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Melander Trotters Ready for SOA of NY Series Third Leg

Melander Trotters Ready for SOA of NY Series Third Leg
by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. - Yonkers Raceway's lucrative purses were on trainer Jenny Melander's mind when she opened the sale catalogs last fall. Melander, who's been running her own stable for five years now, only had a few horses who could compete at the Hilltop Oval last season and she wanted to change that.

"I would love to always have a good focus on Yonkers, but last year, we didn't have horses that would get around a half as good as I would have hoped," she said. "When we searched for horses at the sale this fall, we did have Yonkers in the back of our head. That's where we wanted to be."

Melander's focus on Yonkers is proving fruitful early in the 2017 racing season. From 23 starters, Melander's pupils have won seven races and another nine have hit the board. In Tuesday's (April 18) third leg of the Yonkers Raceway/SOA of NY Bonus Trotting Series, she'll send out three competitors: Golden Son, Ameliosi, and Ontheroad De Vie.

Melander purchased Golden Son out of the Harrisburg Mixed Sale with the series in mind. For $20,000, she thought she was getting a horse who loved to win and could compete at Yonkers.

"I liked him from day one," Melander recalled. "He's a big horse and I just thought he needed a little more muscle tone than what he had. It looked like he might have been turned out for a little bit when he first came to us. A 3-year-old that's kind of on the big side, that's nice because you know you can improve them just with maturing and training. He's lovely. He has a great work ethic and he's really nice around the barn."

Golden Son debuted a winner for Melander at The Meadowlands December 15, but didn't race again until January 17 at Yonkers when he won again in a $25,000 overnight. The spacing between races was part of a carefully crafted campaign that allowed Golden Son to stay eligible to the Bonus Trotting Series, for horses who had not won six races or $100,000 through February 1, 2017.

"In the series, we thought he'd fit perfect. Even when we bought him because he had so many wins already, but he didn't have much money on his card," she explained. "We knew that if we were to continue to race him into the winter before the stakes payment came up, he wouldn't fit it. We managed him for the series. We raced him twice before the payment was due for the series."

Golden Son racked up two more wins in overnight competition before the series began April 4. Sent straight to the lead by John Campbell in week one, Golden Son went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:57.3. The next week, with Jason Bartlett in the sulky, Golden Son wired the field again, winning by 2 in 1:56.3. In addition to his impressive victories, Melander is seeing improvement in Golden Son's attitude on the racetrack.

"Sometimes, he gets a little worked up and he doesn't finish the mile as strong as he should, but the last couple of weeks he's been minding his manners even better," she explained. "Part of that is maturing and part of that is the driver helping to keep him quiet. Obviously some days it works better than others, but lately, he's coming around with that and able to use his ability to the fullest instead of wasting it beforehand."

Golden Son, one of four horses sporting a perfect record in the series heading into week three, along with Tight Lines, Pridecrest, and Triumphant's Chip, drew post position two in the third of five $25,000 divisions Tuesday night and is a 6/5 morning line favorite. While Melander is happy Golden Son has avoided the other series favorites so far, the same can't be said for Ameliosi, who faces Tight Lines from post one in the first division.

Ameliosi finished third in leg one after making up an 8 1/4-length deficit at odds of 18-1 before winning her second-leg division in wire-to-wire fashion in 1:57.2. Although the waters get deeper this week, Melander is thrilled to have Ameliosi in contention for a spot in the series final after a paddock accident last fall nearly ended the 4-year-old mare's career.

"Our plan was to race her at Yonkers through the winter, but she fell in the paddock in the late fall and really hurt herself and it's just taken forever to get her back going. For a while, we thought we would have to breed her because she just did not improve," Melander remembered.

While Ameliosi didnt require surgery, she did need time, and a lot of it. Sore muscles in her back left the daughter of Explosive Matter's future in doubt.

"It was all muscles and chiropractic work. She must have pulled a muscle in her back that set really deep. At first, we gave her a month off, but starting back, she just wasn't where she should have been," Melander recalled. "It was really just a rocky go for a few months and we were just thinking maybe she's not going to come around. Then, we started seeing a little light again and she got a little better and a little better. Now she's over it completely and she's getting stronger and stronger."

Melander credits owners John Devito and Rocco Manniello for their patience during Ameliosi's recovery. The longtime owners, who also own Golden Son, are big supporters of Melander's growing stable.

"They started with one horse and I think I have eight horses with me now. They've been great to me and we have a pretty good relationship at this stage," Melander said. "I really appreciate them when they let me take my time. Sometimes when you rush these horses, you're just not going to get the results you wish for."

While Golden Son and Ameliosi drew well in Tuesday's divisions, Melander's final series entrant didn't fare as well. Ontheroad De Vie will start from post seven in the final division of the night. It's the second time in the series the 5-year-old gelding will start from the far outside. Co-owned by Melander, Ontheroad De Vie is a 6-1 morning line.

"He has been a good horse to us and he went through the classes. We bought him last fall and he's been really good, made a lot of money at Yonkers. I have no complaints, but he's just not the quality of the other two," Melander pointed out. "He needs a trip worked out and needs it worked out his way. He'll always try and he'll always put in a good effort."

First post Tuesday night at Yonkers is 7:10 p.m.

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