EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – It appeared not to be Western Joe’s night in the featured $22,500 winners-over $11,500 pace Saturday night at The Meadowlands after getting passed at the three-quarter-mile marker, but the veteran warhorse showed his class through the stretch in a thoroughly dominant harness racing performance to chalk up a second win in his last three Big M starts.
“I wasn’t surprised that he came back to win,” said winning trainer Chris Choate. “When he hits that last turn, it looks like he’s going to finish fifth, but then he kicks in.”
Driver Simon Allard had ‘Joe’ – a 7-year-old gelded son of Western Ideal-Ante Fay – on the go from the get-go, barreling four-wide into the first turn from post eight in the 10-horse field and taking over the top just after quarter, which was set by Western Fame in :27.3.
As the 3-5 favorite, Western Joe was sailing along on the engine after a rated second fraction of :28.4, when shortly thereafter, Paduka N popped out the three-hole and came after the leader hard, grabbing the lead at three-quarters by three-quarters of a length while parked after a furious backside brush.
Then Western Joe got serious, finding another gear off the far turn and exploding clear at the eighth pole, powering away from a weary Paduka N on the way to a 1¾-length score in 1:51.3. Hudson Phil and Decision Day rallied to get second and third, respectively. Paduka N weakened and finished last.
“He raced very well last week,” said Choate of Western Joe’s third-place finish to Springsteen and No Easy Day at The Big M. “I didn’t want to see him come first-up, but the two horses that beat him weren’t there tonight. He’s a hard knocker.
“He stalls somewhat on the turns. I don’t know why. Ninety percent of the time he does that. Why, I’m not sure. But as long as he keeps on winning…….”
Now victorious in 31 of his 99 lifetime starts, Western Joe, who established his lifetime-best of 1:47.3 in taking the 2018 Sam McKee Memorial at The Meadowlands, returned $3.20 to his backers in lifting his earnings to $726,858 for owners Anthony Ruggeri and Richard Tosies.
“I’m not sure if he can go with the big boys anymore,” said Choate. “We’ll stay at The Meadowlands as long as there are races for him. The Borgata Series at Yonkers is an option. We have a week to decide, but that’s up to the owners.”
BETTING CLOSE TO $4 MILLION: With four races seeing action that exceeded the $300,000 mark, all-source wagering came close to topping the $4-million mark for a second consecutive Saturday night.
Total action on the 15-race card was $3,966,231 to cap a second consecutive weekend that saw over $7 million pushed through the windows.
Through the first 11 race cards of 2021, wagering has been at least $3 million on seven occasions and over $4 million twice.
During all of 2020, the $3-million barrier was busted 11 times while action exceeded $4 million on three programs.
BIG GAME WINNERS: Forevernalways completed a two-race sweep of the Big Game Series for $12,500 claimers for trainer Nick Sodano in 1:52.3 as the 9-5 favorite. Dexter Dunn was in the sulky.
In the Big Game for non-winners of $11,500, Tulhurstsantanna A and driver Andy McCarthy scored in 1:51.1 as the 7-2 second choice, giving the Andrew Harris trainee a sweep of the two-race event.
A LITTLE MORE: A carryover of $21,961 led to a total pool of $79,254 in the 15th race 10-cent Hi-5/Pentafecta, and those lucky enough to have tickets with the winning combination of 2-6-3-4-10 cashed in for $10,094.20. … Dunn paced the driver colony with four winners, lifting his Big M leading dash-win total to 31. Scott Zeron and Todd McCarthy had two apiece. … Racing resumes Friday at 6 p.m.
By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations