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Just a year ago, Winbak Speed was racing against $30,000 claimers at Dover Downs, but on Saturday night he will take on a trio of millionaires in the Presidential Series at the Meadowlands, the first major stakes of the season for free-for-all pacers.


The three-week Presidential Series culminates in a $125,000 final on Saturday, Jan. 24. Winbak Speed will star from post six as the 9-5 morning line favorite in the tenth race, the second of the night’s two $50,000 Presidential divisions. Ron Pierce will be in the sulky as the 6-year-old gelding tackles top money-earners Boulder Creek, Maltese Artist and Special Report.


Winbak Speed was a sharp $30,000 claim by Wayne Givens on Jan. 21, 2008, at the trainer’s home track, Dover Downs. The son of Village Jove was originally a $15,000 SUNY Morrisville yearling purchase.


“He was pretty nice when we claimed him,” Givens said. “He won his first three starts for us and moved up to win the Junior Open class. He turned out to be one of my best horses last year. He has been impressive at the Meadowlands so far.”


Winbak Speed hit the board in 17 of 30 starts in 2008, winning seven races and $173,080. His most impressive race of the year was a 1:49.2 romp in the $32,500 Delaware Special on Dec. 15 with Given’s nephew, Brandon, in the sulky.


“The week before he won the Delaware Special, Brandon came off the track saying he was going to break 1:50,” he said. “He also said that the night he won in 1:49.2 he wasn’t tired and he felt like he could go a lot more. Right after that race, I decided to pay him into the Presidential. I thought that the Meadowlands is the track he needs to race on. He’s the kind of horse that doesn’t like the turns real well, so the big track helps him."


Winbak Speed tuned up for the Presidential Series with two starts at the Meadowlands. He finished a nose behind Boulder Creek in heavy fog on Dec. 27. Last week, Winbak Speed rolled to a four-length win over Soul Chaser in 1:50.2, with a 26.3 final panel.


“The night in fog he was giving Boulder Creek all he could handle,” Givens said. “Ron Pierce came back and told me he said he figured out how to drive this horse. He also said Boulder Creek didn’t make $3 million because he was easy to beat. Then, of course the next week [Jan. 3] he looked real good winning in 1:50.2. Ronny said he was just awesome and should be very competitive in this series.


“I’m sure a lot of people don’t train them the way I do,” he added. “I give him a lot of time off the track and I train him a mile and a half, instead of training him two trips. We’ve got some ambitious plans for him. If he keeps doing as well as he’s doing, we’ll nominate him to the Graduate, the [William] Haughton and the U.S. Pacing Championship.”


Wayne Givens, 58, co-owns Winbak Speed with Niel Gargiulo of Milford, DE. Givens has 32 horses in training at his farm in Seaford. He capped a career season in 2008 with 105 wins and $1.2 million in earnings. His brother, Les, is also a successful trainer and his 22-year-old nephew, Brandon, is a top young catch driver. (Meadowlands)