Older Pacers Take Center Stage at Three Tracks

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Ted Black

March 4th, 2017

While thoroughbred racing fans will be keenly viewing the action from Meydan, Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park on Saturday, especially the trio of Kentucky Derby preps that those tracks will offer, harness racing fans will have a plethora of talented aged pacers to follow at tracks in New Jersey, New York and Maryland.

Yonkers Raceway will continue to offer numerous pacers several chances to prep for the upcoming lucrative George Morton Levy Memorial Series that gets under way on March 18. Granted, nominations for the Levy closed on Wednesday, but those trainers who may have second thoughts about nominating those horses will have two more chances to study the results of overnight events this weekend and next.

Just past the midway point of the card, eight older pacers will clash in the $39,000 Preferred and at least one-half of the field appears destined for the Levy. Burning N (Ron Cushing) has won twice and finished second once in four outings over the strip for trainer Heidi Rohr and could be a sleeper in the Levy series although his best efforts have typically been from well off the pace. Aged wonders Sapphire City (George Brennan) and Polak A (Scott Zeron) will leave from posts five and six, respectively, but the two main threats have been assigned the outside.
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Provocativeprince N (Jordan Stratton) has been ultra impressive in winning three of four starts for trainer Peter Tritton and owner Harry von Knoblauch - the same connections of 2016 Levy hero Bit Of A Legend N - and doing so primarily from off the pace. Provocativeprince N has gradually climbed the condition ladder at Yonkers despite racing first over in three of those four outings. He had the eight hole and was shuffled into oblivion in his lone setback over the strip.

Just to his outside is Blood Brother (Jason Bartlett), who ended a prolonged drought by rallying second over to capture the "Winners Over" class on Feb. 18 by four lengths in 1:52 for trainer Richard Banca. Blood Brother was a fixture in the Open late last season and early this year, but finally got some class relief last out and won handily. Like Tritton, Banca will have a solid one-two punch in the Levy thanks to Blood Brother and Somewhere In L A.

Speaking of Bit Of A Legend N and Somewhere In L A, both of those talented aged pacers will have another chance to prep for the Levy in the very next race on the  card, the $50,000 Open Handicap. Bit Of A Legend N (Stratton), will make his second start of the year two weeks after finishing third in the Open in an apparent training mile. Somewhere In L A has been virtually dominant in four of his seven starts this year for Banca, banking nearly $100,000 and recording a trio of rzaor sharp scores and one narrow defeat.

Then just past the midway point of the Saturday night card at The Meadowlands, City Hall (Brett Miller) will seek to regain his winning ways in a non-winners of $11,500 last five starts class after six subpar efforts on two half-mile ovals. City Hall was virtually unbeatable at The Meadowlands in December when he climbed the condition ladder to win the Invitational for trainer Amber Buter during a form spree that made him the best pacer in the land that month.

But joining the event are three older pacers who have also enjoyed their nights at the Big M. Alberto Contador (Vincent Ginsburg) returns to a track where he won two straight races between dull outings. Rockeyed Optimist (John Campbell) regained his winning ways last out for trainer Steve Elliott, while Ontario Success (Yannick Gingras) will seek to regain his winning ways after three straight second-place efforts against slightly tougher.

Then on Sunday evening Rosecroft will kick off its 34-night spring meet with a solid 12-race card.

Midway through the card the top older pacers will clash in the $10,000 Open. Casey At Bat (Allan Davis) draws the rail after five winless tries at Dover Downs. Rosecroft regulars Hickory Aloha (Tim Offutt), Hi Sir (Russell Foster), Diamondkeeper (Roger Plante, Jr.) and Hide Me Away (Jonathan Roberts) will all make their seasonal debuts. Hi Sir, Diamondkeeper and Hide Me Away have all garnered horse of the meet honors at least once with Diamondkeeper being tabbed as horse of the meet at Rosecroft last fall and Ocean Downs last summer for trainer Basil Sapienza.

Then two races later in a non-winners of $6000 last five starts class for pacers, regulars Real Impulsive, Rocktavius, Dancing Rusty, Spinout, Upbyfive, Rebel Soldier and Real Tough, all seek an early score that could launch them back into the Open. The aptly named Real Tough has already won once in six starts at Dover, sports a solid 43-31-21 slate and $310,000 bankroll from 186 career outings that began with a victory in the $100,000 Wayne Smullin Memorial in his career debut.

Then one race later in a non-winners of $4000 last five starts class for older pacers, Rockin Glory, Last Shot Leeton, Caviart Tyler, I Wanna Go Fast and Owen Hanover are all in quest of their first win of the year. Both I Wanna Go Fast and Caviart Tyler have proven success over the oval and both should do well throughout the spring meet at the Maryland five-eighths mile oval.