurion ATM returned to the non-winners class to score his eighth victory last time out June 17. In doing so, he equaled the season’s fastest trotting mile at Yonkers, stopping the timer in 1:54.2.

“He did really well two weeks ago when I was there,” Sjoberg remarked. “He showed that he’s in really good form. Åke’s been saying that since the second part of last year’s season, he’s become much more agile and he shows a lot more bounce in his step. He feels great now; he feels absolutely great.”

Despite the recent class drops, Centurion ATM’s victories have not been walkovers as difficult post positions have tested him. His first victory came from post six while his second-place effort commenced from the eight-hole. In his most recent outing, Centurion ATM again started from post eight. Driver Svanstedt encouraged him off the gate, racing in fourth early before grinding first-over. He drew away with a :28.4 final panel to win by 2-1/2 lengths.

Centurion ATM’s ability to show speed off the gate came to the delight of his owner, as the bay horse has historically been a slow leaver.

“We’ve experimented with different types of blinkers to make him a little bit faster at the gate; that has shown to be a positive,” Sjoberg said. “That’s always been his drawback is he’s a very slow starter and that usually puts him in a bad spot. In the higher classes, it gets very difficult to make up those lengths when everyone can do a :27 last quarter.”

A tepid 7/2 morning line choice, Centurion ATM will start from post seven in a field of 12 on Sunday. As part of the French simulcast, the race will be contested at the 1-1/4 mile distance.

“There’s no question he’s got strength; he’s got stamina. Longer distances are definitely to his advantage. A mile-and-a-quarter will play to his strengths. He’s not a big horse by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s got wonderful technique. He very rarely breaks stride and he just keeps going,” Sjoberg said.

Centurion ATM’s chief opposition in the crowded field includes Rubber Duck and Buen Camino, winner and runner-up of the Open Trot, respectively, on June 18, Hemi Seelster, the top earner in the field this season, and Melady’s Monet. That quartet however, were all handicapped with the second tier.

“I’m happy to be in the first tier of horses,” Sjoberg said. “The worst opposition seems to be coming from the second tier, so he should have a couple of lengths advantage there. He’s a horse that needs to be driven aggressively. Sometimes if he’s too far back, he loses a little bit of his motivation, so I’m sure Åke will drive him quite aggressively and not be too far back come the halfway marker.”

Yonkers Raceway’s new track configuration could aid Svanstedt’s efforts to leave the gate with Centurion ATM. The new finish line affords the field an additional 105 feet of straight track before entering the first of five turns.

“I was there the day after they introduced it and I’ve been watching the races,” Sjoberg said. “I think it will be good for him because he needs to be involved early on and if it encourages movement early on, then that would be to his advantage. I’m hoping if he can be in front coming into the shorter stretch, that should certainly be to his advantage. I’m confident.”

First post time at Yonkers Sunday is 12:30 p.m. To view entries for Sunday’s races, click here.


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