Check Me Out was not the only harness racing star on the racetrack Friday (April 20) at the Meadowlands Racetrack's qualifiers.
Heston Blue Chip, a 3-year-old pacer who won last season's Matron Stakes and New York Sire Stakes championship, returned to action with a victory by 1-1/2 lengths over Verdad in 1:53.1. Driven by Tim Tetrick, Heston Blue Chip was fourth through much of the mile before coming home with a :26.2 final quarter-mile.
"I was real happy; it was exactly what I was hoping for," said Linda Toscano, who trains the colt for owner Ken Jacobs. "I didn't want him on the lead, I wanted him to put himself in position and let him finish up. I thought he was real good.
"He's just a nice horse. The great part about Heston is just how easy he is to be around. Nothing stresses him."
Heston Blue Chip won 11 of 13 races last year and earned $375,650. He finished second in his two defeats.
Among his victories was the $177,275 Matron Stakes at Dover Downs in his final start of the campaign. Heston Blue Chip won by three-quarters of a length over Allstar Legend in 1:50.4. The time set the stakes record, equaled the track record and was one-fifth of a second off the world record for 2-year-old colt pacers on a five-eighths-mile oval.
Heston Blue Chip also won the $175,000 New York Sire Stakes championship with a track-record 1:53.3 performance over a sloppy track at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. Other top efforts from the colt included a stakes-record-equaling 1:52 victory in a division of the Tompkins-Geers Stakes at Tioga Downs and a track-record 1:56.2 triumph at Buffalo Raceway in a leg of the New York Sire Stakes.
His first start of this year could come at Buffalo in a division of the New York Sire Stakes.
"He's got another qualifier next week and then we'll make a decision," Toscano said. "He's got options. He's got the Simpson here (May 5 at the Meadowlands), but I don't know if I want him to go that fast that early. He's also got the week afterward at Buffalo. Turns are not a problem, so it might be a real nice place to start him. We'll come up with a plan after he qualifies next week."
Multiple-stakes-winning trotter Jezzy made her 4-year-old debut Friday morning, winning by a half-length over The Chancellor and one length over Cedar Dove in 1:56. Jezzy won 10 of 18 races and $543,652 last season for trainer Ray Schnittker, who owns the mare with Ted Gewertz, Jeff Gural and Steve Jones.
Cedar Dove, also a 4-year-old, was the Dan Patch Award winner as best 3-year-old filly trotter last season after winning seven of 17 races and $543,316. Her triumphs included the Breeders Crown and Kentucky Filly Futurity.
"She was good; she was trotting really well," said Noel Daley, who trains the mare for owners Adam Victor & Son Stable and John Fielding. "She just needs to stay settled. I was very happy with her today. She's always been a little bit of a hyper filly, but she's definitely settling down as she comes back here, which is good.
"I think she'll be a good older mare because she's getting smarter and calmer. She's always been very good. It wouldn't surprise me if she came back as much the best. She's a very good horse. She just needs to be sound and get her mind together."
Daley's quartet of 3-year-old male trotters -- Royal Shyster, Gym Tan Laundry, Magic Tonight and Beer Summit -- also was in action.
Royal Shyster won by 1-1/2 lengths over Gym Tan Laundry in 1:57.1 while Magic Tonight was second to Solvato in 1:57 and Beer Summit was second to Market Share in 1:57.
Other winners today were stakes-winning 3-year-old colt pacer Hurrikane Kingcole and 3-year-old filly pacer Marty Party as well as older male pacer Bettor Sweet, who won last year's Breeders Crown Pace.
Bettor Sweet enters his 7-year-old season with 22 wins in 74 lifetime starts and career earnings of $2,216,104.
"He's come back very strong; I was very happy with the qualifier," John Campbell said after driving Bettor Sweet to a 1:52.1 win for trainer Tom Cancelliere and owner John Cancelliere. "He just kind of cruised around there. He's going into the campaign in good shape."