Homeracing

Aged pacers battle the elements throughout Saturday cards

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Ted Black

February 11th, 2018

Last Saturday may not have provided harness racing fans and combatants with ideal conditions for competing or viewing, but horses and drivers braved the elements during the morning, afternoon and well into the night at a quartet of venues.

Saturday night at Yonkers Raceway in New York, Macintosh N (Jordan Stratton) kicked off the card in the driving rain by living up to his role as the 6-5 favorite when he gained command from post two, shook off a first over bid from Santa Fe Beacbboy (Jason Bartlett) and outlasted the late bid of pocket-sitting Hot Deuce (Daniel Dube) to score by nearly a length in 1:54. The nine-year-old Mach Three gelding trained by Anita Vallee notched his first win in four starts this year and pushed his lifetime earnings past $325,000.

Then three races later in another non-winners of $20,000 last five starts class for aged pacers, Machtu N (Matt Kakaley) benefited from a second over journey and rallied widest of all on the far turn and through the lane to nail 1-2 favorite Soho Wallstreet A (Eric Goodell) to prevail by a nose in 1:54.3 as an overlooked 16-1 shot. An eight-year-old Mach Three gelding trained by Nick Surick, Machtu N notched his second win in five starts this year and pushed his career earnings to nearly $315,000 and remains eligible to the same class.

Two races later in the $40,000 Open Handicap for older pacers, Killer Matini (Bartlett) benefited from a lively early tempo and good outer flow down the backside and swept past the leaders in the lane to prevail for the second straight week in the featured event. A six-year-old Camluck gelding owned and trained by Ricky Bucci, Killer Martini notched his second win in five starts this year and pushed his career earnings past $260,000 and now appears destined for the George Morton Levy series.

Then one race later in the $40,000 Open Handicap for trotters, NF Happenstance (Jack Parker, Jr.) overcame post six to gain command before the opening quarter, rebuffed a bid from favored Rubber Duck on the far turn and past the half, opened a clear lead down the backside and drew off as much the best to score in 1:55.1. An eight-year-old SJ's Caviar mare trained by Carol Jamieson-Parker, NF Happenstance recorded her fifth win from six starts this year and pushed her career earnings toward $375,000 by trouncing the boys.

Then three races later in another non-winners of $20,000 last five starts class, We Think Alike (Bartlett) left alertly from the inside to gain command through the first turn, got a breather to the half, rebuffed a bid from 3-5 favorite Bungalow Bill down the backside and through the far turn and then outkicked the late bid of pocket-sitting Book Binge to score by a neck in 1:53.4. A six-year-old If I Can Dream gelding trained by Brandon Todd, We Think Alike notched his third straight victory and first off the claim for Todd.

In his third attempt to attain the 100th victory of his career, Foiled Again (George Brennan) left well from post eight looking for a tuck, got taken back to last and never reached contention again. The 14-year-old Dragon Again gelding with $7.57 million already to his credit, will seek to draw better in the non-winners of $20,000 last five starts level next weekend. The Ron Burke trainee should embark on a farewell tour sometime this spring, summer and fall.

Earlier on the card a pair of non-winners of $20,000 last five starts/optional $30,000 claiming races for trotters, Zooming (Jason Bartlett) and Always A Good Time (Daniel Dube) both delivered sharp scores in varying styles. Zooming quarter moved to command and drew clear in the lane to a three-length score in 1:57.1 and gets to stay at the level. Then one race later in the other half of the split condition, Always A Good Time overcame post seven and an extended first over bid to score comfortably in 1:56.4 and looks poised to win at the next level next out.

Across the Hudson River at The Meadowlands, Glass Prince (Eric Carlson) overcame excess cover and rallied widest of all in the lane to capture the $12,500/15,000 claiming event opener in 1:52.4. A Maryland-bred nine-year-old Artiscape gelding trained by Rick Dane. Jr., Glass Prince notched his first win in four starts this year and now sports earnings of nearly $550,000. His last win came in late December at the same level at the Big M.

Then right at the midway point of the card, Western Joe (Patrick Berry) emerged from the rain and fog to overhaul Awesomeness and Bettor's Edge in the lane to score by a neck in 1:50.4. A four-year-old Western Ideal stallion trained by Chris Choate, Western Joe recorded his second win in four starts this year when he took down the Preferred for the second time in his last three tries. Awesomeness hit the board for the first time in three tries at the level but had displayed ample late foot in each of his prior two.

Earlier that afternoon at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey, a half-mile track where aged pacers are abundant, Versado (Andy Miller) lived up to his role as the even-money favorite to capture a non-winners of $4500 last five starts class for pacers in 1:56. An 11-year-old Dragon Again gelding trained by Nick Surick, Versado left alertly from along the rail to gain command soon after the start and carved out modest fractions of 28.2, 58.2 and 1:26.3 en route to the two-length score.

Then one race later in a non-winners of $3500 last five starts conditioned event, Gambler's Tale (Steve Smith) lived up to his role as the 8-5 favorite en route to a 1:55.4 score then in the finale Life Is Good As (Vincent Ginsburg) posted a 5-1 upset when he rallied from well off the pace to score in 1:57.3 for owner-trainer and former national driving champion Eddie Davis, who won over 8,000 races in his career and deserves a spot in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame some day.

Even earlier that morning at Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland, the five-eighths mile oval took the first steps toward embarking on the 2018 racing season by hosting its first round of qualifiers for trotters and pacers. Three of the four non-betting events were won by female trainers, but a pair of drivers each recorded two wins in the morning.

Capital Builder (Roger Plante, Jr.) kicked off the morning events by winning his Q by three lengths in 1:562. The five-year-old gelded son of the late, great Somebeachsomewhere is trained by Megan Roberts. One race later it was Don Dorado (Russell Foster) who scored in 1:57.3 for trainer Amy Shahan-Fleming, followed by a victory by Sunshinesomewhere - not here - for Plante and Roberts in 1:56.4, then Baby Kitty (Foster), a six-year-old Mister Big stallion trained by Eric Foster, prevailed in 1:56.2.
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