Several Older Pacers Set to Make Their Seasonal Debuts on Saturday

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Ted Black

February 18th, 2017

While the Laurel Park Winter Carnival will take center stage among many thoroughbred racing enthusiasts during the afternoon when the track hosts a pair of lucrative, graded sprints and four other stakes on the card, standardbred fans will want to keep close tabs on several horses making their 2017 debuts on Saturday night at The Meadowlands and Yonkers Raceway.

Highlighting the Saturday feature at the Big M is the return of Rockeyed Optimist, a talented Steve Elliott trainee who won 11 of 20 starts and banked $270,000 last year and sports a 26-8-5 slate and $540,000 bankroll from 54 career outings. Rockeyed Optimist has always thrived over the bigger ovals and he looms the class of this non-winners of $15,000 last five starts/optional $50,000 claiming event, although he may need a start to regain his peak form.

Speaking of aged veterans, Foiled Again returns to Yonkers Raceway on Saturday for the opener after winning a non-winners of $16,001 last six starts class at Dover Downs last week in 1:52.3. Foiled Again may have lost a step or two at age 13, but the durable Dragon Again gelding brings a stellar 92-63-41 slate and $7.48 million bankroll from 278 career outings for trainer Ron Burke and the future Hall of Fame pacer bears watching in his Yonkers return despite drawing post eight tomorrow.

Then several races later in the fifth, Provocativeprince N (Jordan Stratton) makes his second start of the year for trainer Peter Tritton and merits respect in this spot from post two. But this event features the seasonal debuts of Artistic Major, who won five of 22 starts and banked $180,000 last year for Elliott and Rockin Ron, who won 11 of 26 starts and earned nearly $400,000 last year for Burke including an upset score over Wiggle It Jiggleit.
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Then two races later in the featured $50,000 Open Handicap, all eyes will be focused on Bit Of A Legend N (Stratton) who makes his seasonal debut for Tritton. A genuine wonder from down under last year when he dominated the George Morton Levy Memorial Series en route to posting a 13-6-1 slate and $720,000 bankroll from 28 outings, Bit Of A Legend N returns following a three-month rest and a decent third-place finish in a qualifier last Saturday evening. He was assigned post eight for his return and may need a start or to reach peak form before seeking to defend his Levy series crown.

Bit Of A Legend N will also have to face several seasoned foes in his return. First Class Horse has the rail, while durable Lucan Hanover will leave from post three, Long Live Rock from post four, two-time Open hero Caviart Luca has post five, Dover Downs invader Soto has post six and last week's Open winner Guantanamo Bay was assigned post seven. Lucan Hanover brings a 28-21-16 slate and only needs to finish third or better to become the sport's newest millionaire.

Then three races later in the 10th, the Winners Over handicap, Make Some Luck will seek his third win from five starts this year against Blood Brother, Badiou Hanover and Sapphire City, another longtime veteran of the Saturday night action at Yonkers. Sapphire City, now in the Burke barn, brings a solid 53-43-18 slate and $1.29 million bankroll from 233 career tries. It may not vault him into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame at any point, but Sapphire City has enjoyed the bulk of his success over the New York half-mile oval.