Older pacers impress

Profile Picture: Ted Black

Ted Black

February 21st, 2016

While many thoroughbred racing enthusiasts have already begun scouting Kentucky Derby hopefuls, standardbred fans have already seen several very good older pacers make the respective seasonal debuts.

While many of the sport's top three-year-olds from 2015, including defending horse of the year Wiggle It Jiggleit are expected back on the track this spring, several very good older pacers have already kicked off their current campaigns and another is prepared to make his seasonal debut on Monday at Dover Downs.

Saturday night at The Meadowlands, Rockeyed Optimist (Tim Tetrick) served notice that he will again be among the top older pacers in training when he crushed conditioned foes in 1:49.3 for his first win in two starts this year.

A five-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding trained by Steve Elliott, Rockeyed Optimist tucked third early, brushed to command before the half in 55.3, cruised by three-quarters in 1:23 then drew clear to a five-length score in 1:49.3.

Last year Rockeyed Optimist won 9 of 15 starts and earned nearly $200,000 during an abbreviated campaign where he took a 1:48 mark. He has won 16 of 36 starts and banked almost $285,000 in his career and looks poised for a very good five-year-old campaign based on his latest triumph.

That same night at Yonkers Raceway, Polak A (Brian Sears) notched his third win in five starts this season when he overhauled Roland N Rock (Daniel Dube) to capture the $32,000 Open Handicap in 1:53.

An eight-year-old Pacific Fella gelding trained by Tony O'Sullivan, Polak A began the season facing conditioned foes over the New York half-miler but made the quick transition back to the Open ranks on Saturday night by overtaking the razor sharp Roland N Rock in the final 100 yards.

Both Polak A and Roland N Rock will likely be among the noms for the George Morton Levy Memorial Series that gets underway on March 19 and culminates with a $500,000 final on April 23. Open does Phil Your Boots and Atta Boy Dan will also likely join the mix.

But perhaps the best performance of the night at Yonkers was delivered one race later when Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton) overcame a first over trip into a wicked back half to down conditioned foes in 1:53.1.

A seven-year-old Bettors Delight stallion trained by Peter Tritton, Bit Of A Legend N angled out first over as Cyclone Kiwi N led the field by the half in a modest 58.2, grinded his way toward that one down the backside and by three-quarters in 1:26, then wore down the leader while completing the mile in 1:53.1 for his second win in as many starts since arriving from New Zealand.

While his final clocking was not the fastest of the night, Bit Of A Legend N paced his back half first over in 54.2 in order to succeed. Bit Of A Legend won 20 of 63 starts and banked over $650,000 down under before arriving here and his gritty score on Saturday night suggest that his best days may not have already passed and he could be headed to the Levy.

Two other talented pacers who appear Levy-bound finished one-two in a non-winners of $25,000 last five starts class that proved to be the fastest of the card.

Sunfire Blue Chip (Dube) overcame post six to gain command, yielded to favored Melmerby Beach (Jason Bartlett) past the opener, sat a loose pocket to the half and three-quarters then overhauled that one late to score in 1:52.4.

A six-year-old American Ideal stallion trained by Jimmy Takter, Sunfire Blue Chip has won twice in six starts this year and will likely try Open foes next out and then should tackle Levy rivals next month.

Melmerby Beach, a five-year-old Somebeachsomewhere stallion owned and trained by Ettore Annunziata, has been second three times in four winless starts this season. But he gets to stay in this class for another start before going back into the Open and possibly the Levy.

Speaking of the Levy, another likely older pacer pointing for that series will make his seasonal debut Monday evening at Dover. Lucan Hanover, a six-year-old trained by Casie Coleman, will return in the $30,000 Open/Preferred Handicap tomorrow night against Bushwacker, who has already won five of seven starts this year for trainer Chris Ryder, and Dapper Dude (Victor Kirby) a talented, durable older sort approaching the $1 million mark in lifetime earnings.