Last Saturday afternoon and then on Sunday evening, many of the best Maryland-sired two-year-olds of both genders were highlighted in various stakes at Laurel Park and at Rosecroft Raceway as the runners, trotters and pacers all sought early limelight outings.
Saturday afternoon Laurel Park hosted the 32nd edition of the Maryland Million and the two-year-olds were featured in a pair of events on the early portion of the program.
In the third race, the $100,000 Maryland Million Nursery for two-year-old colts and geldings, Clever Mind (Nik Juarez) found the ideal date and place to make his career debut as the juvenile son of Buffum trained by Graham Motion for owner Richard Golden rallied from well off the pace to forge a 7-1 upset over even-money favorite Jamaican Don and 9-5 second choice Onemoregreattime. Clever Mind covered the six furlongs in a rapid 1:10.05 and now looms the early favorite for Maryland-bred division honors among freshmen colts and geldings.
Then two races later on the card, Limited View (Edgar Prado) rallied from last early to forge a narrow victory over Pikachu Princess to capture the $100,000 Maryland Million Lassie for two-year-old fillies by nearly a length while getting the six panels in 1:12.15. A juvenile daughter of Freedom Child owned and trained by John Salzman, Jr., Limited View recorded her third win in as many starts over the strip and her third victory in four outings overall, having finished sixth in the Grade II Adirondack Stakes at Saratoga in her second start.
Then on Sunday evening at Rosecroft Raceway, the two-year-olds of both gaits and genders were highlighted early on the card. Both Jas Getaway (Allan Davis) and HS Shauna (Roger Plante, Jr.) captured their respective $45,000 MDSS finals in 1:57.2 and 1:54 flat in the early, non-betting races. Then What That Is (Brian Burton) and Allie’s Finale (Plante) prevailed in wire-to-wire fashion in their respective MDSS finals for two-year-old colt trotters and pacers, respectively. What That Is scored in 1:56 and Allie’s Finale triumphed in 1:53, both new MDSS records for their respective groups.
Later the bulk of Sunday’s card highlighted the gritty, durable group of older trotters and pacers that compete there on a regular basis.
In the Winners Over Handicap for trotters, Delaware invader I Like My Boss (Victor Kirby) prevailed by two lengths in 1:53.3 as the solid 3-2 favorite for owner-trainer Robert Shahan. The six-year-old Don Boss Vita gelding now owns a 4-7-7 slate and $66,000 banked this year from 35 tries and soared past the $450,000 plateau in career earnings with that score. Kirby recently recorded his 4000th career driving victory at Harrington.
Then two races later in the $10,000 Open Handicap for older pacers, Hickory Aloha (Timmy Offutt) gained command from post six before a 26.2 opener, got a breather by the half in 55.1, raced unpressed down the backside and by three-quarters in 1:23 then just outlasted the late bid of Rocktavius (Jonathan Roberts) to score in 1:51.1. A five-year-old Village Jolt gelding owned and trained by Joe Offutt, Hickory Aloha was the choice among the USHWA Mid-Atlantic Chapter for Ocean Downs horse of the meet during the summer.
Then two races later in the Winners Over class for pacers, Kiss A Dragon (Russell Foster) gained command early, yielded to Hide Me Away (Roberts), retook before the half in 55.4 then held sway in the lane to score in 1:51.2 for his owner-trainer-driver. Then one race later Rock On Precious (Foster) captured the non-winners of $4000 last five starts class in 1:52 for his owner-trainer-driver.
While that group of veteran, older pacers performs well each week over the local oval, their efforts will likely get out shined in two weeks when the track hosts the second edition of the $100,000 Potomac Pace, expected to attract nine of the top free-for-all pacers in the land.
Most of those expected for the Potomac, including defending champion All Bets Off who won last year’s inaugural edition in 1:48.2 on a bitterly cold night to equal the all-age track record, will be competing in the $500,000 Breeders Crown Open pace final this Saturday night at Hoosier Park in Indiana. Others expected to arrive from the Breeders Crown final include Dealt A Winner and Mach It So, the two Crown elim winners last weekend, Keystone Velocity and Bit Of A Legend N, the last two heroes of the lucrative George Morton Levy Memorial Series final at Yonkers Raceway, along with Mel Mara, Wakizashi Hanover and possibly McWicked, who will be among the favorites in the Breeders Crown final this weekend.
Last year All Bets Off won the inaugural edition of the Potomac on a night when temperatures dropped into the upper teens before the race went postward around 10 p.m., so this year if the mild temperatures hold then the winner of this year’s Potomac will likely have to travel the mile in 1:47.3 or faster to score. Heading into this weekend’s Breeders Crown final, the champion older pacer title is still very much up for grabs, so the Potomac Pace and subsequent TVG Final at The Meaowlands next month could sway the outcome of that voting.