Harness Races Highlighted by the Meadows and Saratoga

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Ted Black

July 23rd, 2017

While many thoroughbred racing fans were keenly watching the action at Del Mar Race Course in California and Saratoga Race Course in New York - the sport's two concurrent premier tracks each summer - harness racing enthusiasts got their fair share of excitement by viewing the afternoon card at the Meadows and the evening program at Saratoga harness.

Saturday's afternoon card at the Meadows near Pittsburgh was highlighted by the two eliminations for the Adios Pace, the track's signature event which for many years was contested in heats and decided on the same day. But in light of the standardbred's increasing shift to speed and diminishing durability, the Adios is now among the numerous open stakes in which the eliminations are one week before the final.

In the first Adios elim, Huntsville (Tim Tetrick), fresh off his determined head victory over Downbytheseaside in the $740,000 Meadowlands Pace final, lived up to his role as the 1-9 favorite when he brushed to command past the grandstands the first time, maintained honest fractions over a dampened strip and just lasted for a neck score in 1:49.3. A sophomore son of Somebeachsomewhere trained by Ray Schnittker, Huntsville has won three straight races and now owns seven wins in nine starts this year and nearly $1 million banked and could emerge as the favorite in next weekend's Adios final.

One race later in the second Adios elim, favored Fear The Dragon (David Miller) maintained his status as the top pacer in the land when he overcame a brief, first over bid to prevail as the 1-5 favorite in 1:50.3. A three-year-old Dragon Again colt trained by Brian Brown, Fear The Dragon has won eight of nine starts this year and now owns 13 wins in 20 starts overall and nearly $1 million banked. He may be the top sophomore in the land now, but he might yield the favorite's role to Huntsville next weekend in the Adios final.

Several budding stars in the juvenile pacing colt division emerged in three $53,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes splits. In the opener, Pedro Hanover (Tetrick) rebounded from an early miscue in his career debut and posted an 11-1 upset while handing Wild Bill the first setback of his career in three outings. A freshman son of Somebeachsomewhere trained by Andrew Harris, Pedro Hanover notched his first win in two career tries.

One race later on the card, Closing Statement (David Miller) recorded his second win in three tries when he upset Kwik Talkin (Jordan Stratton), recent hero of the $110,000 Lawrence B Sheppard Memorial final at Yonkers Raceway, in the second PASS split. A juvenile son of Somebeachsomewhere trained by Joe Holloway, Closing Statement notched his second win in three starts and handed Kwik Talkin his first setback in five outings.

Several races later in the third $54,000 PASS split, Done Well (Tetrick) lived up to his billing as the 1-5 favorite when he overcame post eight to gain command past the opener and led throughout to score in 1:52. A juvenile son of Well Said trained by Brian Brown for the numerous Wingfield Brothers, Done Well has certainly lived up to his name thus far and won all three of his starts and banked nearly $70,000 along the way.

That same evening at Saratoga harness, Funknwaffles (Corey Callahan) lived up to his billing as the 1-20 favorite in the first $44,000 New York Sire Stakes split for three-year-old pacing colts when he overcame a long, first over bid to prevail by a length over 12-1 Cultural Paradise (Brett Miller) in 1:50.4. A sophomore son of American Ideal trained by John Butenschoen, Funknwaffles notched his third win in seven starts and now owns 11 wins from 16 career tries and pushed his lifetime earnings past $470,000.

Then three races later in the second $44,000 NYSS split for the sophomore pacing colts, Heavens Gait (David Miller) easily lived up to his role as the 1-9 favorite when he brushed to command before a modest 28.2 opener, got a breather by the half in 57 flat and edged clear from Pointomygranson (Brett Miller) in the final 100 yards to score by two lengths in 1:51.3. A sophomore son of Rock N Roll Heaven trained by Nicholas Devita, Heavens Gait has won six of 11 starts and banked $125,000 and looms a serious contender in the upcoming NYSS final.

Then one race later in the third $44,000 NYSS for the sophomore pacers, Uffizi (David Miller) overcame a long, first over bid to gain command at the head of the lane then outlasted the late bid of odds-on choice Talent Soup (Brett Miller) for a length score in 1:51.4. A sophomore son of American Ideal trained by Chris Ryder, Uffizi notched his second win in six starts and doubled his career earnings to $43,000. Talent Soup raced well in defeat, rallying third over and widest of all to gain the place spot for trainer Bruce Saunders.

Then one race later in the $260,000 Joe Gerrity, Jr. Memorial for older pacers, Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton) settled well off the pace, angled out third over down the backside behind a parked Sintra and Mach It So, angled three-wide entering he far turn, rallied widest of all at the head of the lane and swept past the leaders in the stretch to score by three lengths in 1:50.3. An eight-year-old Bettor's Delight stallion trained by Peter Tritton for owner Harry Von Knoblauch notched his fourth win in 15 starts this year and doubled his seasonal earnings past $250,000.

Five weeks after winning the $150,000 Molson Stakes in Canada, Bit Of A Legend N rebounded from a quartet of modest efforts in the $55,000 Open Handicap at Yonkers Raceway to rejoin the ranks of the top older pacers in the land. Mach It So, fresh off a 16-1 upset in the $425,000 William R. Haughton Memorial final at the Meadowlands, rallied well to gain the place spot. Boston Red Rocks, used hard early after a game, second-place effort in the Haughton, lasted for the show spot.

One race later in the $25,000 Open Handicap for older pacers at Saratoga, Luck Be Withyou (Brett Miller) gained command soon after the start and carved out wicked fractions on an uncontested lead and easily held safe the late bid of Rockin Ron to score in an eye-opening 1:49.2. A six-year-old Western Ideal stallion trained by Chris Oakes, Luck Be Withyou notched his third win from nine starts this year and moved his career earnings closer to the $1.5 million plateau.

That same evening at Pocono Downs, Always At My Place (George Napolitano, Jr.) rebounded from a miscue the week before as the 1-5 choice and gained command early and led throughout to capture a non-winners of $22,500 handily in 1:48.2. A six-year-old Always A Virgin gelding trained by Ron Burke, Always At My Place recorded his fourth win in 14 starts this year and should fit a similar class again next week.