Weekend harness action gets underway Friday night

Profile Picture: Ted Black

Ted Black

August 16th, 2018

Harness racing fans should right at home this weekend as the stakes action gets underway on Friday night and continues right through Monday evening at several venues of varying sizes.

Friday night Vernon Downs in New York will present a pair of lucrative stakes for three-year-old trotters, the $350,000 Zweig Memorial for the sophomore boys and the $180,000 Zweig for fillies. Oddly enough, the likely favorite for the Zweig Memorial slated for males is Manchego, recent hero of the Grade I, $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks for three-year-old fillies.

Friday's ninth race at Vernon Downs is the $350,000 Zweig Memorial where Manchego will tackle nine male rivals. Fresh off a determined score in the Hambo Oaks in 1:50 in the first start of her career in which she was not the post-time favorite, Manchego will likely assume the favorite's role in the Zweig since she has already defeated male rivals. The Jimmy Takter trainee is part of a stellar group of three-year-old fillies that includes Hambo winner Atlanta and Oaks runner-up, Phaetosive.

Looking to play the spoiler role in the Zweig is Six Pack (Ake Svandtstedt), who was victimized by a horrific drive in the Hambo elims and failed to reach the final. Six Pack has faced Manchego in an earlier stakes and was second in the $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial at Pocono Downs where he finished second and Manchego made a nasty break late as the odds-on choice. He will need to avoid being blindswitched and ducking inside the pylons and colliding with any foes in order to have a chance tomorrow night.

Other contenders in the boys portion of the Zweig include Patent Leather, Evaluate and Met's Hall, all of which earned a berth in the Hambo final. Maryland-bred Met's Hall was second in the Hambo final at a big price and will look to duplicate that effort in the Zweig tomorrow night.

One race earlier in the $180,000 Zweig Memorial for three-year-old filly trotters, Plunge Blue Chip (Svandstedt) will seek to regain her winning ways as the likely odds-on choice. A winner three times in seven starts with earnings of $220,000 and a mark of 1:49.4 in a narrow tally over Manchego, Plunge Blue Chip will seek to rebound from a dull effort in the Hambo Oaks elims against a soft group that includes Basquiat, Supergirl Riley and The Russian Spy.

Then on Saturday night at Yonkers Raceway and Pocono Downs, the focus shifts to older pacers with their sights set on the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Invitational at Harrington Raceway in Delaware one month away. Somewhere In L A, Always At My Place and Evenin Of Pleasure have been assigned the three outside spots in the $44,000 Open Handicap at Yonkers, while Split The House, More The Better, Highalator and Bettor's Edge will clash in the $30,000 Great Northeast Open Series at Pocono Downs.

On Sunday and Monday evenings, Ocean Downs will host the second round of Maryland Sire Stakes for two-year-olds of both gaits and genders. Monday evening will also mark the opening night of the Harrington Raceway summer-fall meet, with racing two nights a week this month and then three nights each week in September and October. Fans there are already eagerly looking ahead to the Quillen Invitational on Sep. 17 where defending champion Bit Of A Legend N will face a stellar group in one of the marquis races in the Mid-Atlantic region.