FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) Habitat will step on the road to the Hambletonian Stakes when the colt takes on seven foes in the $133,170 Dexter Cup for 3-year-olds on Saturday at Freehold Raceway.
A multiple stakes winner in 2014, Habitat will start from post No. 6 with Yannick Gingras in the sulky. The Ron Burke trainee is the 9-5 morning line favorite.
Also in the Dexter will be four horses from the stable of trainer Ray Schnittker - Gabe The Bear Dean, HA Taylor, Bavaro, and Broken Record - along with Charlie Norris' Divisionist, Jimmy Takter's Apostles Creed, and Rich Gillock's Sixteen Encores. Schnittker has five triumphs in the Dexter Cup.
Apostles Creed, Divisionist, Habitat, and Sixteen Encores are eligible to the Hambletonian.
Habitat won seven of 13 races and earned $534,407 in purses last year, a total that ranked third among all 2-year-old trotters. Only Dan Patch Award winners Mission Brief (female) and Pinkman (male) earned more.
Habitat's victories included the William Wellwood Memorial and Matron Stakes.
Habitat would enter the year as the star of most stables, but Burke also is preparing Mission Brief for her 3-year-old campaign - and a chance to take on the boys in the Hambletonian. Last year, she trotted the fastest mile in history by a 2-year-old - male or female - when she won in 1:50.3 at Lexington's Red Mile.
Habitat received a bye to the Dexter Cup final based on career earnings. Apostles Creed won last week's Dexter Cup elimination by a length over Divisionist in 1:59.4. Takter has trained four Dexter Cup winners during his career.