Focus turns to Yonkers Raceway on Saturday night

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Ted Black

August 23rd, 2017

This coming Saturday the focal point for both thoroughbred and harness racing enthusiasts will be in opposing parts of New York as Saratoga Race Course hosts the latest edition of its famed, Grade I, $1 million Travers Stakes for three-year-old colts during the day and that evening Yonkers Raceway near the Manhattan skyline will host the Yonkers Trot and Messenger Stakes eliminations for three-year-old colt trotters and pacers, respectively.

Nearing the midway point of the Saturday night card at Yonkers will be the 4-year-old Open Handicap where onlookers can expect Missile J (Tim Tetrick) to regain his winning ways following a fifth-place finish in his return from a 10-week layoff. In the spring Missile J won three legs of the prestigious George Morton Levy Memorial series and finished third as the favorite in the final. But he failed to duplicate that form in the Graduate and the Stafford Invitational and got a brief respite before returning last week and racing well despite the outside post assignment and the layoff.

Then one race later on the card, Yonkers will present the first $40,000 elimination for next week's $500,000 Yonkers Trot final for three-year-old colt trotters, the second leg of harness racing's Triple Crown for trotters. Three horses in this elimination split exit the Hambletonian, two of which made the final. Enterprise won his Hambo elim then was placed third in the final, while Devious Man was second in his elim and promoted to second in the final as the tepid 2-1 favorite. This Maryland-bred son of Credit Winner has enjoyed ample success over the Yonkers oval.

Southwind Cobra broke stride in his Hambo elim and failed to make the final, but he has since won a qualifier at Harrah's Philadelphia by 13 lengths for trainer Ron Burke. Yes Mickey (Ake Svandstedt) finished second as the 3-5 choice in the Townsend Ackerman Stakes on the Hambo undercard, but came right back to post a 34-1 shocker over Ariana G and Devious Man in the $320,000 Zweig Stakes at Vernon Downs.

One race later the second Yonkers Trot elim came up considerably lighter. Guardian Angel As (Jason Bartlett) raced first over a long way in the Hambo final and was interfered with by eventual winner What The Hill, who was promptly disqualified and placed ninth. Entrymates Money Macintosh and Top Flight Angel both own NYSS victories this summer, while Di Oggi (Montrell Teague) and Southwind Hydro (Marcus Johansson) arrive off victories in lifetime conditioned events.

One race later in the $50,000 Open Handicap, defending champion and former Levy final hero Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton) will seek his second straight win and third win in his last three tries in an early prep for the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington Raceway next month. Just inside of him are two Open regulars, Somewhere In L A (Bartlett) and Sunfire Blue Chip (Brett Miller) who could also get an invite to the Quillen, while last week's runner-up Caviart Luca (George Brennan) mysteriously gets post four.

Then one race later in the $40,000 Messenger Stakes elimination for three-year-old colt pacers, only one sophomore will get removed from those competing in the $500,000 final next week. Downbytheseaside (Brian Sears), recent winner of the $300,000 Carl Milstein Memorial at Northfield Park in Ohio despite being forced to pace into a 53.3 back half first over against odds-on choice Fear The Dragon, is clearly the one to beat from post three. Blood Line (Brett Miller), Art Scene (Scott Zeron) and Miso Fast (Matt Kakaley) also merit respect in this spot and should return for the final.