Plenty of Talented Older Pacers and Trotters on Display Memorial Day Weekend

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Ted Black

May 29th, 2017

Avid thoroughbred racing fans can still recall the ample stellar performances delivered on Memorial Day weekend by legendary runners of years past, but this past weekend also offered numerous talented trotters and pacers a chance to shine in several lucrative stakes at three different ovals.

Sunday afternoon at Harrah's Philadelphia, a five-eighths mile oval in Pennsylvania that opened as Chester Downs and is still often referred to simply as "Chester" by fans and horsemen alike, onlookers were treated to a bevy of superb performances. Their efforts came just in time for voters to fill out their ballots for the inaugural Hambletonian Society/United States Trotting Association Top 10 poll which will make its seasonal debut on Tuesday afternoon.

The last $150,000 event of the day at Harrah's and the weekend had plenty in common with the first six-figure event that kicked off the weekend. Mossdale Conner N (Jordan Stratton), another 'wonder from down under' lived up to his role as the even-money choice in the Ben Stafford, Jr. Memorial when he gained command before the opener, rebuffed a wicked brush bid from Somewhere In L A and held sway through the lane despite carving out wicked fractions of 54.1 and 1:21.1 to prevail by three lengths in 1:49 flat.

A winner of all four of his starts since arriving in the United States, Mossdale Conner N has rapidly emerged as a budding star in the older pacing ranks. Trained by Peter Tritton for owner Harry Von Knoblauch, the same combination that opened the weekend with a sharp score by Bit Of A Legend N in the $150,000 Molson Pace at Western Fair Raceway in Canada, Mossdale Conner N now sports a 17-14-9 slate and $480,000 bankroll from 77 career tries.

One race earlier on the card, Lady Shadow (Yannick Gingras) lived up to her billing as the even-money favorite to capture the $150,000 Betsy Ross Stakes by three lengths in 1:49. Trained by Ronald Adams, Lady Shadow has won both of her starts this year and now owns 30 victories and $1.67 million banked from 57 career outings. Last year Lady Shadow was the Dan Patch Award winner as champion aged pacing mare and she was also selected as the Maryland-bred horse of the year by members of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association.

Then one race earlier on the card, Crazy Wow (Gingras) lived up to his belated role as the 3-2 favorite in the $150,000 Maxie Lee Memorial for older trotters when he gained command soon after the start and led throughout to score in 1:52. Trained by Ron Burke, Crazy Wow notched his first victory in four starts this year after finishing second in each of his three previous outings and he now sports 16 wins and $1.6 million banked from 46 lifetime outings. Two years ago he was among the best three-year-old colt trotters in the land, but last season he tailed off form.

Runner-up J L Cruze continued the good start to his campaign for trainer Eric Ell and owners Kenny Wood, Bill Dittmar and Steve Iaquinta. The 2015 Dan Patch Award winner as champion aged trotter, owns a 1-1-2 slate and $70,000 banked from four starts this year and he now owns a solid 27-8-9 slate and $960,000 bankroll from 60 career outings. Needless to say the "Denton Destroyer" will be a millionaire sometime in the near future.

The two prior races on the card produced fast miles by proven older pacers. Rockeyed Optimist actually uncorked the fastest clocking of the day when he led throughout to capture a conditioned event in 1:48.3. The Steve Elliott trainee has won three of seven starts this year and sports a solid 29-8-6 slate and $570,000 bankroll from 61 career tries. One race earlier on the card, Mel Mara captured the "Winners Over" class in wire-to-wire fashion in 1:49.1 in his seasonal debut for trainer Dylan Davis. The eight-year-old Lis Mara stallion now owns a 19-11-7 slate and $720,000 banked from 72 lifetime tries.

Saturday night's stakes races at Yonkers Raceway centered on the three-year-old pacers and two of them delivered superb performances. In the $300,000 Art Rooney Stakes for sophomore pacing colts, Downbytheseaside (David Miller) remained perfect on the season when he cruised to a four-length score in 1:52 for his third win in as many starts this year. Two races earlier, Tequila Monday (Miller) posted a mild 4-1 upset in the $140,000 Lismore final for three-year-old pacing fillies for trainer Chris Oakes. This talented Maryland-bred sophomore could join Lady Shadow in the argument for Maryland-bred horse of the year in 2017.

As mentioned earlier, Bit Of A Legend N (Stratton) kicked off the weekend by capturing the $150,000 Molson Pace at Western Fair Raceway in 1:51.3 for Tritton and Von Knoblauch. Hero of the 2016 George Morton Levy Memorial Series final at Yonkers, Bit Of A Legend N owns a 3-2-3 slate and $210,000 banked from 10 starts this year and he sports 36 wins and $1.6 million earned from 101 career tries. Now it appears that Bit Of A Legend N and Mossdale Conner N will give Tritton a formidable one-two punch in lucrative stakes this spring, summer and fall.