While many sports enthusiasts were closely watching the National Football League playoffs on Saturday, harness racing fans focused on a pair of tracks in close proximity to one another as both Yonkers Raceway and The Meadowlands offered cards with similar overnight conditions.
In fact, the opening race on the card, a non-winners of $15,000 last five starts class for pacers, Talbotcreekwhiskey (George Brennan) forged a mild 3-1 upset when he gained command before the opener, got a breather to the half in 56.2, rolled by three-quarters in 1:24.2 then held safe 2-5 favorite Denver Seelster (Jason Bartlett) for a length score in 1:53. A five-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding trained by Ron Burke, Talbotcreekwhiskey prevailed in his seasonal debut and now owns 13 wins and $125,000 banked from 47 career tries.
Two races later in another non-winners of $15,000 last five starts class for older pacers, American Boy N (Brent Holland) lived up to his role as the 1-2 favorite when he gained command in a modest 28-second opener, got a breather to the half in 56.4, opened a clear lead by three-quarters in 1:24.2 then held safe the late bid of Rockathon (Bartlett) to score in 1:52.4. Like Talbotcreekwhiskey, American Boy N gets one chance at the non-winners of $20,000 last five starts class although he technically does not fit the class. Rockathon remained eligible to the non-winners of $15,000 last five starts class next weekend.
Then one race later in another non-winners of $15,000 last five starts for pacers, Soho Lennon A (Jim Marohn, Jr.) forged a mild upset when he gained command before the opener in 27.3, got a modest breather by the half in 56.3, rebuffed a bid from even-money choice Sports Column (Joe Bongiuorno) down the backside and by three-quarters in 1:24.3 then drew clear in the lane to a three-length score in 1:52.2. A 10-year-old Mach Three gelding trained by Doug Dilloain, Jr., Soho Lennon A prevailed in his seasonal debut and notched his second straight victory and now sports 42 wins and $585,000 banked from 160 career tries.
Then two races later in the $40,000 Open Handicap for trotters, Lean Hanover (Marohn) benefited from a pocket trip behind 7-5 second choice Swansea through the first three calls, angled out of the two-hole late far turn then overhauled the leader in the final strides for a neck victory in 1:55.1. A seven-year-old Donato Hanover gelding trained by Linda Toscano, Lean Hanover prevailed in his seasonal debut and now owns an 18-11-12 slate and over $300,000 banked from 77 career outings.
Then two races later in a non-winners of $15,500 last five starts class, Manverick (Brennan) overcame post seven to gain command before a 26.3 opener, got a breather by the half in 56.3, maintained an honest tempo by three-quarters in 1:24.1 then held safe the late bid of Rock N Blue (Bartlett) for a head victory in 1:53.1. A five-year-old American Ideal gelding trained by Bruce Saunders, Manverick notched his first win in two starts this year and now owns 15 wins and nearly $100,000 banked from 27 career outings.
One race later in the non-winners of $30,000 last five starts for pacers, Tookadiveoffdipper (Jordan Stratton) gained command in a quick opener, got a breather to the half in 56 flat, rebuffed a first over bid from Twin B Tuffenuff (Brennan) down the backside and through the far turn then held safe the late bid of Benhope Rulz N (Holland) to score in 1:53.1. A six-year-old Always A Virgin gelding trained by Virgil Morgan, Jr., Tookadiveoffdipper prevailed in his seasonal debut and now owns a 30-19-14 slate and over $325,000 banked from 82 career tries.
Then one race later in the finale, a non=-winners of $20,000 last five starts class for pacers, Ourlittlegeneral A (Bongiorno) rallied from well off the pace and second over to forge a 6-1 upset in 1:53.2. A seven-year-old Mach Three stallion trained by Rene Allard, Ourlittlegeneral A notched his first win in two tries this year and now owns a 25-15-13 slate and nearly $550,000 from 78 career outings. He had finished fifth in an overnight race on the opening night card five days earlier.
That same evening at the Meadowlands, J L Cruze (Dexter Dunn) maintained his sharp form when he lived up to his role as the 3-5 favorite in a non-winners of $15,000 last five starts class for trotters when he brushed to command past the half in 54.3 and by three-quarters in 1:23.4 then cruised home three lengths clear in 1:51.2. A nine-year-old Crazed gelding trained by Eric Ell for numerous owners, J L Cruze notched his first win of 2020 and the “Denton Destroyer” now sports 36 wins and over $1.45 million from 103 career outings in a stellar career.
Then one race later in a non-winners of $10,000 last five starts class for pacers, Italian Delight N (Dunn) rallied from well off the pace and third over to prevail in his United States debut. A seven-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding trained by Darran Cassar, Italian Delight N closed with a genuine flourish down the center of the track to overhaul JK Wildfire (Marcus Miller) and an unlucky Decoy (Corey Callahan) to score in 1:50.1. he now owns 11 wins and nearly $100,000 from 60 career tries and looks poised to compete in the upper conditions at the Big M throughout the winter.
Then one race later in a non-winners of $10,000 last five starts for pacers, Effronte A (Dunn) lived up to his role as the 6-5 favorite when he benefited from a second over journey through the middle fractions then rallied in the lane to score by three lengths in 1:48.3. A seven-year-old Rock n Roll Heaven gelding trained by Cassar, Effronte A notched his first win in two seasonal tries then
One race later in the featured non-winners of $22,500 last five starts class for older pacers, Harambe Deo (Dunn) overcame an extended first over journey to wear down Eddard Hanover (Callahan) and prevail by a nose as the 7-5 choice in 1:50.2. A five-year-old Woodstock gelding trained by Robert Cleary, Harambe Deo kicked off his 2020 campaign with a gritty score – Dunn’s sixth on the night – and now owns a 10-7-7 slate and nearly $160,000 banked from 58 career tries. Eddard Hanover was game in defeat while stepping up a class following a setback at a lower level.
Then two nights earlier at Dover Downs, Slick Tony (Ross Wolfenden) overcame an extended first over journey to edge 2015 harness horse of the year, Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) and (Victor Kirby) for a neck victory in the $30,000 Preferred Handicap in 1:50.2. A five-year-old No Spin Zone gelding owned, bred and trained by George “Ronnie” Leager, Slick Tony notched his first win of the New Year and pushed his career earnings toward the $600,000 plateau. Wiggle It Jigglet had won the Preferred one week earlier for his first victory in nearly four years for trainer George Teague, Jr.