Older Pacers Shine at Three Venues

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Ted Black

March 13th, 2017

With the George Morton Levy Memorial series set to get under way this Saturday night at Yonkers Raceway, more than one-half of the 40 pacers eligible to the lucrative, ultra-tough affair were in action last Saturday either at Yonkers or The Meadowlands. Several of them were able to shine in their final auditions for the big dance while several others failed miserably.

Seven of the eight pacers that competed in the $50,000 Open Handicap on Saturday were eligible to the Levy, so it seemed only fitting that Sports Bettor - the lone horse not headed to the series - would finish last. The top four finishers, Guantanamo May (Scott Zeron), Blood Brother (Jason Bartlett), Vegan Vacation (Jordan Stratton) and Soto (Matt Kakaley) all performed well, while the jury is still out on Melmerby Beach, Take It Back Terry and Keystone Velocity.

Guantanamo Bay has won three of eight starts this year and now sports two victories in the Open Hcp, although his come-from-behind style is often not preferred at the New York half-mile oval. Nevertheless, the five-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding trained by Daniel Renaud now looms a major player in the upcoming series with his latest tally, worth $25,000, covering his initial $5000 entry fee and subsequent $1000 weekly sustaining payments to stay in the Levy with a potential for a big ay day in the $400,000 final on April 22.

Runner-up Blood Brother overcome dull cover and rallied widest on the far turn to gain the place spot while being overhauled late by Guantanamo Bay. Pacesetter Vegas Vacation was used hard to make the front past the opener, got a breather to the half and three-quarters and was overhauled late by the top two in a good try. Soto, a five-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven stallion trained by Eric Ell for owners Kenny Wood, Bill Dittmar and Steven Iaquinta - the same connections of former trotting champion J L Cruze - had won the Open on Feb. 25 and raced well despite an overland trip from post eight following a week off.

In the third race on the card, Texas Terror N (Mark MacDonald) may have benefited from a ground-saving journey in a non-winners of $15,000 last five starts class, but two of his rivals virtually stopped in front of him down the backside and he still rallied inside to overhaul Pass Them By N late in 1:54. Texas Terror N had won a Levy leg opener last spring in 1:51, but he was never a factor in the remainder of the series. But with some racing luck, either in post position draws or pace scenarios, he could earn enough points to make the $100,000 consolation.

Undoubtedly the most impressive winners among the Levy noms at Yonkers on Saturday night was McWicked (Zeron), who overcame a four-week layoff following an Open tally at Pompano Park to lead throughout in 1:53.2 in a non-winners of $25,000 last five starts class. A six-year-old McArdle stallion trained by Steve Elliott, McWicked has won both of his parimutuel starts this year after a pair of very impressive qualifying scores at Pompano and will head into the Levy as a major player.

Just past the midway point of the card, Artistic Major (Kakaley) overcame post eight to gain command easily and cut the early fractions before settling for second to Theartofconfusion A (Zeron) in 1:54 in the other non-winners of $25,000 last five starts split. Artistic Major had won in first over fashion on Feb. 25 then missed a week and drew the eight hole for his Levy prep, so the Steve Elliott trainee figures to be formidable throughout the series. Two other Levy noms in that event, Dream Out Loud N and Burning N, should remain in overnights.

Several other Levy noms failed at short prices in their overnight preps on Saturday at Yonkers, but one of them definitely merits respect in the series. Wakizashi Hanover (Tim Tetrick) finished third following a second over journey in his local debut for trainer Jim King, Jr., behind non-Levy combatants Lucan Hanover and Texican N, but the five-year-old Dragon Again gelding was hardly a failure as the 1-2 choice in his Yonkers bow and merits respect throughout the series. Fellow Delaware invader Arque Hanover and Dr J Hanover may need another start over the strip before being ready for the Levy.
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That same night at the Meadowlands, Rockin Ron (Joe Bongiorno) rallied from well off the pace and second over as the 8-5 favorite to capture a non-winners of $15,000 last five starts class in 1:51.4 for trainer Ron Burke. Rockin Ron had won his previous start at Yonkers and looms one of Burke's top Levy hopefuls. Bettor's Edge finished fifth and Mattamerican last in that event and both should remain well clear of the Levy this weekend.

Two races earlier in a non-winners of $7,775 last five starts class for older pacers, Levy nom Americanprimetime (Corey Callahan) weakened late as the 4-5 favorite and settled for second for the second straight outing. Americanprimetime has always performed well at Yonkers, but right now he is still eligible to the lower conditioned events at the New York half-mile oval and neighboring New Jersey miler and should seek to climb the class ladder before joining the Levy battles.

Then on Sunday night at Rosecroft Raceway, admittedly among horses that are not headed to the Levy, several older pacers and one older trotter delivered solid scores.

Midway through the card, Whitesville Dixon (David Hill, III) benefited from a pocket trip and posted a modest 6-1 upset in a non-winners of $5000 last five starts class for owner-trainer-breeder Gary White. Whitesville Dixon has finished first once and second once in two local tries and the five-year-old Doggone Yankee gelding now sports a 6-12-9 slate and $75,500 bankroll from 40 career tries and could be the best of the White contingent at the oval this spring.

Then two races later in the $10,000 Open Handicap for older pacers, Brody (Sean Bier) lived up to his role as the 7-5 favorite when he captured the top class for the second straight week in 1:51.3. Owned, bred and trained by Bier, Brody has won three of nine starts overall and earned nearly $24,000 this season and looms the early favorite for horse of the meet honors. Katies Rocker (Jonathan Roberts) finished second as the 2-1 second choice for trainer Mike Hall, while local Open fixture Hi Sir (Russell Foster) was third.

One race later on the card, Bier was back in the winner's circle after guiding Cabbie's Delight to a 14-1 upset in a non-winners of $6,000 last five starts class in 1:52.4 for owner-trainer Gary Simpson. Cabbie's Delight notched his first win in five starts this year after facing considerably tougher conditioned foes at Dover Downs in his previous four outings. Owen Hanover (Roberts) settled for second for the second straight week, while Rock On Precious (Foster) was third in his local bow for his owner-trainer-driver.

Then two races later in another non-winners of $6,000 last five starts class, Idealbeach Hanover (Jim Morand) easily prevailed as the 5-2 second choice when he scored in 1:52.1 for trainer Les Givens. Idealbeach Hanover had failed to earn a check in five previous starts at Dover Downs this year, but he displayed signs of the form that enabled him to earn nearly $100,000 in 39 starts last season while competing primarily in overnight events at Yonkers Raceway.