Balmoral Park (9/22/10)
Contact: Tom Kelley
YOUNGSTERS SHINE IN AMERICAN NATIONAL TROTS
A pair of American National Stakes for two-year-old trotters shared top billing on Wednesday, Sept. 22 as a total of 12 youngsters battled for top honors in these prestigious events.
|D.R. Ackerman guided Creme De Cocoa to an easy victory in the $71,000 American National Stake for two-year-old trotting fillies.|
Coming into Wednesday’s $71,000 Filly American National race boasting a bankroll of more than $230,000, Doug Ackerman Stables' Crème De Cocoa continued her successful freshman campaign as she cruised to a 1 ¾-length triumph in a career best of 1:56.3 for trainer-driver D.R. Ackerman. The final time was just a tick off of the track and stakes record, which is held by Creamy Mimi.
Hustled away from post position three by Ackerman, the homebred daughter of Chocolatier-Judge Judy hooked up in an early speed duel with a hard-leaving Migisi (Mike Oosting) as the two fillies rolled through an opening quarter in 28.1.
“I wasn’t surprised that we got some pressure leaving out of there, even though it was only a six horse field,” said Ackerman. “There were some good fillies in this race and they weren’t going to give us anything.”
After allowing Migisi to grab command, Ackerman had Crème De Cocoa back out and rolling and the good-looking bay regained control of the proceedings as the field hit the half-mile mark in 57.1.
“I didn’t come into the race with a plan that I had to be on the lead,” explained Ackerman. “But my filly was a little wound up after that opening quarter and she was going along so smoothly that I figured it was best to let her trot back to the front.”
Scooting around the far turn, the previously undefeated My Miss Caroline (Dave Magee) came calling on the outside as the fillies raced by the three-quarter-mile pole in 1:27.2.
Despite feeling pressure from My Miss Caroline, who had moved to the inside, and Caitrin Hall (Mike Cox) who was gaining ground on the outside, Crème De Cocoa held firm through the lane to post her third win in seven lifetime starts. Caitrin Hall wound up second while My Miss Caroline was third. The first place check of $35,500 pushed Crème De Cocoa’s bankroll up to $266,410.
After the victory Ackerman seemed quite pleased with the way his filly had performed, especially after being off for nearly a month since her victory in the Kentuckiana Stake at Indiana Downs.
“She really doesn’t need much training and you can’t over train her or she won’t perform at her best,” he explained. “In the lane she just kept her mind on her business and was strong all the way through the wire. Now it’s back to New York with her and then we’ll aim for the Breeders Crown eliminations at Pocono.”
The $64,000 Colt Stake provided a thrilling finish as Melanie Wrenn and Eugene Oldford’s Ax Man held off a valiant late rush by 3-5 favorite Audition to win by a nose in a career best of 1:57.3.
|Ax Man (outside) with Todd Warren at the controls nosed out a fast-closing Audition in the $64,000 American National for two-year-old trotting colts.|
Taking advantage of the inside starting spot and the fact that the odds-on choice trailed the gate by some 10 lengths or more at the start, driver Todd Warren had Ax Man perfectly positioned in the pocket as Hammer Head (Marcus Miller) led the field through an opening quarter in 29.1.
After sweeping into command on the backside, Warren then elected to let a hard-charging Powerful JD (Dale Hiteman) take over control of the proceedings as the field reached the half-mile mark in 58.3.
“I had no idea that Dave (Audition) was so far back,” said Warren. “I figured he was going to be out and going right behind Dale’s horse and when he wasn’t right there I decided to turn Dale loose and take the cover even though I would have preferred to be on the lead.”
Sitting in the garden spot as the field trotted around the far turn, Warren pounced from the pocket with the bay son of Tom Ridge-Shavings as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:28.2.
Quickly opening up a 1 ¼-length advantage as the field moved through the lane, the Peter Wrenn-trained gelding appeared to be home free at the mid-stretch call. That’s when Audition (Dave Magee), who had worked his way all the way up to fourth as the field reached the top of the stretch, began to find his best stride as Magee moved him to the inside. Gaining ground with every stride while Ax Man was all out to hold on to his dwindling advantage, the two appeared to hit the wire on even terms. After a long look the photo showed that Ax Man had held on by the slimmest of margins over Audition. Powerful JD finished a distant third, six lengths behind the top pair.
In the winner’s circle a relieved Warren talked about the thrilling finish.
“I thought we were home free in the stretch and then suddenly I heard Dave yelling and hollering at his horse and I knew they were gaining quickly on us,” he said. “My horse was starting to drift out and I was just thinking when is this finish line going to come. With the angle the way it is I wasn’t sure we had held on until we got back in front of the tote board.”
Warren, who is zeroing in on the 3,000-win plateau, now has 2,992 career victories.
The $26,000 Lexington Select purchase now boasts three wins, two seconds and one third in six career starts with earnings of $72,400. Sent off at 6-1, Ax Man returned $15.60, $5.00 and $2.40.