Rosecroft Tuesday cards have become tougher

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Ted Black

March 19th, 2015

There was once a time when harness racing fans looked down on the weeknight cards and preferred to wait until the weekends to wager on the best trotters and pacers that most standardbred ovals offer. But the weeknight cards at Rosecroft Raceway and Dover Downs have certainly been contrary to that trend. The Dover Monday, Wednesday and Thursday cards have been solid for two decades now, while the current Tuesday programs at Rosecroft have become commendable and contentious.

The Tuesday, March 17 St. Patrick's Day card at Rosecroft offered owners, trainers, drivers and bettors with nine superb races and perhaps helped set the stage for some serious battles throughout the spring meet. On hand on Tuesday were the two pacers who shared the title as the track's top overnight horse for the 2014 fall meet and several others who have already joined the conversation for the 2015 honors.

In the opening race on the card, the $8000 Open 3 Handicap for older pacers, Hi Sir (Russell Foster) lived up to his billing as the 6-5 favorite in his seasonal debut when he rallied from well off the pace and second over to score by a length in 1:53. Last fall the Sir Luck gelding ended the campaign on a tear, winning four straight races to conclude a busy season with nine wins and nearly $60,000 banked from 41 outings. After being tabbed as the Ocean Downs horse of the meet by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association last summer, Hi Sir took home a second prize as the Rosecroft Raceway horse of the meet by track management.

Several races later on the card the durable and venerable Three Of Spades (Jonathan Roberts) notched his second straight win of the meet when he rallied second over to capture a non-winners of $4300 last five starts class by a length over favored Bellator (Corey Braden) in 1:54.2. The 12-year-old Cam's Card Shark gelding trained by William "Bib" Roberts of Yankee Co-Ed and Trapeze fame, Three Of Spades has won both of his local starts this year after winning only once in 14 outings last season. He sports a solid 38-32-32 slate and $770,000 bankroll from 198 lifetime outings.

Several races later on the card in the featured $9000 Open 2 Handicap, favored Fearless Diablo (Roberts) benefited from smart handling and a second over journey to overhaul the gritty Hot Art (Frank Milby) by a head in 1:51.4 in the fastest mile of the meet thus far. A seven-year-old Art Major stallion trained by Dylan Davis, Fearless Diablo notched his second win in six starts this year while prevailing in his Rosecroft debut. He had spent the early part of the season in the $25,000 claimers at Dover and finished second in a qualifier recently behind Dancin Yankee, who will be competing in the George Morton Levy Memorial Series at Yonkers Raceway this weekend.

Hot Art delivered a game effort in defeat, setting the early fractions before being pressed by Hide Me Away (Foster) down the backside and through the far turn and then being overhauled by Fearless Diablo in the lane. Hot Art had benefited from a pocket trip to capture the Open 2 over the sloppy going one week earlier, while Hide Me Away had rallied for the place spot that night. Both horses will be primary contenders for the horse of the meet honors this spring. Lyons Meandragon, the scribes' choice as the fall meet champion, faded in the lane in his first try back in the Open 2 after winning a conditioned event the week before.

Perhaps the biggest shocker of the meet this far, however, came in the $9000 Filly-Mare Open 2 when Dragon Ruffles (Ken Weckstein) brushed to command passing the wire the first time, opened a commanding lead on the far turn and held sway in the lane for a 27-1 upset in 1:54. A five-year-old Dragon Again mare trained by Ken Schlotzhauer for his owner-driver, Dragon Ruffles notched her first win in two starts this season and ended her bridesmaid status in the Open ranks since being purchased by Weckstein last fall.

Then one race later on the card, Manhattan Rusty N (Brandon Henley) perhaps delivered the grittiest effort on the night when he overcame a first over journey to capture a non-winners of $6000 last five class as the 2-1 second choice. A nine-year-old Artsplace gelding owned and trained by Gary Ewing of Ge's Romanero fame, Manhattan Rusty N notched his first win in seven starts this year and now owns a 28-27-18 slate and $280,000 bankroll from 160 career outings. Henley is developing into one of the more promising catch drivers on the circuit.