Golden Receiver, the leading money-earning horse in harness racing, prepped for the upcoming Graduate Stakes by winning a qualifier in 1:53 Friday morning (April 27) at Gaitway Farms.
Trained by Mark Harder and driven by Brian Sears, Golden Receiver returned from a three-week layoff to win by 16-3/4 lengths in blustery conditions over a track labeled "good." Other winners this morning included stakes-winners Maven, Major Bombay and Rockaround Sue.
Golden Receiver led the entire mile, pacing fractions of :27.3, :55.2 and 1:23.4.
"With that wind, I don't know what the heck they were supposed to go," Harder said. "But he got some work in him today. Hopefully, we're good next week."
Golden Receiver has won eight of nine races this year and earned $246,975 for owners Stable 45, Richard Taylor, Stephen Springer and Nina Simmonds. He swept both the Presidential series at the Meadowlands and, most recently, the Spring Pacing Championship at Woodbine, which concluded April 7.
"He handled the trip to Canada good," Harder said. "He got some cheaper middle halves up there (in the preliminary rounds), which I think helped brave him up for the final. When (driver Randy Waples) really asked him to pace in the final, he was as good as he's been all year. He just paced away from them."
Eliminations for the Graduate are May 5 at the Meadowlands, with the $200,000 final slated for May 12. Among the eligibles for the race are defending champion Foiled Again, Bettor Sweet, Fashion Delight, Meirs Hanover, One More Laugh, and Razzle Dazzle.
Harder thinks Golden Receiver, a 7-year-old that has won 44 of 105 lifetime races and earned $900,708, will be ready to go in the Graduate following his brief respite.
"He gets two or three weeks off, little gaps here and there, and he seems to bounce back really good," Harder said. "He likes a week or two off here or there. He's pretty fit going in, anyway.
"He hasn't faced those real big boys yet; that's a whole different kettle of fish. But he'll get a call; he'll be involved. They're different horses, but he won't disgrace himself, that's for sure."
Multiple stakes-winning 3-year-old trotting filly Maven polished up her form with a 15-1/4 length win in 1:56.4 in another qualifier.
Maven won seven of her 11 races last year, including divisions of the Bluegrass, Arden Downs and Tompkins-Geers and legs of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and Kindergarten Series. She led at every point of call, with fractions of :29.4, :57.2 and 1:27.1. Yannick Gingras drove for trainer Jonas Czernyson and owner W.J. Donovan.
Czernyson expects to ship north with young horses this weekend, so assistant trainer Randy Taft was on hand to supervise the daughter of Glidemaster-M Stewart.
"She was just fantastic, she's a very nice filly," said Taft.
Asked about the filly's qualifier at The Meadowlands on April 20, in which she broke from the start to the quarter-mile mark, Taft said, "That was an intimidation thing. She was in the same qualifier as Check Me Out (last year's 2-year-old champ) and no one wanted to leave on her. Yannick had to struggle with her a bit at the gate and she made a break, but she's OK."
Taft said he did not expect any additional qualifiers and anticipated Maven would head back to Pennsylvania for sire stake races at The Meadows starting May 15.
Major Bombay, a 3-year-old colt pacer, edged Machapelo by a neck in 1:55.2 in his qualifier. Major Bombay, trained by Tony Alagna and driven by Sears, won last year's Woodrow Wilson.
Rockaround Sue, a 3-year-old filly pacer also trained by Alagna and driven by Sears, won by a neck over Day Blue Chip in 1:55.4 with Handsoffmycookie 1-1/4 lengths back. Rockaround Sue won a division of the International Stallion Stakes last season.