Older pacers continue to impress

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Ted Black

March 7th, 2016

As mentioned before, while many thoroughbred racing fans are scouting the various Triple Crown prep races to see which sophomore colts - or possibly fillies - might peak on the first Saturday in May, standardbred racing fans are following the numerous older pacers who continue to perform admirably at various ovals.

Saturday night at Yonkers Raceway in New York, the first five races on the card were for pacers that were non-winners of $12,000 last five starts and a quartet of horses - three of which prevailed - were very good at the perceived lower level.

In the opening race on the program, What I Believe (Jason Bartlett) lived up to his role as the even-money choice and led throughout from the coveted rail to score in 1:53.1 for his first win in five starts this year. He also remains eligible to the condition despite the victory. But the most impressive effort in that event was delivered by Starsky's Dream N (Jordan Stratton), who overcame post seven and a first over journey into a solid 56 back half to finish second.

One race later on the card, Moonliteonthebeach (Brian Sears) notched his first win in three starts this year when he paced first over into a 55.1 back half and drew clear as the 3-5 favorite in 1:52.4 for trainer Jeffery Bamond, Jr. Moonliteonthebeach recorded the fastest clocking of the five-way split and did so although the early tempo was not entirely favorable for him or conducive to  fast final time. Despite the win he also remains eligible to the same class next weekend.

Two races later on the card, Ideal Matters (Matt Kakaley) left alertly to gain command in a 28-second opener and maintained honest fractions throughout en route to a 1:53 tally. This nine-year-old Western Ideal gelding has typically done his best racing from well off the pace on bigger tracks, but Saturday night he displayed plenty of early speed and some late grit to notch his first win in three starts on the season.

Two races later on the card, All Bets Off (Kakaley) overcame his assigned post position eight slot to tuck fourth on the first turn, brush to command before the half in 57 flat and then held safe Dream Out Loud N (George Brennan) to score in 1:52.2. A five-year-old Bettors Delight stallion trained by Ron Burke, All Bets Off needed only two starts to notch his first win this season and now appears headed to the Levy series along with the usual Burke brigade that should include Foiled Again, Always At My Place, Take It Back Terry and Somewhere In LA.

One race later on the card, Bad Boy Matt (Mark MacDonald) won the faster half of the split, non-winners of $25,000 last five starts class in sharp, first over fashion. A six-year-old Badlands Hanover gelding trained by Wayne Givens, Bad Boy Matt got away fourth, angled out first over nearing the half, grinded his way alongside Cyclone Kiwi N (Brennan) through the far turn and then held safe Mah Sish N (Kakaley) to score in 1:52.1. Casimir Jitterbug (Sears) won the other half of this condition 20 minutes later in 1:53.3.

The last four races were for non-winners of $18,000 last five starts company and all four winners gave solid efforts. Fameous Western (Kakaley) overcame a first over effort into a 55.2 back half to wear down One Through Ten (Daniel Dube) for his second win in six starts this year. Despite the victory, he also remains eligible to the class next week.

One race later, Bettor Rock On N (Sears) continued his winning ways since arriving in the U.S. from down under by gaining command early and then cruising to a 1:53.1 score for trainer Casie Coleman. The seven-year-old Bettors Delight gelding won his local debut in 1:52.3 and then came right back to score handily. He had finished second behind stablemate Lucan Hanover in a qualifier at The Meadowlands, one in which he finished ahead of All Bets Off, the Open hero on Saturday night.

One race later it was Jeneral Patton (Dube) who brushed to command before the half and held safe 3-5 choice Sams Escape to win in 1:52.4, then in the finale Chancellorcullen N (Carl Cito, Jr.) gained command before the opener, got a breather to the half in 57.3 and then easily held safe 6-5 choice Terror Time N (Sears) to score in 1:53.2 while under confident handling in the lane. It was his second win in three starts this year and his third victory in his last four outings.

That same evening at Pompano Park in southern Florida, Scott Rocks (George Napolitano, Jr.) benefited from a pocket trip behind Panocchio (Wally Hennessey) and then angled out with plenty of pace late to capture the $20,000 Open 1 Handicap by two lengths in 1:49. It was the second win in three starts this year for the six-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding trained by Chris Oakes. Panocchio had won the Open in his previous start, but settled for second for the second time in four outings this season.

Then several races later in the feature, Velocity Vespa (Napolitano) gained command before whistling the opener in 26.1 and maintained an honest tempo throughout and just outlasted the late bid of pocket-sitting Show Runner (Tim Tetrick) to capture the $75,000 Isle of Capri final for pacing fillies and mares. The six-year-old I Scoot Hanover mare has won six of eight starts on the year and pushed her career earnings toward $250,000 while lowering her lifetime mark by more than a full second.

That same evening at The Meadowlands, Rockeyed Optimist (Andrew McCarthy) brushed to command before reaching the half and then held safe Dovuto Hanover (Scott Zeron) and Take It Back Terry (Joe Bongiorno) to capture the $25,000 Open Handicap in 1:50.2. A five-year-old Rocknroll Hanover stallion trained by Steve Elliott, Rockeyed Optimist has won twice in three starts this year and continues to approach peak form after an abbreviated 2015 campaign in which he won nine of 15 starts and earned nealy $200,000 while taking a stellar mark of 1:48 flat.