Older Pacers Get Final Levy Preps Tomorrow Night

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Ted Black

March 11th, 2017

When the list of nominees for the upcoming George Morton Levy Memorial Series at Yonkers Raceway was released by the racing office on Thursday, onlookers may have been surprised that not among the 40 aged pacers on the list there were notable absentees that included 2015 harness horse of the year Wiggle It Jiggleit, Yonkers all-age track record holder, The Real One, and all-time leading money earner Foiled Again.

But among those nominated to the lucrative, ultra-tough series that offers five rounds of eliminations starting March 18 and then a $400,000 final and $100,000 consolation on April 22 are more than a dozen pacers who will compete in overnight races on the Saturday night card at Yonkers and several others who will prep for the series at The Meadowlands. Although 40 pacers were nominated to the series at a cost of $5000 each does not mean that their connections are obligated to pay the $1000 starting fee each week.

While many of the Levy noms can be found competing in the Open Handicap, Preferred Handicap and other upper level conditioned events at Yonkers each week, two potential Levy participants will be in the early, non-winners of $15,000 last five starts class. Classic American N (Steve Smith), a seven-year-old American Ideal gelding trained by Nick Surick, will compete in the opener and Texas Terror N (Mark MacDonald) - a Levy leg winner last spring in 1:51 - will go postward in the third race for trainer Al Annunziata and both will have to improve considerably to truly earn a spot in the Levy.

Then the featured sixth race, the $50,000 Open Handicap will include seven pacers nominated to the Levy. Melmerby Beach makes his seasonal debut and was assigned the rail, while Guantanamo Bay, Vegas Vacation, Blood Brother, Take It Back Terry, Keystone Velocity and Soto will leave from posts three through eight, respectively. Only Sports Bettor is not among the Levy noms in the Open.

Soto was a determined winner of the Open on Feb. 25 for trainer Eric Ell and gets assigned post eight in his return and will likely use this event as a genuine prep for next week. Keystone Velocity makes his seasonal debut off one qualifier, having ended his previous campaign with a fourth-place finish in the $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway on a chilly night when All Bets Off equaled the all-age track record of 1:48.2. Take It Back Terry got post six in his second start of the year for trainer Ron Burke, having won the Preferred at Dover Downs in his seasonal debut.

Guantanamo Bay won the Open three starts back for trainer Daniel Renaud, while Vegas Vacation delivered gritty efforts in his previous two starts while settling for second each time against conditioned foes. Blood Brother was the beaten favorite in the Open Hcp and Preferred Hcp here on consecutive occasions before finally trouncing "Winners Over" foes by four lengths in 1:52 two starts back and he looms a major danger from post four.

One race later a trio of Levy noms will compete in a non-winners of $25,000 last five starts class. Dream Out Loud N was a solid second last week in his second start of the year for trainer Darren Cassar. Burning N (Ron Cushing) has little gate speed to speak of, but he likes to grind on the outside and could be a major player here with any type of early pace to chase while dropping out of the Preferred. Artistic Major won his second start two weeks back for trainer Steve Elliott and will likely use this spot as a training mile from post eight.

In previous years the eighth race might have included at least a handful of Levy noms, but tomorrow night it has only three. Delaware invader Arque Hanover has been among the top older pacers at Dover Downs and Harrington over the past year and merits respect in his local debut for trainer Rick Murphy. Wakizashi Hanover is no stranger to major stakes and this Delaware-based pacer makes just his second start of the season and looms a factor in this spot and throughout the Levy for trainer Jim King, Jr. Dr J Hanover won seven of 15 starts and earned over $300,000 last year at age three and makes his four-year-old debut from post eight, a likely training trip.
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Then one race later in the ninth, a non-winners of $20,000 last five starts class for older pacers, P H Supercam (Jason Bartlett), a Levy regular and former final champion, seeks to regain his winning ways from post two for trainer Jeff Bamond, Jr. and will likely need a sharp score to convince his connections he deserves another shot at the Levy. Cooperstown, a solid sophomore two years ago, missed last week and leaves from post seven and may need a tightener to get ready for the big boys next weekend.

Then in the finale, a non-winners of $25,000 last five starts class for older pacers, Foiled Again will start from post seven but not in a Levy prep since he was not nominated to the series this spring. But McWicked (Scott Zeron) gets post three off a sharp Open score at Pompano Park in 1:50.4 which came on the heels of two straight impressive romps in qualifiers after making just four starts last year. Long Live Rock returns from Saratoga seeking his first win of the season but gets post eight and could be a factor late if Foiled Again can carry him into the race.

Also on Saturday night at The Meadowlands, the featured non-winners of $15,000 last five starts class will include a pair of Levy noms. Rockin Ron, a winner of his second start at Yonkers two weeks ago, will leave from post nine alongside former stablemate Bettor's Edge, who has enjoyed past success in the Levy.

Then on Sunday night at Rosecroft Raceway, there may not be any horses prepping for the Levy series but the card includes a bevy of tough older pacers all vying for horse of the meet honors.

Just past the midway point of the card, railbound Hickory Aloha (Timmy Offutt) will look to improve off a third-place finish last week in this spot. Rock N Roll Jet (Kim Vincent) returns to the oval with a pair of wins against conditioned foes already under his belt for trainer Buddy Bright. Hi Sir (Russell Foster) closed well to finish second last week and should be tighter this weekend. P L Hoofhearted (Frank Milby) steps up off a gritty victory against non-winners of $6000 last five starts foes. Diamondkeeper (Roger Plante, Jr) was a good fifth in his return last week and merits respect having been horse of the meet here and at Ocean Downs last summer. Brody (Sean Bier) won this event last week in 1:51.4, while Hide Me Away (Jared Moyer) and Katies Rocker (Jonathan Roberts) get the two outside slots again. Katies Rocker was the beaten choice in this event last week and could atone here.

One race later in the non-winners of $6000 last five starts class, Rock On The Hill and Owen Hanover will renew their rivalry following a solid one-two finish in 1:53 in the non-winners of $4000 last five starts class. Next Success (Jim Morand) makes his local debut after three outings at The Meadowlands, while Casey At Bat exits the Open and Avenue Hanover steps up off a 1:53.3 score in the other non-winners of $4000 last five split. Rock On Precious (Russell Foster) looms a serious player having won against similar two starts back at Dover.

Then two races later in the other non-winners of $6000 last five starts class, Rosecroft regulars Real Impulsive, Rocktavius, Concert Artist, Arpeggio Hanover and Upbyfive will seek to defend their local strip against invaders Idealbeach Hanover (Jim Morand), Yankee Heaven (Milby) and Real Tough (Allan Davis), who won the Wayne Smullin Memorial at age two in his career debut.

Morand, a multiple former driving champ here makes his seasonal debut at Rosecroft, while catch driver Richard Still returns from a lengthy hiatus to drive Hurricane Honey in the second, a conditioned event for trotters. Still displayed no signs of rust when he won a qualifier on Tuesday in his unofficial return. Former trainer-driver Lloyd Gilmour, younger brother of the late, great William "Buddy" Gilmour, passed away late last month and will be sorely missed by the local standardbred community.