Harness Recap for 9/8/2014

Ted Black

September 8th, 2014

During a three-day stretch last weekend at three different ovals, harness racing fans had the chance to see some of the sport's current and future stars compete in a bevy of stakes races that should have given onlookers a hint of what to expect this fall.

Saturday evening Pocono Downs hosted a quartet of $260,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes finals for two-year-olds of both gaits and genders. Despite the rain-soaked "good" track, form held up quite well with favorites winning all four finals, including two undefeated freshmen colts.

In the first of the fourth finals, Southwind Roulette (Yannick Gingras) easily lived to her role as the 2-5 favorite when she prevailed by three lengths in 1:52.3 for her fifth victory in six career tries, all against PASS foes. Then Wild Honey (Gingras) notched her fifth victory in six starts for trainer Jimmy Takter when she overhauled stablemate Speak To Me (Dave Palone) to annex the PASS final for freshmen filly trotters in 1:54.3.

Then in the third final, this one for two-year-old colt trotters, Billy Flynn (Brett Miller) remained undefeated when he rallied second over through the far turn and rolled home in the lane to a four-length score in 1:55.2 - about a second slower than the filly - for his seventh win in as many starts for trainer Steffan Lind. But the best of the bunch was saved for last.

Heading into the PASS final for freshmen pacing colts, many onlookers had already conceded the result to the unbeaten Yankee Bounty (Gingras), a recent acquisition to the Burke barn. Yankee Bounty had won his five six starts in handy fashion and few expected the Yankee Cruiser colt to have any trouble with his rivals or the off track, explaining his 2-5 price.

But Yankee Bounty hardly had the race handed to him and he delivered an effort that was better than it looked on paper. Away well to race third, Yankee Bounty watched Tomy Terror (Corey Callahan) quarter move to the front then brushed past him while racing parked through the clubhouse turn, a move that is typically difficult for seasoned, veteran older horses. But Yankee Bounty did it in just his seventh start at age two.

Yankee Bounty continued to show the way down the backside, where he would meet serious pressure from Lost For Words (David Miller) who attempted to brush past the favorite before they rolled by three-quarters in 1:22.2, a wicked clocking over the off track. But Yankee Bounty refused to yield to that rival and then braced for another challenge from Tomy Terror, who had parked the favorite past the half and was now in the pocket.

At the top of the lane, Yankee Bounty was called on for his best as Tomy Terror angled to the passing lane. In midstretch, Tomy Terror appeared to get a head in front of Yankee Bounty, but the favorite battled back bravely and regained the advantage at the wire for a nose score in 1:50.2, his seventh win in as many starts for the Yankee Bounty Sydicate and Frank Chick.

Then on Sunday afternoon at Harrah's Philadelphia, the Keystone state's other five-eighth mile oval presented a quartet of $260,000 PASS finals for sophomore pacers and trotters of both genders. Three of the finals proved to be very formful, as recognizable names from open stakes success scored at short prices. But the fourth offered a mild upset.

PASS final champions Lifetime Pursuit (1:53.2), McWicked (1:48.4) and Father Patrick (1:52.4) all scored at short prices. Lifetime Pursuit captured the Hambletonian Oaks, McWicked scored in the Adios and Father Patrick, last year's champion two-year-old colt trotter, had already won several open stakes before making a break as the 2-5 choice in the Hambletonian, his first setback of the year.

But the fourth final offered a mild surprise when Weeper (Dave Palone) rallied third over and closed willingly in the lane to score in 1:51.1, handing 1-5 choice Sandbetweenurtoes the first defeat of her nine-race career. Weeper also joined Yankee Bounty and Centurion ATM in the chase for Maryland-bred horse of the year honors, with each being represented by a different breeder.

Then on Monday evening, Harrington Raceway hosted a pair of $20,000 Robert Quillen Memorial eliminations for older pacers, with eight of the 11 starters earning a berth in next Monday's $200,000 final. Trainer Ron Burke, to no one's surprise, sent out five of the 11 starters and will now have five of the eight finalists, led by multi-millionaire, Foiled Again and defending Quillen champion, Clear Vision.

Foiled Again easily lived up to his role as the 1-9 favorite in the first elim when he gained command before the opener in 27.2, strolled by the half in 56.2 and then drew clear in the lane to a three-length score in 1:51.3 for his 81st lifetime tally. The two-time Quillen champ will lead a genuine Burke brigade of five finalists next week, although he may yield the favorite's role to one of his stablemates.

Not to be overlooked is Clear Vision (Brett Miller), who benefited from a wicked early pace and a second over journey to score in 1:49.3. Favored Dancin Yankee left alertly along the rail and parked Bettor's Edge to a 26.1 opener, immediately retook then yielded to the unexpected brush bid of longshot Aracache Hanover. Clear Vision bided his time early and then forged to command down the backside and strolled home as the 9-2 second choice.