Dover Downs and Yonkers Offer Plenty Next Two Nights

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Ted Black

March 9th, 2017

While many standardbred racing fans circle Saturday nights on the calendar to see the best pacers compete at various venues, especially in March and April when the George Morton Levy Memorial Series at Yonkers Raceway is in full swing, many harness fans will closely watch the action at Dover Downs on Thursday and Yonkers on Friday one week before the Levy commences.

Thursday's card at Dover Downs represents the best the Delaware five-eighths mile oval has to offer each week and tomorrow's program is no exception as onlookers will have a chance to watch and wager on a good blend of older pacers who are proven commodities and younger ones looking to join them someday.

In the opening race, a non-winners of $63,001 lifetime class for younger pacers, Chillin Matisse (Corey Callahan) arrives having won two straight for trainer Dylan Davis with consecutive scores in 1:54 and 1:51.2 the previous two weeks after finishing a sharp second to Highalator, who won a Wednesday morning qualifier at Dover. But railbound Rocket Da Red (Carlo Poliseno) merits serious upset chances after being burdened with posts eight and seven the previous two weeks.

Then two races later in the third, freshman phenom Bags To Riches (Tim Tetrick) makes his sophomore debut for trainer Jason Skinner. Last fall, Bags To Riches emerged on the scene in time to win the second $100,000 Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund final at Dover, capping a season in which he won four of eight starts and earned nearly $90,000. He won a recent local qualifier in 1:57.2, but he may need a start or two to regain peak form prior to the opening leg of the DSBF series for three-year-old colt & gelding pacers.

Then two races later in an interesting non-winners of $100,000 lifetime class for younger pacers, Tip It On Back (Callahan) looms the solid favorite having won his last two starts after finishing a gritty second to Cloud Speed. But White Rolls (Jonathan Roberts) merits respect here having been second three times and third once in his last four outings at this level. Denslow Hanover (Allan Davis) won the other split last week in 1:52, but drew outside in his repeat bid.

Three races later in the $20,000 Open, Major Uptrend (Montrell Teague) will seek his third straight victory as he climbs the ladder in a solid form spree. He defeated non-winners of $16,001 last six company last week in 1:50.1 just one week after scorching the oval in 1:49 when taking a non-winners of $9201 last six class. Caviart Skyler and Te Kawau N, a Levy participant last spring, will pose a threat.
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Then two races later in the $27,500 Delaware Special, Emeritus Maximus (Yannick Gingras) will seek to continue his razor sharp form and third straight score in this class. Trained by Kyle Moore, Emeritus Maximus has won consecutive editions of the Del Sp, four of his last five outings and six of nine starts overall this season. Moore claimed him for only $15,000 earlier this year and Emeritus Maximus has paid immediate dividends over the last two months.

Friday night's Yonkers card will have a genuine ladies touch as various pacing fillies and mares prepare for the Bluechip Matchmaker Series that gets under way one week from tomorrow. The program will also have a decidedly Delaware flavor as several mares from the First State will make the journey north for events that will likely serve as a prep for the Matchmaker.

In the sixth, the $50,000 F & M Open Handicap, Krispy Apple (Tetrick) will make her seasonal debut for trainer Jeff Bamond, Jr., following another stellar campaign in which she boasted a 10-4-1 slate and $270,000 banked and numerous wins in the class. The nine-year-old Western Ideal mare owns a commendable 50-23-16 slate and $1.86 million bankroll from 145 starts, perhaps explaining why she was assigned the eight hole in her return.

Just to her inside is Delightful Dragon (Brent Holland), who steps up off a win in the $39,000 Preferred Handicap for trainer Noel Daley, while Know It All (Eric Abbatiello) moves up off two good efforts in the Preferred. Mahoning Valley invader American Girl (Matt Kakaley) will look to make her presence known for trainer Tyler George, while Empress Deo seeks to end her bridesmaid status having been second three times in seven previous outings this winter for Delaware-based trainer Wayne Givens.

Three races later in a non-winners of $20,000 last five starts class for pacing fillies and mares, Delaware invader Purrfect Bags (Tetrick) makes her third start of the season for trainer Jim King, Jr., and finally draws a favorable post. Dublin Rose (Jason Bartlett) also makes the journey north in her first start for trainer Richard Banca after posting a 2-2-1 slate and $18,500 banked in seven starts at Dover Downs for trainer Doug Lewis. Open and Preferred Hcp regular Hidden Land (Jeff Gregory) drew post eight after missing two weeks.

Then one race later in a non-winners of $25,000 last five starts class for pacing fillies and mares, Apple Bottom Jeans (Bartlett) gets some class relief after finishing fifth in the Open Hcp last week. Another darling of the Delaware circuit, Apple Bottom Jeans performed superbly in the DSBF series the previous two years, finishing last season with a 4-8-0 slate and $185,000 bankroll in 16 outings for trainer Kevin Switzer and the Kdk Standardbreds. Betabcool N (Mark MacDonald) has won twice in three starts since arriving from 'down under' and looms a threat despite drawing post eight.

On Wednesday afternoon harness racing lost one of its premiere announcers and genuine good individuals when Sam McKee passed away at the age of 54. McKee had risen to prominence as one of the rotating announcers at the Meadowlands and his calls were always clear, crisp and accurate. He was respected by peers and horsemen and the vast majority of people involved in harness racing and his untimely passing certainly leaves a void in the sport.