FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) The road to the Hambletonian heats up this weekend with the running of the $143,737 Dexter Cup at Freehold Raceway.
The race is the first Grand Circuit event leading up to the $1 million Hambletonian Stakes at the Meadowlands in August.
Eight 3-year-old male trotters were entered in the Dexter with the Jimmy Takter-trained Sir John F being installed as the 5-2 favorite after drawing the No. 1 post position. Yannick Gingras is listed to drive.
Southwind Cobra was installed as the 4-1 second choice for trainer Ron Burke. Joe Bongiorno will drive, starting in the No. 5 post.
Besides Sir John F and Southwind Cobra, Another Chapter and Earl Variera are also eligible for the Hambletonian.
Another Chapter won one of last weekend's two Dexter Cup eliminations. Lord Cromwell won the other. Southwind Cobra didn't compete in the elims because Burke elected to take a bye, based on career earnings, to the final.
Southwind Cobra, a son of 2009 Hambletonian winner and Horse of the Year Muscle Hill, won two of 13 races and earned $96,296 last year. His time of 1:53.3 was fifth best among all 2-year-old male trotters in 2016.
Elimination winners Lord Cromwell will leave from post two and Another Chapter from post eight.