Saturday offers quality racing morning, noon and night

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Ted Black

March 3rd, 2018

Both thoroughbred racing and standardbred racing fans will have ample reason to look forward to Saturday's programs as many of their respective sport's top horses will be on display in the morning, the afternoon and well into the evening at several venues.

Saturday morning at The Meadowlands, the New Jersey one-mile oval will host seven qualifiers featuring horses of all ages preparing for their upcoming seasonal debuts and then vaulting right into the lucrative, prestigious, ultra-tough George Morton Levy Memorial Series at Yonkers Raceway that gets under way on March 17.

In Saturday's fifth morning, non-betting event, Mach It So (Kyle Husted), a fixture in the Levy series the previous four years, will go postward from post four against two Rob Burke trainees, Caviart Luca and Always At My Place, both likely pointing to the Levy, along with Sunfire Blue Chip for trainer Jimmy Takter and National Seelster for trainer Chris Ryder. Mach It So has faced many of the sport's best older pacers in his previous four campaigns and won the $220,000 William R. Haughton Memorial for a second time in three years last season for trainer Jeff Bamond, Jr.

Then two races later the last morning qualifier features All Bets Off (Matt Kakaley), another talented, well-traveled sort for Burke who has been a fixture in the Levy series. Hero of the inaugural $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft in 2016 and runner-up in that event last fall, All Bets Off drew the rail for this outing, while the speedy Western Fame (Mark Macdonald) will leave from the outside for Takter.

Soon after that morning sessions ends at the Meadowlands, thoroughbred racing fans will be eagerly anticipating the stakes-filled card at Gulfstream Park in southern Florida and perhaps, more specifically, the Grade II, $400,000 Fountain Of Youth Stakes for three-year-olds that caps the stellar program.

Saturday's Fountain Of Youth will feature the return of two-year-old champion Good Magic, who captured his freshman campaign by capturing the Grade I Breeders Cup Juvenile for trainer Chad Brown. Good Magic broke his maiden in that Grade I affair and will loom the favorite in this spot against Free Drop Billy, runner-up in the Holy Bull Stakes last out, the speedy Strike Power, who has won both of his starts sprinting, the $2 million yearling Marconi and Machismo and Promises Fulfilled.

Two races earlier older male sprinters will be on display in the Grade III, $100,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint. Favorable Outcome, third in the Grade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita in his most recent outing last December, looms the solid favorite against Extravagant Kid, Classic Rock, Mr. Jordan and Noholdingbackbear.

One race earlier in a two-turn maiden special weight event for three-year-old colts in which eight of the 11 entrants are nominated to the Triple Crown series, Personal Time rates the odds-on choice from the rail. Second in his seasonal debut last month at one mile, Personal Time tries two turns for the first time but looks best here against a group that includes Just Whistle and Hofburg, both making their sophomore debuts off one start each last summer at Delaware Park and Saratoga, respectively.

Then three races earlier in the Grade II, $200,000 Davona Dale at one mile on the main track, Take Charge Paula and Sultry, one-two finishers in the Forward Gal Stakes here last out, renew their rivalry against Fly So High and Cache, both of which make their stakes debuts. Fly So High has won her last two starts for Shug McGaughey, while Cache prevailed greenly at first asking going seven panels as the 6-5 choice.

Several of the earlier stakes are graded events on the grass, including the Palm Beach for three-year-old colts and the Herecomesthebride for three-year-old fillies. Therapist, who has won all three of his starts, rates the choice in the Palm Beach against Speed Franco, Maraud, Neepawa and Hawkish, the lone Triple Crown nominee in this group. Thewayiam has won both of her starts for trainer Graham Motion since arriving here and gets tested against Princess Warrior, Brattata and Amertume.

Then on Saturday evening at Yonkers Raceway, several older pacers will begin their final tuneups for the Levy series.

In the opener, a non-winners of $20,000 last five starts class, Somewhere In L A (Jason Bartlett) makes his seasonal debut for trainer Richard Banca off a pair of local qualifiers, including a wicked 1:52.4 score by 14 lengths over the sloppy surface on Feb. 23. A winner 10 time sin 33 outings last year with nearly $500,000 banked, Somewhere In L A was a factor throughout the Levy series last spring and looms another major threat in that affair if he can regain that form off the layoff.

Then right at the midway point of the card, Rockin Ron (George Brennan) returns to the New York half-mile oval for the $40,000 Open Handicap following a solid, second-place finish in the $20,000 Preferred Handicap over a sloppy surface at the Meadowlands last weekend in his six-year-old debut for Burke. Rockin Ron posted an 8-8-2 slate and earned over $525,000 from 25 starts last season and took a 1:47.2 mark while facing many of the sport's best older pacers.

The others in the Open have yet to distinguish themselves this winter, but look for Gokudo Hanover, Alotbettor N, Thisjetsabookin and Killer Martini to be among the Levy noms.

Then on Thursday evening all eyes will again focus on Yonkers as Foiled Again (Yannick Gingras) makes yet another bid to attain the 100th victory of his Hall of Fame career for Burke. A 14-year-old Dragon Again gelding with nearly $7.6 million to his credit already from 309 starts, Foiled Again drew the coveted rail for the non-winners of $20,000 last five starts class and will again be favored to reach the 100-win plateau over the New York half-mile oval and then perhaps begin a farewell tour.