Dover Downs and Northfield Park help usher in New Year for harness racing fans

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Ted Black

January 2nd, 2019

One night after harness racing fans bid of fond farewell to the legendary Foiled Again following his final start at the Meadows near Pittsburgh, standardbred fans kicked off the New Year with a bevy of good efforts from trotters and pacers at Dover Downs in Delaware and Northfield Park in Ohio.

In fact, Dover's first race of 2019 was won by Mason Hanover, with future Hall of Fame driver Tim Tetrick in the bike for trainer Jim King, Jr. That tandem was a genuine force on the circuit last season and took their show on the road to win numerous stakes with Shartin N, champion older pacing mare of 2018 and a finalist for pacer of the year. Mason Hanover will not likely be in the mix for Dan Patch Award consideration one year from now but he kicked off the campaign by scoring as the 2-5 favorite in 1:54.3.

One race later on the card, Katie Mae Cancook (Allan Davis) continued the chalky start to the program when she benefited from a pocket trip behind Veezcard (Mike Cole) through the first three calls then angled out late and prevailed in 1:57.3 for trainer Joe Hundertpfund, Jr.

Several races later on the card, Burn Brighter gave the King-Tetrick tandem an early double on the campaign when he carved out all the fractions and scored in 1:54.2. The four-year-old Roddy's Bags Again gelding and Winbak Farm product prevailed as the 9-5 second choice in his seasonal debut. Then Jack Quick (Tetrick), a four-year-old Nuclear Breeze gelding owned, bred and trained by Basil Sapienza, overcame a first over journey to prevail by a neck in 1:55.1.

Perhaps one of the best efforts of the New Year thus far was delivered by Play It Again Sam (Aaron Merriman) when he captured a non-winners of $8,500 last four starts class at Northfield Park as the 3-2 favorite in 1:52.3. A name borrowed from the most famous movie line never spoken - a mythical quote from Humphrey Bogart's character in Casablanca - Play It Again Sam won the conditioned event over the Ohio half-mile oval in sharp fashion for his future Hall of Fame driver.

One night earlier at the Meadows, Foiled Again failed to deliver as the 6-5 favorite in a $13,000 Open event in the 331st and final start of his Hall of Fame career. The Dragon Again gelding, who turned 15 on Tuesday, concluded his career with 109 wins and $7.635 million banked and was named champion aged pacer in three consecutive years (2011, 2012, 2013) and should be remembered as harness racing's horse of the decade although he was never acknowledged as horse of the year at any point of his career.