Lucrative stakes highlight weekend cards

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Ted Black

September 3rd, 2017

While many thoroughbred racing enthusiasts were still buzzing after seeing Gun Runner trounce his rivals in the Grade I, $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, harness racing fans had the chance to see many of the sport's best pacers and trotters compete at Yonkers Raceway in New York and Mohawk Raceway in Canada.

Saturday's second race at Mohawk was the lone $170,000 division of the Champlain Stakes for two-year-old pacing fillies where undefeated Percy Bluechip (Trevor Henry) garnered the lion's share of attention as the 1-5 favorite from post five. But after carving out the fractions through the first three calls, Percy Bluechip was upended by the pocket-sitting Kendall Seelster (Randall Waples) in 1:51.1. While 'Percy' suffered her first defeat in five outings, Kendall Seelster posted a 10-1 upset for her second win in seven starts.

Immediately after that race went official, an even field of eight three-year-old filly trotters went postward in the $120,000 Hudson Trot final where Celebrity Ruth (Jason Bartlett) brushed to command down the backside and led throughout en route to a two-length score in 1:56.3. A sophomore daughter of Archangel trained by Trond Smedshammer, Celebrity Ruth rebounded from a fifth-place finish in the Zweig to record her fifth win in 11 starts this year and push her earnings past $280,000.

One race later at Yonkers Raceway, Downbytheseaside (Brian Sears) overcame post seven to gain command in an honest 27.1 opener, got a breather to the half in 56 flat then just outlasted the late bid of pocket-sitting Art Scene (Jordan Stratton) and second over Funknwaffles (Corey Callahan) to score by a neck in 1:52.1 in the Grade I, $500,000 Messenger Stakes for three-year-old pacing colts.

A sophomore son of Somebeachsomewhere trained by Brian Brown, Downbytheseaside recorded his third straight score and notched his eighth win from 12 starts this year to push his seasonal earnings toward $1 million. In 25 career tries, Downbytheseaside now owns 16 wins and earnings in excess of $1.5 million and will be among the serious contenders to upend stablemate Fear The Dragon in the Grade I, $600,000 Little Brown Jug later this month.

Then one race later on the Yonkers card, Sears was back in the winner's circle after he steered Top Flight Angel to a 7-1 upset in the Grade I, $500,000 Yonkers Trot for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings. A sophomore son of Archangel trained by Julie Miller, Top Flight Angel got away well from post nine in the second tier, stayed in while stablemate Devious Man (Andy Miller) carved out modest fractions through the first three calls, angled out first over on the far turn and out-kicked the pocket-sitting Yes Mickey (Ake Svandstedt) to score by a neck in 1:56.3.

Top Flight Angel now owns a 3-1-3 slate and $330,000 bankroll from 12 starts this year and briefly emerged as the best trotter in the barn for Miller. Devious Man, second in the $1 million Hambletonian after earlier winning the $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial at Pocono Downs, faded to third as the even-money choice. This Maryland-bred son of Credit Winner trained by Miller owns a 4-5-2 slate and $800,000 banked from 11 starts this year and he has banked $1.1 million lifetime courtesy of an 11-6-3 slate from 23 career tries.

Then just before the midway point of the Mohawk card, Stay Hungry (McNair) lived up to his role as the 4-5 favorite in the first $100,000 division of the Champlain Stakes for two-year-old pacing colts and geldings when he angled out first over nearing the half, dropped into the pocket behind Odds On Lauderdale (Scott Zeron) before three-quarters, angled out turning for home and edged clear late to score in 1:52.1. A juvenile son of Somebeachsomewhere trained by Tony Alagna, Stay Hungry stayed perfect in two career outings while notching his first stakes tally in a new lifetime mark.

One race later at Mohawk, International Moni (Scott Zeron) lived up to his role as the 3-5 favorite in the $165,000 Simcoe Stakes for three-year-old trotting colts when he overcame a long, first over journey to score by a neck over a gritty R First Class (Sylvain Filion) to prevail in 1:53.3. A sophomore son of Love You out of the world class trotting mare Moni Maker, International Moni has now won five of seven starts and banked nearly $320,000 for trainer Frank Antonacchi.

Then one race later in the Grade I, $615,000 Canadian Pacing Derby at Mohawk, Sintra (Jody Jamieson) benefited from a ground saving journey on the far turn and through the lane and overhauled pacesetting elim winner Rockin Ron (Jean Phillipe Roy) to score by a head at 12-1 in 1:48.1, with McWicked (David Miller) rallying belatedly to get third after being buried five-deep on the rail and desperate for room on the far turn.

A four-year-old Mach Three gelding trained by David Menary of He's Watching fame, Sintra notched his eighth win in 13 starts this year and pushed his seasonal earnings past $575,000. Rockin Ron, sharp 1:47.2 elim winner the week before, carved out honest fractions of 26, 54 and 1:21 and held the place spot in a good effort, while McWicked overtook All Bets Off for the show spot in another good performance following a genuinely unlucky journey.

Several minutes later at Scioto Downs, Lady Shadow (Trace Tetrick) regained her winning ways and lived up to her role as the 4-5 favorite in the $30,000 Open I Handicap against male rivals when she gained command before reaching the opener in 26.4, maintained an honest tempo by the half in 54.2 and three-quarters in 1:22.2 and held safe Doctor Carter (Mike Micallef) for a two-length score in 1:50.2.

A six-year-old Shadow Play mare trained by Ronald Adams, Lady Shadow notched her sixth win in seven starts this year and likely vaulted back into the national top 10 poll. Last year's champion aged pacing mare and the reigning Maryland-bred harness horse of the year, Lady Shadow edged closer to the $2 million plateau in career earnings and may stick around the Buckeye State next weekend to try older male rivals again in the $150,000 Jim Ewart Memorial over the five-eighths mile oval.

Several minutes later back at Yonkers, Eighteen (Bartlett) lived up to his billing as the 1-5 favorite when he left to secure good early position, quarter moved to command and led the way through modest fractions to capture the $40,000 claiming handicap over the sloppy surface in 1:54.4. A nine-year-old Maryland-bred son of Cam's Card Shark, Eighteen has now won three straight races, four of his last five tries and five of his last eight outings and now sports an 8-2-1 slate and $116,000 banked this year from 18 starts and 45 wins and nearly $890,000 from 196 career outings.

Then back across the border in Canada, Dragon Time (Gingras) benefited from a pocket trip behind Hudson Phil (James Macdonald) through modest fractions of 28.2, 57.2 and 1:25, angled out of the pocket and wore down the leader to score by a head in 1:52 in the second $100,000 Champlain Stakes split for two-year-old pacing colts and geldings. A juvenile son of Bettor's Delight trained by Menary, Dragon Time recorded his third win in eight starts and pushed his career earnings past $80,000.