Fans of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament known as “March Madness” look forward to this time of year, as do serious harness racing fans who enjoy the madness of a different sort as Yonkers Raceway offers the opening legs of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series for pacing fillies and mares and the George Morton Levy Series for older Free-For-All male pacers with lucrative finals of those events set for Saturday, April 20.
Friday evening the Matchmaker series will get under way with five divisions, several of which came up tough and one of them features the reigning series champion and queen of the distaff division.
The first division of the opening leg includes several genuine prospects for the final, including Write Me A Song, Ideal Lifestyle A, Medusa, Twinkle, Camera Lady and Newborn Sassy. Write Me A Song won her seasonal debut against the F-M Open ranks at Yonkers last Friday, while Medusa and Maryland-bred mares Twinkle and Newborn Sassy return to the BCMM series for a second straight year. Newborn Sassy sports a 32-17-12 slate and over $1 million banked in her career for trainer Jim King, Jr., but she is hardly the star of a barn that includes reigning champ Shartin N.
The second division includes Bettor Joy N (Tetrick), another King protege, Delightfulmemphis N (Jason Bartlett), Freakanomics (Scott Zeron) and Sell A Bit N (Jordan Stratton), a durable Peter Tritton trainee who sports 30 wins and nearly $930,000 banked from 132 lifetime outings and has become a fixture in the BCMM series the past three years.
The third division includes Rockstar Angel A (Yannick Gingras), Apple Bottom Jeans (Corey Callahan) and Lakeisha Hall (George Brennan). Apple Bottom Jeans was a juvenile star in the Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund series and has been able to take her talents on the road to numerous ovals. She sports a 27-14-9 slate and over $680,000 banked from 65 career tries and owns two wins from four starts this year for trainer Dylan Davis, including a 1:50.4 victory at Dover Downs.
The fourth division of the Matchmaker did not come up tough as railbound Kaitlyn N (Kakaley) will face Feelin Red Hot (Brennan), Gold Orchid N (Dexter Dunn) and Lispatty (Mark MacDonald) in this full field. Gold Orchid N arrives off two qualifiers at the Meadowlands for her seasonal debut and sports a 9-5-5 slate and nearly $115,000 banked from 26 career outings.
Last, but certainly not least, the final BCMM opening split includes Shartin N (Tetrick), the reigning series champion and champion older pacing mare for 2018. This talented Jim King trainee won 19 of 24 starts last year and took a mark of 1:48.2 at Lexington and finished second behind McWicked in the voting for both pacer of the year and horse of the year. She has won 26 of 37 career outings and over $1.1 million and is again the future book favorite to successfully defend her BCMM title.
Looking to dethrone Shartin N in this series and perhaps for division honors later this year are Mach It A Par, Dudesalady, Don’t Think Twice A and Betterb Chevron N. Mach It A Par and Dudesalady were in the series last year, while newcomer Betterb Chevron N has won three of six starts this year for trainer Lance Hudson and owner William Hartt and looms a serious contender for final consideration if she can draw inside in future rounds.
Saturday night’s card will feature six divisions of the opening round of the George Morton Levy Series for Free-For-All pacers with a good blend of returning veterans and several prominent newcomers to the series.
The opening split includes Somewhere In L A, Mach It So, Western Fame, Dr. J Hanover and Don Domingo N. Mach It So makes his debut for trainer Chris Height after boasting a solid 49-20-19 slate and over $2.75 million banked from 150 starts for previous trainer Jeff Bamond, Jr. Western Fame (Daniel Dube) won the $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway in his 2018 finale, his first start for trainer Rene Allard and arrives off a third-place finish at Saratoga in his seasonal debut. Don Domingo N has won five of eight starts this year for Hudson and will look to draw inside for subsequent outings.
The second division of the Levy includes Anythingforlove A, Christen Me N, Rockin Ron and Bettor Memories. Anythingforlove A whistled to a 1:51.3 score over the strip last week for trainer Jenn Bongiorno and will seek to duplicate that performance against much tougher. Rockin Ron spent much of last year in the stakes for trainer Ron Burke and makes his seasonal debut following identical 1:53.2 qualifying scores at the Big M.
Saturday’s third division of the Levy includes Ideal Jimmy, Beckhams Z Tam, Sams A Champ A and Bit Of A Legend N. Beckhams Z Tam won the Preferred Handicap at the Big M in 1:50.1 last week, while Sams A Champ A has won all three of his starts this year for trainer Tahni Camileeri, including the Open at Yonkers last week in 1:52.4. Bit Of A Legend N (Stratton) has been a dominant force in the Levy series over the years for Tritton and owns a solid 47-33-12 slate and nearly $2.5 million bankroll in his career.
The fourth Levy split includes Dover Downs invader Duplicated N (Tetrick), Rodeo Rock and JJ Flynn, another Dover arrival. Duplicated N won the Open at DD in 1:49.4 for King and sports 12 wins and $112,000 banked from 30 starts. Rodeo Rock rallied to win the Preferred at the Big M in 1:49.4 and owns 21 wins and $370,000 banked from 82 career tries. JJ Flynn has won five straight at Dover for trainer Josh Green and boasts 25 wins and $370,000 banked from 90 career outings.
The fifth division of the Levy came up tough as Always At My Place, Bettors Fire N, Imarocnrollegend N, Nocturnal Blue Chip, Rockathon and Endeavor loom contenders. The sixth division includes Pompano Park invaders Mar Nien A and More The Bettor N, along with Gokudo Hanover, Bellows Binge and Mach Doro A. Bellows Binge owns two wins at the current Yonkers meet, having defeated Open rivals on January 12 then scored most recently in the non-winners of $30,000 last five starts class. Gokudo Hanover owns two wins this year against the non-winners of $20,000 last five class, while Mach Doro A prevailed in his seasonal debut at that level for trainer Heidi Gibbs.