Top older pacers set to make 2016 debuts

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Ted Black

February 25th, 2016

While several of harness racing's top older horses from last year have already made at least one start this season, many of the sport's best aged pacers will make their unofficial return to the races on Friday morning in a pair of qualifiers at The Meadowlands that could easily be mistaken for six-figure stakes.

In Friday morning's fourth race, slated to go behind the gate promptly at 10 a.m., trainer Ron Burke will send out Request For Parole, Always At My Place and Take It Back Terry, while trainer Jimmy Takter will send out Great Vintage and trainer Jeff Bamond, Jr. will unveil PH Supercam. Don't be surprised if all five return for one more qualifier next Friday and then make their seasonal debuts on March 12, one week before the start of the lucrative George Morton Levy Memorial Series.

Both Take It Back Terry and PH Supercam were fixtures in the Levy last year, with PH Supercam winning four legs of the series before drawing post eight for the final. Take It Back Terry was nearly as good in the prelims and was better in the final, rallying to finish second. Great Vintage and Always At My Place were good at several ovals and both should be prominent throughout the Levy series this spring.

Then one race later on Friday morning another trio of Burke trainees will take center stage, although much of the focus will clearly be on one of them. Foiled Again, harness racing's richest horse with earnings in excess of $7 million, will make his unofficial seasonal debut at age 12 on Friday and the durable, venerable, Hall of Fame-bound pacer will soon begin his annual stops in the Levy, the Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield, the Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington and the Breeders Crown Aged Pace at the Meadowlands.

Joining Foiled Again from the Burke barn are Bettor's Edge, last year's Breeders Crown hero, and Somewhere In LA, who could emerge in the Levy. Others who bear watching in this qualifier include Bettor Believe It for trainer Casie Coleman, Flem N Em N for Bamond, Sawbuck for trainer John McDermott and Badix Hanover for trainer Kevin McDermott.

Then on Saturday night at Yonkers Raceway, look for a number of pacers to continue prepping from the upcoming Levy series on he latter half of the card.

In fact, midway through the 12-race program, look for Roland N Rock (Daniel Dube) to rebound from a second-place fiish as the 4-5 favorite in his first try against Open Handicap foes last week to garner the Open this week. The four-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding trained by Rob Harmon gets the nod over defending Open hero Polak A and prior Open winner, Phil Your Boots. All Bets Off, another talented Burke trainee who boasts 18 wins and $1.57 million banked from 50 career starts, makes his seasonal debut from post seven while Sunfire Blue Chip steps up into the top class but drew post eight.

Then one race later in a very competitive non-winners of $25,000 last five starts class for pacers, look for either Melmerby Beach (Jason Bartlett), Stolen Car (Tyler Buter)  or Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton) to prevail. Bit Of A Legend N has won both of starts at Yonkers since arriving from New Zealand for trainer Peter Tritton and last week grinded his way first over into a 54.4 back half and prevailed in 1:53.1 courtesy of a 27-second kicker. Stolen Car has won three of four starts this year for trainer Darran Cassar, including a gritty, first over tally last week, while Melmerby Beach has finished second three times in four starts and just missed last week against Sunfire Blue Chip.

Then one race later in the eighth, a non-winners of $18,000 last six class for pacers, look for Caution Signs (Matt Kakaley) to use his inside post and early speed and notch his first win in six starts this year for trainer Jose Godinez. The Court Jester A (George Brennan) will get some backing after wilting late as the 6-5 choice in his class last week, while both Urbana Bayama and UF Rockin Dragon get favorable inside draws.

Then two races later in the 10th, another non-winners of $18,000 last five split, a quartet of talented aged pacers will vie for supremacy. Sapphire City (Brian Sears) raced very well third over last week and rallied to finish second at this level and now draws the rail. Ideal Matters (Kakaley) was a solid third against tougher in his seasonal debut last week and figures to improve off that effort, while Validus Deo (Bartlett) and Donau (Buter) should also be competitive in this spot.

Then one race later in the 11th, another non-winners of $18,000 last five split, look for railbound Royal Heart (Kakaley) and Cyclone Kiwi N (Bartlett) to settle the issue in the lane. Royal Heart has been the beaten favorite twice at this level at the meet and was unlucky third behind Bit Of A Legend N last week. Cyclone Kiwi N set modest fractions early and was still unable to withstand the stellar, first over bid of Bit Of A Legend last week, but he had missed ample time before that effort as the 4-5 favorite.