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Tall Dark Stranger Puts On A Great Show In The Meadowlands Pace
By STEVE PHILLIPS
 

Editor's Note: Tall Dark Stranger will be racing at the Meadowlands on Hambletonian eliminations night (August 1) in the Tompkins-Geers Stakes.


MINEOLA, NY: The 2020 Meadowlands Pace looked like a three horse race going in, and it ultimately unfolded that way. The race became a thriller thanks to the intervention of a 50-1 shot.

While Papi Rob Hanover and Allywag Hanover came into the race in top form, they still had Tall Dark Stranger to deal with. The reigning division champion came into the Pace having won 10 of 11 starts, including the single elimination for this year’s Big M 3-year-old classic.

It should be noted that Nancy Takter’s colt, who somehow looks quite aptly named, suffered his only loss to Papi Rob Hanover in their elimination for the 2019 Juvenile Breeders’ Crown. Papi Rob subsequently beat Tall Dark Stranger in the final, but he was disqualified for interfering with Takter’s son of the venerable Bettors Delight.

When the starting gate pulled away, Tall Dark Stranger went out quickly to nobody’s surprise. Papi Rob Hanover had raced cautiously from post 10 in each of his first two 2020 outings, resulting in high-flying but too-late second place finishes both times. In the big race he was out quickly from post nine, but had to settle back just as quickly. Dave Miller chose discretion as the better tactic when so many horses from his inside were in high gear. On top of that, the only horse to Papi Rob’s outside, Captain Kirk, flew away from the gate.

Joe Bongiorno may have thought he was captaining a starship himself. His 50-1 steed cleared the lead in 25.2, with Yannick Gingras and Tall Dark Stranger having to take a tuck behind the warp-speed leader. But Gingras could not stay behind a 50-1 speedster for long. Even as the field began to settle in, Gingras pulled the Stranger from the longshot’s pocket and brushed to the lead.

Then came the excitement, and a performance that will stand out in the annals of Meadowlands Pace history. At the half, Papi Rob Hanover came roaring after the hard-pressed pace setter. while second betting choice Allywag Hanover picking up the challenger’s cover on the outside.It looked for all the world like Papi Rob was going by his rival, but before he could clear the lead Tall Dark Stranger fought back along the inside.

The Stranger kept Papi parked through the turn, but it looked bad for the favorite, as Papi Rob seemed to easily stay right by his side. At the top of the stretch the two were neck and neck, while Allywag Hanover was storming up on their outside after an ideal trip.

Through the lane, over and over, it seemed as though Papi Rob was going to clear the lead. He stuck his head in front a few times, only to have the Stranger battle right back. In late stretch, though, it looked like Papi was clear, and Allywag was probably going to nail the Stranger for the place spot.

Then, with a staggering display of equine guts, Tall Dark Stranger dug in hard and put a long neck between himself and his arch rival. He held the margin, and even stretched it out a little, hitting the wire in 147.2. It ranks as 2020’s fastest mile to date.

Papi Rob Hanover held Allywag Hanover off for second money, while Manticore used his ever-present late kick to grab the fourth spot.


 
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