In the first leg of the Miss Versatility Series on a rain-soaked Friday night at The Meadowlands, the first $30,000 division went as expected while the other did not.
In the first dash of the series for Open mare trotters, Next Level Stuff went wire-to-wire for driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Jim Campbell. The five-year-old daughter of Sebastian K S-Nantab went parked past the quarter in :27.4 and went down the road from there, upping her seasonal record to two wins in as many starts after hitting the wire a neck in front of a fast-closing Bella Bellini, the 2021 Hambletonian Oaks winner who looked good in her seasonal debut.
Next Level Stuff finished the mile in 1:52.4 and returned $3.40 as the odds-on public choice in the betting.
The second split provided a big surprise as Atlanta, the lifetime earner of better than $3 million who is back for trainer Ron Burke as a seven-year-old, got gunned down by 12-1 chance Herculisa for driver Dexter Dunn and trainer Virgil Morgan Jr.
Atlanta, the 2-5 favourite, made a huge move to grab command off the far turn and led by two lengths when they turned for home, but Herculisa, who was kept in contention throughout in the pocket by Dunn, wore down Atlanta in deep stretch to record a neck win in 1:52.1.
A four-year-old daughter of My MVP-Herculotte Hanover, Herculisa paid $27 to her backers in winning for the 14th time from just 22 career outings.
BETTING TOPS $3 MILLION: With three races seeing total betting in excess of $300,000 – two of them GSY (Gural Settlemoir Yarock) Racing Club events – total wagering for the 13-race program topped $3 million for the eighth time in 2022 as a total of $3,118,436 was pushed through the windows despite the sloppy conditions.
NJSS KICKS OFF: The New Jersey Sire Stakes season began with five $30,000 dashes for three-year-olds on the trot in the first leg of the series.
In the first of three divisions for colts and geldings, Temporal Hanover ($21) scored by a half-length in 1:54 over Classic Hill for driver Brian Sears and trainer Marcus Melander. The son of Walner-Think Twice now has six wins from just 13 career starts.
B A Superhero ($3) made it two-for-two in 2022 for Tetrick and Lucas Wallin, coming from off the pace to catch Looks Like Moni by a length. The son of Muscle Hill-Win Missy B stopped the clock in 1:54.1.
Periculum (Muscle Hill-Amour Heiress) exploded home in :27.1 to score by four widening lengths over Tachyon in 1:55 for Mattias Melander and brother Marcus. He returned $9.80 to win.
In the first of two dashes for fillies, 2021 Mohawk Million and Jim Doherty Memorial winner Venerable scored from off the pace, nipping Jiggy Jog S by a nose in 1:55.1 for Dave Miller and Nifty Norman. The daughter of Walner-Jolene Jolene, who earned over $1 million last year, returned $6.20 to win in her first start of the season.
Peyton Hanover ($6.40) sat a pocket trip behind even-money favourite Gracelynn Hanover and gunned that one down nearing the wire by three-quarters of a length in 1:54.4. The daughter of Muscle Hill-Pennies From Above gave Marcus Melander a Sire Stakes training triple. Tetrick was in the bike.
NON-BETTORS: Before the wagering card, a pair of New Jersey Sire Stakes events for three-year-olds on the pace were contested.
Count Mara, a gelding by Lis Mara-Madam Countess, hit the wire 13-1/4 lengths in front of Dry Ridge Caldwell in recording his first career score in 1:59 in the split for colts and geldings for Dunn and John Pyott.
Bee Aware, a daughter of Great Vintage-M A Jackie, took the filly event in 1:57.3 for Steve Smith and Laurie Molnar by gunning down Not So Evil nearing the wire by a neck.
A LITTLE MORE: Tetrick led the driver colony with three winners while Melander’s training triple was tops among the conditioners. … There were no winning tickets sold in the 20-cent Pick-6, creating a carryover of $8,406. Those with five correct collected $934.08. … For those who want to get a head start on their handicapping, all past performances for every Meadowlands card are available for free by going to playmeadowlands.com. … Racing resumes Saturday at 6:20 p.m.