Dover Downs offers solid Monday card

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Ted Black

March 22nd, 2016

On a day that began with a modest dusting of snow on the first day of spring, Dover Downs offered its typical solid Monday card on a chilly, windy day in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Monday's feature was the $36,000 Preferred Handicap for older pacers and the compact field included two of the sport's best - Rockeyed Optimist and Bettor's Edge. Rockeyed Optimist arrived having won three straight races at The Meadowlands, including a three-length victory over Bettor's Edge in that one's previous outing in his seasonal debut. Their rematch at Dover Downs on Monday was slightly more competitive.

When the gate folded in the Preferred, Bettor's Edge left very alertly to gain command down the backside and Rockeyed Optimist, away a step slow at the outset, made an extended brush bid to gain command in a brisk 26.1 opener. Bettor's Edge gladly yielded the lead to the 1-2 choice and sat a loose pocket behind that one as he rolled by the midway mark in 54.2.

Rockeyed Optimist led the field down the backside and by three-quarters where Dapper Dude offered a brief, first over bid with Bettor's Edge in the pocket and Bushwacker racing second over. Rockeyed Optimist kept Dapper Dude at bay through the far turn and then he edged away from Bettor's Edge in the lane to score by two lengths in 1:49.4.

A five-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding trained by Steve Eliott, Rockeyed Optimist has won four straight races since finishing second in his seasonal debut and now sports 19 wins from 29 lifetime tries. Last year Rockeyed Optimist won nine of 15 starts and banked nearly $200,000 during an abbreviated four-year-old campaign in which he also took a 1:48 mark at the Big M. He appears to be the best older pacer in the country that was not among the nominees for the George Morton Levy Memorial Series at Yonkers Raceway.

While the Levy is expected to attract another 40-plus participants again this Saturday, including defending harness horse of the year, Wiggle It Jiggleit, Rockeyed Optimist and Bettor's Edge will likely meet again in a $60,000 Invitational at Dover Downs next Monday. With considerably more favorable, warmer conditions expected for that card, it may require a horse to complete the one mile distance in under 1:49 to prevail.

Also on the Monday card at Dover, Smart Rokker benefited from a pocket trip to win the Winners Over class in 1:51. while Sentencing Memo and C S Eye won a split condition for younger pacers in 1:53.3 and 1:53.2, respectively. Smart Rokker appears headed to the Preferred next week while a clash between Sentencing Memo and C S Eye would be among the highlights of the undercard.