Older Horses Once Again Take Center Stage

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Ted Black

March 6th, 2017

While thoroughbred racing fans were still trying to digest the meaning of two Kentucky Derby prep races on Saturday afternoon when favorites El Areeb (Gotham Stakes) and Irish War Cry (Fountain Of Youth) delivered subpar performances, standardbred racing fans were keenly aware of numerous performances from older pacers at a trio of varying sized ovals.

Saturday night at The Meadowlands in New Jersey, a pair of veteran campaigners regained their winning ways in conditioned events on the card. Clear Vision (Brett Miller) gained command soon after the start of a non-winners of $15,000 last five starts class and led through honest fractions of 27.1, 54.4 and 1:22.3 en route to a five-length score in 1:51.3. The 11-year-old Western Hanover gelding trained by Jennifer Lappe notched his first win of the season and now sports a solid 34-45-37 slate and $2.575 million bankroll, most of which was accumulated during his days in the Ron Burke barn.

Then one race later in a non-winners of $11,500 last five starts class for pacers, Miller was back in the winner's circle after guiding City Hall to a handy wire-to-wire score in 1:50.2. A seven-year-old Metropolitan gelding trained by Amber Buter, City Hall rebounded from six dull efforts at two New York half-mile ovals to garner his first win in seven outings this year. He now boasts a 34-10-15 slate and $347,000 bankroll from 143 career tries, although his reputation was enhanced in December when he raced through his conditions and captured the Invitational at the Big M.

That same evening at Yonkers Raceway in New York, a bevy of solid older horses continued to prep for the upcoming, lucrative ultra-tough George Morton Levy series that kicks off on March 18 and runs through the $600,000 final and $100,000 consolation on April 23.
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In the featured $50,000 Open Handicap, Caviart Luca (George Brennan) continued his newfound winning ways when he overcame post seven to lead throughout in 1:52.1. A six-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding trained by Ron Burke, Caviart Luca recorded his fifth win in seven outings this year and pushed his seasonal earnings toward $115,000. Lucan Hanover (Mark MacDonald) rallied to finish second in a good effort for trainer Andrew Harris, while defending Levy hero Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton) settled for third in a moderate outing.

Last spring Bit Of A Legend N rocketed through the Levy series for trainer Peter Tritton and this year he appears to have a comparable stablemate. Provocativeprince N (Stratton) rallied from well off the pace and third over to capture the $39,000 Preferred Handicap in 1:55. Also trained by Tritton for owner Harry von Knoblauch, Provocativeprince N has won all three of his starts this year and owns four wins in five local tries since arriving from 'down under' in the fall. He did not arrive with the reputation as Bit Of A Legend N and still owns a modest 10-7-8 slate and $110,000 bankroll from 49 starts.

Sunday evening marked the opening night of the Rosecroft Raceway spring meet and a bevy of older horses - many of which were making their seasonal debuts - were on hand at the Maryland five-eighths mile oval.

In the featured Open Handicap, Brody (Sean Bier) gained command well before a 27-flat opener, got a breather by the half in 56.1, shook off the first over bid of Casey At Bat (Allan Davis) through the far turn and held safe the late bid of Hi Sir (Russell Foster) to score by a length in 1:51.4. A seven-year-old Real Artist gelding owned, trained and driven by Bier, Brody recorded his second win in eight starts this year and now owns a 13-15-7 slate and $130,000 banked from 80 career outings.

Two races later in a non-winners of $6000 last five starts class for older pacers, P L Hoofhearted (Frank Milby) regained his winning ways in sharp fashion when he overcame an extended first over journey to score in 1:54.2 as the 4-1 third choice. A six-year-old Mach Three gelding trained by Walter Birney, Jr., P L Hoofhearted kicked off his 2017 campaign in sharp fashion and now owns a 22-10-7 slate and $146,000 banked from 102 career tries. Rebel Soldier (Kim Vincent) finished a solid second for oner-trainer-breeder Steve Warrington of Sanabelle Island fame.

Then in the very next race, a non-winners of $4000 last five starts class for pacers, Rock On The Hill (Davis) eventually got the better of favored Owen Hanover (Jonathan Roberts) following a prolonged duel. A five-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding trained by Bruce Saunders for the Sdk Stables, Rock On The Hill edged past Owen Hanover late to score in 1:53, his first tally in eight outings this year. Owen Hanover was a sharp second for the third time in six winless starts this season.

Saunders recorded another winner in the very next race when 3-5 favorite Sweet Justice (Milby) benefited from a second over trip behind 40-1 outsider Whitesville Dixon (David Hill, III) to capture a non-winners of $5000 last five starts class for trotters in 1:56.1. Sweet Justice notched his second win in seven starts this year and now owns a 32-15-18 slate and $420,000 banked from 151 career tries, while Whitesville Dixon raced very well in defeat for owner-trainer-breeder Gary White and should garner his first seasonal score sometime soon.