Open handicap livens up Yonkers final Saturday card

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Ted Black

December 9th, 2015

Yonkers Raceway will present its final Saturday night card of the year and the featured $32,000 Open Handicap looks like an early preview of the George Morton Levy Series for older pacers.

Racing secretary Steven Starr assigned all six post positions, with two four-year-olds joining the mix and rightfully so. Both could be major factors in the older pacing ranks next season beginning with the Levy.

Assigned the outside six hole in this group is Always At My Place (George Brennan), a talented four-year-old trained by Ron Burke. Despite his setback last week in the 4YO Open, Always At My Place has won 14 of 22 starts this year and earned over $230,000 and appears to be the budding older star in Burke's barn.

Assigned just to his inside is The Real One (Pat Lachance), hero of last week's Open for his trainer-driver. The Real One has won 8 of 31 starts and banked over $270,000 this year while racing almost exclusively in the top classes at Yonkers. He was a good first over winner last week and gets a modest reprieve not being assigned the outside slot.

Just inside him is Melmerby Beach (Jason Bartlett), sharp first over winner of last week's 4YO Open. A recent $185,000 Harrisburg purchase by owner-trainer Ettorre Annunziata, Melmerby Beach has won two of his three starts over the oval and looks poised to be another budding star among older pacers next season.

Then just to his inside is Lucan Hanover (Brian Sears) another regular fixture in the top classes here for older horses. Trained by Andrew Harris, Lucan Hanover has posted some of the sharpest scores over the track and last week's third-place effort was much better than it looked on paper.

The two inside horses are Cyclone Kiwi and Fameous Western, both of which have raced well over the track in conditioned events but appear in too tough this weekend.

In a compact field of six trips will not be a huge factor. But look for Lucan Hanover to set the early tempo then yield to Always At My Place before the half.

With Always At My Place setting the tempo, Melmerby Beach will launch a first over bid and The Real One will pick up his live cover as they roll down the backside and by three-quarters.

At the top of the lane four pacers will have a chance to succeed, but look for Lucan Hanover to rally along the passing lane to edge Always At My Place and The Real One in 1:51.