Keystone Velocity repeats in Levy; Shartin N scores in Blue Chip Matchmaker

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Ted Black

April 22nd, 2018

Saturday evening offered novice and serious standardbred racing fans had the chance to view the sport's first two Grade I races of the year when Yonkers Raceway hosted the $532,000 final of the George Morton Levy Series for older, Free-For-All pacers and the $373,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker for pacing fillies and mares on a stellar card at the New York half-mile oval.

Heading into the Levy final, much of the focus was on the horses that drew the inside posts as Western Fame (Mark Macdonald) had the rail, Dr J Hanover (Brett Miller) had post position two and defending champion Keystone Velocity (Daniel Dube) was just outside of him. Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton), the 2016 Levy final hero, got post seven, just outside of Levy fixtures Somewhere In L A (Jason Bartlett) and Mach It So (David Miller).

When the gate folded in the latest renewal of the Grade I George Morton Levy final, Western Fame left alertly along the inside to gain the early advantage and the rest of the field followed in post position order. While Dr J Hanover opted to remain in the pocket, Keystone Velocity brushed to command before the quarter in 26.4 and then rolled by the half in 56.2 at which point the outer tier took dead aim.

While Keystone Velocity led the field into the clubhouse turn, Somewhere In L A angled out first over and Mach It So and Bit Of A Legend N got into the outer flow. Keystone Velocity maintained an honest tempo down the backside and by three-quarters in 1:23.4, with Somewhere In L A gradually looming alongside the defending Levy champ. Western Fame maintained the pocket but backed up on the far turn, while Mach It So and Bit Of A Legend N advanced second and third over.

Keystone Velocity shook loose from Somewhere In L A turning for home and Mach It So ducked to the inside at the head of the lane as Bit Of A Legend N angled to the far outside and unleashed his usual late kick. Keystone Velocity was under serious urging with 100 yards out and responded as Bit Of A Legend N closed rapidly down the center of the track as the two most recent champions of the series final were set to decide the outcome.

As he had done one year earlier, Keystone Velocity just had too much left in reserve to be overtaken by his nemesis and the Rene Allard trainee prevailed by nearly a length in 1:52. A 10-year-old Western Hanover stallion, Keystone Velocity becomes the first horse to repeat in the Levy final since Foiled Again, who accomplished the feat in 2009-10, and the reigning champion aged pacer now owns two wins and $320,000 banked from six starts this year and a 29-21-8 slate and $1.6 million banked from 116 career outings. He capped his previous campaign by taking the second edition of the $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway in 1:47.3, shattering the all-age track record by nearly a full second.

Bit Of A Legend N settled for the place spot in the latest edition of the Levy final but the nine-year-old Bettor's Delight stallion eclipsed the $2 million plateau in career earnings with his runner-up share. Trained by Peter Tritton for the late Harry Vonknoblauch, Bit Of A Legend N owns a 2-3-1 slate and $215,000 banked from six starts this year and he now sports a 43-29-21 slate and $2.1 milllion banked from 125 lifetime outings. He won the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington Raceway last fall.

Somewhere In L A raced well first over and lasted for third in a good effort for trainer Richard Banca, while Mach It So settled for fourth for trainer Jeff Bamond, Jr. Among the top four finishers in the Levy final, only Keystone Velocity had not prevailed in at least two of the elims but all four of them had competed in all five preliminaries.

One race earlier in the Blue Chip Matchmaker final for pacing distaffers, Shartin N (Tim Tetrick) rebounded from a galloping effort in her previous start to live up to her role as the 4-5 favorite from the rail when she brushed to command past the half, opened a clear lead down the backside and on the far turn and romped home five lengths the best in 1:52.2. A five-year-old Tintin N mare trained by Jim King, Jr., Shartin N recorded her eighth win in 10 starts this year and pushed her seasonal earnings past $300,000.

As he would do 30 minutes later in the Levy final, Tritton settled for the runner-up honors in the BCMM final when Sell A Bit N (Stratton) just lasted for second. Motu Moonbeam N (Brent Holland) and Lakeisha Hall (George Brennan) rallied belatedly to finish third and fourth. While the top four finishers in the Levy series had competed in each of the five preliminaries, both Shartin N and Sell A Bit N had bypassed the April 6 elims.

One race earlier in the $100,000 Levy consolation, Always At My Place (Brennan) rallied third over to post a 22-1 shocker in 1:53.1 for trainer Ron Burke. One race earlier it was Mackenzie A (Stratton) who circled the field with a bold, four-wide move on the far turn to overtake Call Me Queen Be (Scott Zeron) for a neck score in 1:53.1. Somewhere Fancy (Dube) benefited from a pocket trip to capture the $40,000 Open Handicap in 1:52.4 for Allard and Newborn Sassy (Tetrick) won the lesser BCMM consolation in 1:52.3 for King.