Older Horses End January In Fine Form
While many of the sport's top older pacers have yet to make their seasonal debuts, several hard-knocking animals braved the elements at various venues in January.
Yonkers Raceway in New York typically overs a solid, competitive menu of overnight races each Saturday night even during the winter. Perhaps two dozen of them are prepping for the lucrative George Morton Levy Memorial Series that gets under way in March.
Saturday's feature was the $32,000 Open Handicap for older pacers and at least one-half of the eight starters looks poised to try the Levy.
Phil Your Boots (Tyler Buter) lived up to his role as the 8-5 favorite when he gained command soon after the start, got a breather to the half and sprinted clear in the lame to score in 1:53.3. Two starts back he captured the Preferred Handicap for trainer Andrew Harris.
Runner-up Melmerby Beach (Jason Bartlett) certainly merits respect in future Opens and into the Levy. A five-year-old Somebeachswhere stallion owned and trained by Ettore Annunziata, Melmerby Beach left and tucked fifth, angled out second over, followed good cover down the backside and far turn, angled three-wide in the lane and gained the place.
Two races later in a non-winners of $18,000 last five starts class for pacers, Roland N Rock (Daniel Dube) uncorked the fastest mile of the night when he led throughout to score by six lengths in 1:52.3. A four-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding trained by Rob Harmon, Roland N Rock won for the second time in three starts this year and might vault over the non-winners of $25,000 last five company and into the Open.
Then in the finale, a non-winners of $25,000 last five event that many had already conceded to railbound Sunfire Blue Chip, Polak A benefited from a pocket trip behind the odds-on choice and rallied along the passing lane for a 13-1 upset in 1:53.4. Both Polak A and Sunfire Blue Chip appear destined for the Open and the Levy.
That same night at Hawthorne Race Track near Chicago, Ontario Success (Sam Widger) notched his third win in five starts in January when he prevailed as the 7-5 choice in the $12,500 Open in 1:51.1.
A six-year-old Lis Mara gelding trained by Roger Welch, Ontario Success will likely finish second to Bushwacker for January horse of the month honors, but he has the early jump on being Hawthorne's horse of the year in 2016.