Levy series prelims prove telling

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Ted Black

April 20th, 2015

Heading into last Saturday night's fifth round of preliminary action of the George Morton Levy Memorial series for aged pacers, several of the starters had already punched their ticket to this Saturday's $530,000 final. But several others were on the fence and needed a first- or second-place finish to be among the "elite eight" in this weekend's lucrative affair.

In the first of the three final prelims on Saturday, two-time series winner Polak A had already virtually secured a spot in the final, but four others, Heez Orl Black N, Bettor's Edge, Sapphire City and Mach It So, were all searching for a first- or second-place finish that could propel them past the idle Michael's Power and into the final. The others would have to settle for the $100,000 consolation.

Fresh off his 13-1 upset win in the fourth leg, Heez Orl Black N gained the early advantage and then got a breather by the half in 57.2 with trainer-driver Shaun Vallee in the bike. But Mach It So, who had been second once and third twice in his four prelims, angled out first over at that point, surged to command down the backside, opened a clear lead through the far turn then held sway through the lane for a length victory in 1:53 for trainer Jeff Bamond, Jr.

Mach It So not only notched his first win in five starts on the season, his latest victory would eventually propel him to fourth in the standings and past another Bamond trainee, Fat Mans Alley, while well short of another horse in the same barn, defending champion PH Supercam. Polak A salvaged third to remain among the top eight in the standings, but the runner-up delivered his best performance of the season to date and perhaps the best performance of the series.

Through the first three legs of the Levy series, Dancin Yankee had finished second once and third twice and he was the beaten favorite in two of those three setbacks. He had also failed twice while drawing the advantageous rail at Yonkers and following a third-place finish on April 4 the Josh Green trainee did not return for the fourth leg, costing him anywhere from 25 to 75 points. Each horse gets 25 points just for starting each week, with bonus points ranging from 50 for a win to 5 for fifth.

But last Saturday night Dancin Yankee finally displayed the form that made him among the best older horses in training last season. He was reserved well off the pace by Brett Miller, then angled out third over behind Mach It So and Polak A nearing the half. When Mach It So powered past Heez Orl Black N to assume command down the backside, Polak A, who had also missed the previous week, could not stay with him and Dancin Yankee remained third over behind a rival that was not advancing.

As Mach It So maintained a clear lead on the far turn, Dancin Yankee gradually angled three-wide for the stretch drive. He went past Polak A with little trouble in the lane and closed relentlessly down the center of the track to finish second, beaten just a length. It was not only his best effort from four starts this year, but clearly one of the best performances from any horse in the series. Unfortunately, it did not propel him into the final and he finished the night tied for the last spot in the consolation.

One race later in the second Levy division's final leg, Lucan Hanover (Tim Tetrick) raced parked to gain command from Clear Vision (Yannick Gingras) past a wicked 26.3 opener, got a breather to the half in 56.3, shook off Beach Memories (Daniel Dube) down the backside, looked set to outlast Clear Vision but was overhauled in the lane by PH Supercam (Jason Bartlett) in 1:52.3. PH Supercam, who bypassed the fourth leg, notched his fourth win of the series and the defending champion looms the one to beat in the final pending Tuesday's post position draw.

Lucan Hanover, who has raced well while winless in the series, has peformed well enough to earn a spot in the final and could make his presence known. Beach Memories, who won the first two rounds for trainer Ron Burke before being transferred to trainer Scott DiDomenico, faded to fifth but remains in the top eight. National Debt, the lone Maryland-bred in the series, finished fourth and earned enough points to be in the consolation, while Clear Vision is tied with Dancin Yankee for the last spot in the consolation.

Then in the last prelim of the final round, favored Take It Back Terry (George Brennan) notched his third straight win and third in four tries in the series when he brushed to command before reaching the half in 55.3, shook off Fat Mans Alley easily on the backside and then held safe Domethatagain (Dube) for the length score in 1:51.4. Take It Back Terry will be Burke's lone representative in the final, while Domethatagain earned enough points to join him. Fat Mans Alley finished fifth, but dropped behind Mach It So, who will likely be Bamond's second starter in the final along with PH Supercam.