Freehold, NJ --- George Brennan was in the winner’s circle after both eliminations for Saturday’s $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace last weekend, once with an old friend and once with a horse he had seen but never driven.
Brennan guided Aracache Hanover to a track-record 1:48.1 win in his Franklin elim, grinding away from first over to get by leader Bettor Sweet in the stretch and hold off Meirs Hanover by a half-length. Bettor Sweet was third, followed by Clear Vision and Razzle Dazzle, who advanced to Saturday’s final as the fastest fifth-place finisher in the two divisions.
In the second elim, Brennan and Betterthancheddar followed the cover of eventual runner-up We Will See to post a three-quarter length victory in 1:48.3. Foiled Again was third and Rockincam was fourth to complete the field for the final.
Brennan had never sat behind Aracache Hanover prior to the Franklin elims. He has won four of six starts with Betterthancheddar, including last year’s American-National Stakes and Windy City Pace.
For the final, Brennan will drive Betterthancheddar, starting from post two, for trainer Casie Coleman. Tim Tetrick will pick up the ride with Aracache Hanover, starting from post four, for trainer Gregg McNair. Tetrick drove Aracache Hanover to a third-place finish in last year’s Franklin final.
Betterthancheddar, a 4-year-old, has won four of five races this year, with his only setback coming by a nose to We Will See in the Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational. Last season, he won 10 of 18 starts, including the Breeders Crown and Cane Pace in addition to the American-National and Windy City. He is owned by Steve Calhoun and Coleman’s West Wins Stable.
“He’s definitely a little bigger, but otherwise just the same,” Brennan said. “To his credit, that’s big for a 4-year-old at this time of year to beat older horses like that.
“(The trip in the elim) absolutely worked out perfect. I was second over until just about the top of the lane; I tipped him out and he felt real good. He was following a good horse. I wasn’t sure I’d get him, but (We Will See) had a tough trip, and (Betterthancheddar) wore him down and paced strong to the wire.”
Brennan also was impressed with Aracache Hanover, who has won four of 13 races this season and earned $114,659 for owners William Switala and James Martin. The 5-year-old has won 20 of 68 career starts, including the 2010 Confederation Cup and 2010 Windy City Pace, and banked $1.16 million.
“I didn’t even really know I was driving him until I got here tonight,” Brennan said. “I know the horse; I’ve raced against him enough and watched him race enough to know what he does. He raced very good.
“They didn’t say anything to me, so I was on my own. He went a really great race. At the half he felt good, so when I came first over with him I didn’t really ask too much until the top of the turn and he paced home strong.”
The Franklin field also includes last year’s winner in We Will See and the defending Pacer of the Year in Foiled Again. Also part of the mix is Bettor Sweet, who won last season’s Breeders Crown Open Pace, and Rockincam, who bounced back from being sidelined briefly because of atrial fibrillation.
If Foiled Again wins the Franklin, he will surpass $4 million in lifetime purses. In fact, the 8-year-old gelding, trained by Ron Burke, would move into the No. 2 spot all time behind only Gallo Blue Chip’s $4.26 million.
“It’s definitely a good group,” Brennan said. “With Foiled Again, we’re seeing one of the greatest free-for-all horses of all time and We Will See is a year older and he beat up on them at (age) 4, so he’s a great horse. There are some really good horses in there.”
Following is the field in post position order for Saturday’s $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace, with listed drivers and trainers: 1. Razzle Dazzle, Brian Sears, Richard Silverman; 2. Betterthancheddar, George Brennan, Casie Coleman; 3. Meirs Hanover, David Miller, Ron Burke; 4. Aracache Hanover, Tim Tetrick, Gregg McNair; 5. We Will See, Ron Pierce, Sam DePinto; 6. Clear Vision, Matt Kakaley, Burke; 7. Rockincam, Jim Morrill, Jr., R. Nifty Norman; 8. Foiled Again, Yannick Gingras, Burke; 9. Bettor Sweet, John Campbell, Thomas Cancelliere.