The fastest pacing and trotting miles during the Saturday (March 18) qualifying session at The Meadowlands both came from trainees of Jeff Cullipher that cut their teeth north of the border in the Ontario Sires Stakes program.
In 2022, Cullipher posted career best numbers that placed him among North America's best trainers in both wins (sixth with 249) and earnings (seventh with $4.5 million). One of the horses that contributed to his successful season in 2022 was older trotting star Lovedbythemasses.
A 1:54.2 winner one week ago in his 2023 debut, Lovedbythemasses was back out on Saturday to sharpen in advance of his six-year-old season. Todd McCarthy allowed Hayek (Yannick Gingras) to post a :28.4 opening quarter before moving Lovedbythemasses from third to the top down the Big M backside. After middle fractions of :57 and 1:25.1, Lovedbythemasses trotted home strongly through a :28 final panel to trip the timer in 1:53.1. Hayek finished more than four lengths in arrears as his next closest rival.
Cullipher co-owns Lovedbythemasses (Muscle Mass - Incredibility) along with Pollack Racing LLC of Pennsylvania. The 2022 Maxie Lee winner sports 25 career wins, a mark of 1:50.2 and earnings approaching $750,000.
While Lovedbythemasses is a rather known quantity for Team Cullipher, recent OSS graduate Sport Secret is a relatively new addition that appears to be enjoying his new surroundings.
A $155,000 purchase of Pollack Racing LLC from the 2022 Harrisburg Mixed Sale, Sport Secret faced a sharpened Tattoo Artist in his first four-year-old excursion one week ago but stole the show in his second test on Saturday. With Todd McCarthy at the controls, Sport Secret sat third as former-OSS-rival-turned-stablemate Chucky Hanover (Dexter Dunn) posted panels of :28, :56.1 and 1:24.2. Sport Secret and pocket-sitter River Ness (Gingras) angled out for the stretch drive with Sport Secret's :27 closer the difference maker in this duel as he hit the wire 1-1/2 lengths the best in 1:51.4. Chucky Hanover held off River Ness for second.
Sport Secret (Sportswriter - My Secret Belle) sports a mark of 1:50.2 taken in a leg of the Ontario Sires Stakes Gold series at Georgian Downs, with $267,053 earned during his six-win sophomore campaign for trainer Gregg McNair.