Dover Downs and Charles Town Feature Veterans on Thursday

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Ted Black

February 22nd, 2017

While there is often little in common between the Thursday cards at Dover Downs, a harness racing oval in Delaware and Charles Town, a thoroughbred track in West Virginia, other than the purses elevated by slot machines on site at those venues, the two ovals will share some common ground tomorrow.

The early portion of the Dover Downs card on Thursday will highlight several talented younger pacers looking to make the climb into the Open ranks later this year or next season. In the second race, a non-winners of four races or $17,500 lifetime class, Chillin Matisse (Corey Callahan) arrives off a sharp, second-place finish following a long, first over grind against odds-on choice Highalator. Chillin Matisse might be the lukewarm favorite in this spot due to the presence of Sportsfighter (Bret Brittingham) who will start from post seven.

Then two races later in the fourth, a non-winners of five races or $60,001 lifetime class, Officer Blue Chip (Jason Lynch) will seek the rapid, successful start to his campaign. Trained by driven by Lynch, Officer Blue Chip already owns five wins and a pair of second-place finishes from seven starts this year, a mark of 1:53.3 and seasonal earnings beyond $27,000. He did not draw ideally for this event, but Officer Blue Chip is among the rising stars on the Delaware circuit.

Then several races later in the $20,000 Open, Missile J (Jonathan Roberts) will seek to maintain his newfound winning ways after taking his first three starts of the season at the Meadowlands for new trainer Scott DiDomenico. Missile J was among the top sophomores in the New York Sire Stakes last season, but he has already won his first three tries for his new barn and puts his win streak on the line against Jet Airway (Callahan), Bad Gamer (Yannick Gingras) and Dancin Yankee (Ross Wolfenden), a former genuine star among the older pacing ranks for trainer Josh Green.
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While the Thursday cards at Charles Town often leave little to the imagination, tomorrow's program features the continued return of durable aged mare Cherokee Blessing. A nine-year-old homebred daughter of Select Session trained by David Hussey for the Little E LLC, Cherokee Blessing is making her third start following a 30-month layoff and her recent local outings have rekindled memories of two Michael Dickinson trainees, Da Hoss and A Huevo, who enjoyed similar success off the bench.

Cherokee Blessing had won her final start of 2013 against allowance foes then finished fifth in her lone outing of 2014. But the Select Session mare did not return to the track until last December when she rallied to win a 4 1/2-furlong event for $5000 claimers. She then came back to run second in a two-turn affair for $5000 claimers and tomorrow night she will seek to upend $8000 claimers in a two-turn outing for fillies and mares.

Cherokee Blessing prevailed off the lengthy layoff, much like Da Hoss, who won the Breeders Cup Mile on the Woodbine lawn in 1996 then returned from a near two-year layoff to win an allowance race at Colonial Downs before capturing the Breeders Cup Mile at Churchill Downs. A Huevo won his first four starts in 1999, but was idle for more than three years before competing in several stakes and then winning the Grade I Frank DeFrancis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park. A Huevo is one of only three West Virginia-breds to win a Grade I event, with Afternoon Deelites winning two of them and Soul of the Matter, runner-up to Cigar in the inaugural Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba Race Course, winning one.