Harness action was hot over Labor Day weekend

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Ted Black

September 5th, 2018

While many Americans often head to the beaches or prepare for elaborate cookouts for Labor Day weekend, often dubbed the unofficial end of summer, harness racing fans had plenty of reason to bypass the beaches and barbecues and head to the track.

Monday evening marked the end of the summer meet at Ocean Downs, a half-mile oval in Berlin, Maryland, five miles west of popular Ocean City, and the feature went to a worthy winner. Rock N Row (John Wagner), owned and trained by Willard Reynolds for owner Donald Fowler, just outlasted the late surge of OK Fantastic (Jonathan Roberts) to forge a 9-1 upset in 1:55.2 in the Gold Class.

That same evening at Harrington Raceway in Delaware, not far from the beaches in Rehoboth, Kiss A Dragon (Russell Foster) prevailed by a neck over Northwest Yankee in 1:53 as the 1-2 favorite in a non-winners of $8801 last five starts class for older pacers. Then Slick Tony (Montrell Teague) scored by two lengths in 1:51.4 in the Open II for owner-breeder-trainer George "Ronnie" Leager and several races later on the card his younger half-brother, Son Of A Lynx (Foster) posted a 10-1 upset in a non-winners of two races or $10,000 lifetime class in 1:57.1 for Leager.

One night earlier Pocono Downs offered a stellar card that featured four, $250,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes finals for three-year-olds of both gaits and genders and three, $100,000 Great Northeast Open series finals for older trotters and pacers all contested at one-mile and one-quarter.

In the first of the three Great Northeast Open finals, Bettorhaveanother (Matt Kakaley) posted an 11-1 upset for trainer Ron Burke when she scored by a neck over Caviart Ally in 2:21.3. Then one race later Homicide Hunter (George Napolitano, Jr.) captured the GNE Open final for trotters easily in 2:22.2, then Western Joe (Scott Zeron) rallied late to overtake favored Dont'tellmeagain (Tim Tetrick) to score in 2:20.2 as the 3-1 second choice.

Sunday's PASS championships featured few surprises. Phaetosive (Trond Smedshammer), arguably the third-best three-year-old trotting filly in the country, scored as the 1-20 favorite in her final in 1:52.3; Kissin In The Sand (Zeron), unquestionably the best three-year-old filly pacer in the land, won her final in 1:49.3; Crystal Fashion (Tetrick), a Hambo elim winner, edged Whats The Word (Simon Allard) in 1:52.4 for trainer Jim Campbell and Dorsoduro Hanover (Kakaley) prevailed as the 3-10 choice in the 3YOCP final by a nose over Hayden Hanover in 1:49.4.

That same evening in the final $11,000 Open Handicap of the season at Ocean Downs, Options Are Adream (Ross Wolfenden) led throughout to score in 1:51.4. Trained and driven by Wolfenden for owner David Banks of Rookery fame, Options Are A Dream joined the short list of older pacers to win the Open Hcp twice during the meet at the seaside oval and will likely be a factor in the top class at Rosecroft Raceway when that meet gets under way on September 16.

Saturday evening Yonkers Raceway hosted both the $500,000 Yonkers Trot final for three-year-old colt trotters and the $500,000 Messenger Stakes for three-year-old colt pacers.

In the Yonkers Trot, Six Pack (Ake Svandstedt) rebounded from a pair of self-inflicted setbacks in the Zweig Memorial and the Hambo elims to score by eight lengths in 1:54, then Stay Hungry (Doug McNair) kept his hopes alive for a Triple Crown sweep - only the Little Brown Jug remains on Sep. 20 - by brushing to command then outlasting the gritty bid of favored Jimmy Freight (Louis Roy) to score in 1:52.1 for trainer Tony Alagna.

That same evening McErlean (Brent Holland) led throughout from the coveted rail to edge favored Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton) in the $44,000 Open Handicap in 1:52. Bit Of A Legend N benefited from live cover from Great Vintage and finished well, but came up just short in his final prep for his title defense in the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington on Sep. 17.

Several other talented aged pacers who could be headed to the Quillen this month and then perhaps the $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft on Dec. 2 clashed in the $600,000 Canadian Pacing Derby. McWicked (Davis Miller), overlooked at 7-2 due to the presence of Lazarus N (Yannick Gingras) overcame a first over journey and serious back half to overhauled Lazarus N in the lane for a three-length score in 1:49. Lazarus had been afforded a soft 55.1 half, but the Down Under Wonder proved no match for McWicked when the real racing began in the final eighth.