Scioto Downs earns spotlight on Saturday night

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Ted Black

September 7th, 2017

This coming Saturday night many of the sport's top older pacers and a handful of the season's best three-year-old pacers will venture to Scioto Downs in Ohio for a pair of lucrative stakes races that onlookers will certainly watch closely for varying reasons.

Saturday's feature race at Scioto Downs is the $225,000 Jim Ewart Memorial for older pacers and the event attracted many of the sport's best free-for-allers during a season in which there has not been a genuine standout. In fact, expect a handful of the pacers in the Ewart - along with a trio of older horses in the Open Handicap on Saturday night at Yonkers Raceway - will be heading to Harrington Raceway on September 18 for the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial Invitational.

Serious contenders in the Ewart include Mel Mara (Corey Callahan), a winner five times in nine starts this year, Boston Red Rocks, perhaps the best horse in the land without a win on his resume this season, McWicked (David Miller), who sports a solid 6-3-2 slate and $230,000 bankroll from 20 starts this year but has been unlucky in his last two tries, Ron Burke trainees Check Six (Chris Page) and Rockin Ron (Matt Kakaley), Canadian Pacing Derby hero Sintra (Andrew McCarthy) and George Morton Levy Series final champion Keystone Velocity.

Of that group, Mel Mara is certain to return to Harrington for the Quillen. He won the Open Handicap over the Delaware half-mile oval last out despite being forced to race widest of all throughout. McWicked appears to favor the big tracks, but Burke is likely to lean toward sending Rockin Ron or All Bets Off rather than Check Six, who lacks the early speed that the other two pacers possess. Keystone Velocity will likely not get invited since trainer Rene Allard is not licensed in Delaware.

Three races later on the card the three-year-old colt pacers will be on display in the $125,000 Jug Preview, but railbound Downbytheseaside (Brian Sears) is likely to be the odds-on choice again in here. Fresh off a determined victory in the Grade I, $500,000 Messenger Stakes at Yonkers Raceway last weekend, Downbytheseaside will seek to tune up for the Grade I, $600,000 Little Brown Jug for trainer Brian Brown and arrives with eight wins and over $950,000 banked this season from just 12 outings.

Contenders in the Jug Preview include Sports Column, Filibuster Hanover, Henry The Dragon and Drunk On Your Love. Filibuster Hanover was a sharp second in 1:48.2 in last Sunday's $252,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final at Harrah's Philadelphia for Burke and figures to fire off the gate rapidly and seek to secure the garden spot behind Downbytheseaside.

Then one race earlier in the $25,000 Open I Handicap for older pacers, New Talent looms the one to beat despite post 10 in the second tier. But he will have ample company in the form of My Hero Ron, K Ryan Bluechip, Doctor Carter and Sports Sinner. Doctor Carter was a sharp second behind Lady Shadow in last week's edition of the Open Hcp at Scioto and should benefit from ample experience over the track.

That same evening at Yonkers Raceway the overnight card is highlighted by the $50,000 Open Handicap for aged pacers that could be a Quillen prep for several horses. Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton), Somewhere In L A (Jason Bartlett) and Mach It So have been assigned the three outside slots and all three could be headed south for the Quillen nine days later. Bit Of A Legend N has already won two invites this season for trainer Peter Tritton and the late Harry von Knoblauch and Mach It So was second to him after winning the $300,000 William R. Haughton Memorial at the Meadowlands for the second time in three years. He was second to Wiggle It Jiggleit in last year's Quillen and won it two years ago.