FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) Habitat took the lead early on and posted a 3 3/4-length victory in the $133,170 Dexter Cup for 3-year-old trotting colts at Freehold Raceway on Saturday.
Driven by Yannick Gingras, Habitat trotted the mile in 1:56.4 in the first big race in New Jersey leading up to the Hambletonian on Aug. 8 at the Meadowlands. The Ron Burke-trained colt paid $3, $2.80 and $2.10.
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.
Divisionist finished second and paid $6.60 and $4.20, while Gabe The Bear Dean returned $4.80 to show.
Habitat is eligible to run in the Hambletonian.
Habitat, who is eligible to run in the Hambletonian, got away swiftly and had the lead by the :28.2 first quarter, with Gabe The Bear Dean and driver Jordan Stratton behind him in second. Those two stayed in order, reaching the half mile in 58.4 seconds.
Driver Charlie Norris moved Divisionist up on the outside to put on a brief challenge at the 1:27.4 three quarters, but he could not make up ground as Habitat trotted away from the field.
''I like it that way, perfect for me,'' Gingras said. ''I just had to worry about the first turn, but once he was through there I know there would be no catching him. In the backstretch, I could tell they were coming a little bit so I just opened him up a little so I wouldn't have to rush him in the last turn. He was never in doubt.''