Fear The Dragon, harness racing’s top-rated horse, cemented that position Saturday at The Meadows when he wore down the sport’s No. 2-ranked horse, Huntsville, with a prolonged, dramatic first-over move that brought him victory in the $400,000 final of the 51st Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids.
Heavy rains that had soaked The Meadows for the better part of two days stopped shortly before the card began, yielding to sunny, cool weather and a fast track for the highly anticipated battle of No. 1 and No. 2. Early on, it appeared that drama might not develop as Huntsville and Tim Tetrick, got an easier lead than most observers anticipated, including Fear The Dragon’s trainer, Brian Brown. “I was really worried out of the gate once Huntsville cleared to the lead that easy,” Brown said.
Fear The Dragon was fifth down the backside when David Miller felt compelled to put the son of Dragon Again-Armbro Cinnamon into the race. “I probably moved him a little earlier than I had to, but he was gapping a little too much,” Miller said.
Fear The Dragon steadily erased the 5-length deficit until the final turn, when it briefly seemed he had hit the wall. “At the head of the stretch, I thought Huntsville had us put away,” Brown said. “Dragon never gives up. He fought back.”
But Fear The Dragon spurted again and caught Huntsville in the shadow of the wire, downing him by 1/2 length in 1:49.1, with RJP third.
“Going into the turn, I asked him to go, and he wasn’t getting it done,” Miller said. “He made it up in the stretch.”
Tetrick, indicated he thought he had enough horse left to hold off Fear The Dragon. “I thought I had him beat,” Tetrick said. “My horse grabbed the left line a little bit, but he raced well and had every opportunity to win. Hats off to Fear The Dragon.”
Ray Schnittker, who trains Meadowlands Pace winner Huntsville and owns with Ted Gewertz, Steven Arnold and Crawford Farms, accepted the tough beat graciously. “Huntsville raced real good,” he said. “Brian’s horse came first over and kind of wore him down. I thought we had it, but he got nailed. It was a good race. I’d be crazy not to be disappointed, but he raced really well. You can’t ask more than that.”
It was the first Adios victory for Brown, the third for Miller, who won previously with Shadow Play (2008) and McWicked (2014). Brown said Fear The Dragon would be pointed to the Carl Milstein at Northfield while Schnittker indicated Huntsville would race next week in the Cane Pace at the Meadowlands.
ADIOS NOTES: With the win, Fear The Dragon became a millionaire, boosting his career bankroll to $1,152,844 . . . It was a huge Adios Day for Bruce Trogdon’s Emerald Highlands Farm, breeder and owner of Fear The Dragon. Two other Emerald Highlands homebreds, Blazin Britches and Whatstroublinurocky, also won Grand Circuit stakes on the card. “It was the day of a lifetime,” Trogdon said . . . Ella Christina earned the day’s long shot honors when she pulled a 56-1 upset in a division of the Quinton Patterson Adioo Volo . . . Adios Day attendance was 4,113.
– by Evan Pattak