Half-mile ovals offer plenty of action

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Ted Black

August 7th, 2018

While Saturday afternoon's lucrative card at the Meadowlands took center stage, several half-mile harness racing ovals have since offered plenty of action for horses competing in stakes now and eyeing those down the road.

Monday's opening race at Ocean Downs, a half-mile oval in Berlin, Maryland, five miles west of popular beach resort Ocean City, was a $6,500 Maryland Sire Stakes elim for two-year-old pacing colts & geldings. Berzerker (Anthony Morgan) benefited from his inside draw and gained command just past the opener in 29.4, got a breather by the half in 1:00.3, met token pressure from Where's Barry (John Wagner) down the backside, shook loose from that one and held safe the late bid of Sonny's Blessing (Jared Moyer) to score in 1:59.4.

A juvenile son of Rusty's For Real owned and trained by Brandon Murray, Berzerker triumphed in his career debut by holding safe Sonny's Blessing, the stronger half of the 3-5 favored entry for trainer Arlene Cameron. Sonny's Blessing had captured a $15,000 Maryland Standardbred Race Fund split in his previous outing in 1:59 and finished with good energy in the first round of MDSS elims for this group.

Then one race later in a $6,500 MDSS elim for two-year-old trotting fillies, Bossy Hilly (Jonathan Roberts) benefited from patient handling early and a pocket trip through the first three calls then overhauled Tiny Tiara (Jim Morand) in the lane to score in 2:01.3. A juvenile daughter of Great George Two trained by Leon Harris, Bossy Hilly notched her first win in two starts and benefited from a belated break by 3-5 choice Gittin All Sexy (Russell Foster) to garner her diploma.

Then one race later on the card, Mary's A Keeper (Wagner) recorded a mild 5-2 upset in the second $6,500 MDSS elim for two-year-old filly trotters when she rebuffed a backside bid from 2-5 choice Sleek N Majestic (Art Stafford, Jr.) then edged clear in the lane to score by over a length in 2:04.2. It was the first win in two starts for the daughter of Lockkeeper owned by Wagner and trained by Cameron.

During the race the teletimer posted insane, incorrect fractions of 34.1, 54.4 and 1:37.2 for the first three calls then 1:59.4 for the winning time. The fractions and final time was quickly amended and hand-timed backup clockers also got the mile in 2:04.2. One race later Izzy Real (Morand) won the $5,000 Bronze Class in gritty, first over fashion in 1:57, although the initial final clocking posted was 1:49.4, which would have shattered the all-age track record.

Then one race later in the second $6,500 MDSS elim for two-year-old colt pacers, Dennis The Menace (Moyer) overhauled Owzitgoin (Frank Milby) and Rusty's Houdini (Jason Thompson) in the lane to score by a head in 1:57.3. The juvenile son of Rusty's All In trained by Cameron exited the MDRF split won one week earlier by Roar Of Approval and closed valiantly in the lane to notch his first win in two tries.Owzitgoin edged Rusty's Houdini for the place spot in a good effort for trainer Shaun Callahan.

Then one race later in a non-winners of five races lifetime class for younger pacers, Slipin Skip (Foster) lived up to his role as the 1-9 favorite when he gained command approaching the opener in 28 flat, got a modest breather by the half in 58.2, raced unpressed down the backside and by three-quarters in 1:27.4 and edged clear from Rumble (Roberts) to score in 1:56.2. A four-year-old Ponder gelding trained by Kyle Moore for owner Donald Marine, Slipin Skip notched his second straight local tally and boasts six wins from eight seasonal outings including a 1:51 triumph at the Meadowlands in April.

Then one race later in the featured $7,500 Gold Class for older pacers, One Bad Shot (Moyer) benefited from patient handling early and then swept past the leaders in the lane to score by a head in 1:56.3 for a modest 9-2 upset. An eight-year-old Sand Shooter gelding trained by Joe Eisenhower for owner Leslie Moore, One Bad Shot notched his third straight victory over the seaside oval and now owns a 4-5-6 slate and $23,000 banked this year from 24 starts and pushed his lifetime earnings just shy of $185,000.

Last Saturday evening at Yonkers Raceway a bevy of solid older horses began taking their first steps toward a possible berth in the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington Raceway in September.

In the opening race on the card, Somewhere In L A, a fixture in the Open Handicap at Yonkers and a participant in the 2017 edition of the Quillen, lived up to role as the 3-20 choice in a non-winners of $20,000 last five starts class when he carved out honest fractions of 26.4, 55.3 and 1:23.2 then held safe the late bid of Provacativeprince N to score by a length in 1:51. The Richard Banca trainee had won the tougher non-winners of $30,000 last five starts class the week before but fit the lesser class despite that score and notched his seventh win from 18 starts this year and now owns a solid 37-21-18 slate and $1.55 million bankroll from 130 career outings.

Then right at the midway point of the card, Always At My Place posted a mild 5-1 upset when he gained command early, got a breather to the half in 56.1, raced unpressed down the backside and by three-quarters in 1:23 then held safe Doctor Butch, Pacing Major and favored Evenin Of Pleasure to score in 1:50.3. Evenin of Pleasure arrived off a romp in the $260,000 Gerrity Memorial at Saratoga two weeks earlier but was unable to overcome the slow tempo and wide, second over trip. The Jenn Bongiorno trainee is back in the Open this weekend and will have several more preps to entice an invite to the Quillen.