Stakes action kicks off at Dayton on Friday night

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Ted Black

September 28th, 2018

Harness racing fans may have to wait another month until the Breeders Crown races at Pocono Downs on October 27, but this weekend many of the horses seeking to cap their campaign with a win that coveted score will be in action this weekend at Dayton Raceway in Ohio and Lexington's famed Red Mile.

Tonight Dayton Raceway will offer a pair of $150,000 stakes, one each for older trotters and pacers and several of the participants in each event will be among the serious contenders for Breeders Crown glory this fall.

In the $150,000 Dayton Trotting Derby, Will Take Charge (Tim Tetrick) will seek to maintain his winning ways in a solid field. Fresh off a narrow 1:53.2 score in the Open Handicap at Yonkers Raceway, an effort not convincing enough to earn him a berth in the $1 million International Trot two weeks from now, Will Take Charge has won nine of 19 starts this year and sports 21 wins and $840,000 banked from 69 career outings and looms the solid choice in this spot.

Looking to upend Will Take Charge here are Ariana G (Brian Sears), Homicide Hunter, Guardian Angel As (Matt Kakaley) and JL Cruze (Brett Miller). Ariana G has won four of 10 starts this year but has tailed off form and sports 25 wins and $2.3 million from 36 career outings. Homicide Hunter delivered a dominant effort in the $100,000 Open Series final at Pocono Downs, posting a world record 2:22.2 score for the one-mile and one-quarter distance for trainer Chris Oakes. Guardian Angel As has won five of nine starts, but has limited success in stakes events while JL Cruze finished second at 64-1 in the $200,000 Caesars at Hoosier Park last out and is looking to regain the form that earned him the nickname 'Denton Destroyer' when he was champion aged trotter for trainer Eric Ell and the well-traveled Kenny Wood.

Then two races later on the Dayton card, McWicked (Brian Sears) will look to solidify his role as the best aged pacer in the land in the $150,000 Dayton Pacing Derby. The McArdle stallion trained by Casie Coleman has won seven of 13 starts this year and banked almost $950,000, capped by a victory in the Canadian Pacing Derby when he soared past Lazarus N. In 67 career outings, McWicked sports a solid 29-23-12 slate and banked nearly $3.3 million and this year he is on tap to be the sport's champion aged pacer and among the finalists for pacer of the year.

Looking to upend McWicked in the Dayton Pacing Derby is Donttellmeagain (Tetrick), who uncorcked a 25-second final quarter to finish third behind Lazarus N and McWicked in the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby last out. Still just a four-year-old, Donttellmeagain sports a solid 4-4-1 slate and $250,000 banked from 12 starts this year and a stout 17-7-5 slate and over $515,000 earned from 32 career tries and his best years still appear ahead of him.

Also in this event are Western Fame (Brett Miller), Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton) and Rockin Ron (Kakaley), the latter two exiting the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington Raceway. Rockin Ron was fourth as the even-money choice, while Bit Of A Legend N offered little in his title defense after taking the 2017 edition of the Quillen as the even-money choice. Bit Of A Legend N sports the best credentials in the field with 45 wins and nearly $2.4 million banked from 136 career outings for trainer Peter Tritton.

Speaking of career credentials, Foiled Again, the sport's all-time richest pacer with nearly $7.6 million banked on 103 wins from 321 career outings, will continue his farewell tour on Saturday afternoon at Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock, Virginia. A 14-year-old Dragon Again gelding trained by Ron Burke, Foiled Again will leave from post five as the odds-on choice in a $10,000 Invitational where his four rivals are a combined 50 years of age. That Invite will occur one race before the track's $7,500 Open for older pacers roughly one-half their age.

Sunday evening's card at Rosecroft Raceway will begin with the $9,000 Winners Over class for older pacers that includes meet winners Ok Fantastic (Russell Foster) and Abelard Hanover (Frank Milby), defending spring pacer of the meet, Capital Builder, and newcomers Jet Blue Miracle, Go Big Spinder and Rock N Row. Several races later Don Dorado (Allan Davis) will seek his second straight score in the $9,000 Winners Over class for trotters and one race later in the featured $12,000 Open I Handicap, Slick Tony (Foster), the dominant force in the Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund events at ages two and three, makes his Rosecroft debut against older foes for owner-breeder-trainer George "Ronnie" Leager.

But Slick Tony's local debut will not be an easy one since he has been assigned the outside slot - based on earnings last five starts - against last week's winner, Al's Hammered (Allan Davis), Open I fixtures Sentencing Memo (Jason Thompson), Kiss A Dragon (Foster), Rock N Roll Jet (Kim Vincent), All The Cookies (Tyler Davis) and Hickory Aloha (Timmy Offutt), as well as newcomer Special T Rocks (Allan Davis). Fittingly, the previous two Ocean Downs champions, Hickory Aloha and All The Cookies, drew alongside one another for the second straight week here.