As did David Cross, trainer of Kentucky Derby-winner Sunny's Halo, owner-trainer Jack Kent sold the other seven horses in his stable this winter to take Sweet Meadow Doc on harness racing's Grand Circuit.
The decision paid its first dividends last night when Sweet Meadow Doc, taking full advantage of favored Elarfus breaking stride behind the starting gate, won the first division of the $103,190 William E. Miller Pace at Rosecroft Raceway in 1:59 for the mile.
GE's Romanero won the second division by a short nose over Keystone Exceller in 1:59 2/5, taking advantage of an early breaking horse that enabled driver Gary Ewing to open a 10-length lead over the 1-to-2 favorite going to an opening quarter of 28 1/5 seconds. The final quarter was paced in 28 3/5.
GE's Romanero, third choice in the betting, paid $10.60 for a $2 win bet in earning his seventh victory in his last eight starts.
A crowd of 8,068, largest at the track this year, bet a state harness-record $851,450 on the 12-race card. The previous record of $848,557 was set on a 12-race card last year at Freestate Raceway.
In the first division, Elarfus, a $295,000 purchase at auction earlier this year, broke stride behind the gate and never was in contention. That worked perfectly for Gerald Serama, driving Sweet Meadow Doc from the rail. Flying Rich, from Post 2, went to the lead and, without pressure, set early fractions of 29 3/5, 1:00 3/5 and 1:31.
Ciudad Trujillo applied some pressure from the outside, but once Flying Rich, a surprise second choice in its seasonal debut, put away that horse, Sweet Meadow Doc got racing room near the top of the stretch, pulled out and defeated second-place Flying Rich by 2 1/2 lengths in a final quarter of 28 seconds flat.
"It was the trip you dream about in this kind of race," Serama said.
The $25,797.50 that Kent won with Sweet Meadow Doc was a few dollars more than the Albatross colt's career earnings in nine starts. He was raced eight times last year, with a 1:56 4/5 mile mark.
Pat Crowe, a Canadian who trains and drives Elarfus, as he did Cam Fella, 1982's harness horse of the year, said he was unaware that Maryland did not have a recall rule for a horse who breaks behind the starting gate.
"He was ramming at the gate," Crowe said. "It was going pretty slow, and he wouldn't settle down, that's all."
Elarfus, 40 to 50 yards behind the field at the start, caught up with the other six horses by the half-mile, but finished seventh and last.