Showers may have left the Yonkers Raceway oval “good” for the opening round of the George Morton Levy Memorial Series for aged pacers and the final clockings were perhaps two seconds slower than normal throughout the card, but the four opening divisions produced only one genuine shocker as roughly a dozen pacers gave early indications that they will be among the elite eight horses in the $500,000 final on April 22.
In the opening Levy leg division, Missile J (Tim Tetrick) lived up to his role as the 3-2 favorite when he angled out second over behind Caviart Luca (George Brennan) nearing the half, followed cover to three-quarters, circled three-wide and swept to command on the far turn and splashed home clear in 1:54.1. Blood Brother (Jason Bartlett) was a sharp second, having left to gain command, yielding to Burning N, retaking, yielding to Keystone Velocity and then angling to the passing lane late. Guantanamo Bay (Scott Zeron) rallied belatedly to get the show spot, while Burning N grabbed fourth.
A four-year-old American Ideal gelding trained by Scott DiDomenico, Missile J has now won five of six starts this year and owns 13 wins in 25 career tries. He also figures to be a major player throughout the series and a solid candidate to make the final. Blood Brother raced well in defeat, making three moves over the rain-soaked track that appeared to favor horses closing on the outside. Guantanamo Bay was patiently handled throughout and rallied willingly widest of all to finish third and still merits consideration for the final.
One race later in the second Levy opening division, Long Live Rock (Daniel Dube) rallied first over to post an 18-1 upset in 1:54.1 for trainer Rene Allard. The eight-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding wore down 3-5 choice McWicked down the backside and easily held safe the late bid of All Bets Off, who was making his seasonal debut following a pair of solid qualifiers at the Meadowlands for trainer Ron Burke. Longshot Mattamerican edged Santa Fe Beachboy for third.
Then in the third Levy leg opener, Provocativeprince N (Jordan Stratton) maintained the perfect start to his current campaign when he angled out first over early backside and wore down Bettors Edge (Brett Miller) and outkicked Rockin Ron (Yannick Gingras) and Mach It So (Tim Tetrick) for a head score in 1:54.2. Provocativeprince N has won all four of his starts this year and five of six tries for trainer Peter Tritton and owner Harry von Knoublauch and looms a serious contender for the final. Rockin Ron was a sharp second, while Mach It So raced well in his seasonal debut and should also be a factor throughout the series again.
Then in the fourth and final opening Levy leg division, Soto (Matt Kakaley) benefited from a pocket trip behind Somewhere In L A (Bartlett) through the first three calls, angled to the passing lane and splashed home a length clear in 1:53.3, the fastest of the four splits. A five-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven stallion trained by Eric Ell for owners Kenny Wood, William Dittmar and Steve Iaquinta – the same contingent of champion trotter J L Cruze – Soto notched his fifth win in nine starts this year and pushed his seasonal earnings to nearly $100,000.
Defending Levy hero Bit Of A Legend N (Stratton) raced well after a second over trip behind Always At My Place (Gingras), tipped three-wide for the drive and closed willingly in the lane to edge Somewhere In L A for the place spot. Bit Of A Legend N has yet to win from three starts this year for Tritton, but the defending Levy champ has raced well in each of those trio of setbacks and should join stablemate Provocativeprince N in the final. Somewhere In LA could give trainer Richard Banca a finals duo along with Blood Brother.