Yonkers and Charles Town offer superb Saturday cards

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Ted Black

October 12th, 2018

While thoroughbred racing fans are accustomed to seeing the runners compete during the afternoon and harness racing enthusiasts enjoy heading out at night to see their favorite trotters and pacers clash, a pair of tracks will reverse those roles this Saturday for a pair of very good cards.

Yonkers Raceway, which typically offers harness racing at night, will host a superb 13-race card featuring the $1 million International Trot and not long after that program ends Charles Town will host the 32nd edition of the West Virginia Breeders Classics, a nine-race card with total purses just shy of the $1 million mark.

Just past the midway point of the Saturday afternoon card at Yonkers, the New York half-mile oval will host the $250,000 Harry Harvey Invitational Trot, a race one-mile and one-quarter event for trotters that perhaps just missed getting a berth in the main event.

In fact, the connections of Homicide Hunter (Brian Sears), who rallied from well off the pace to become the fastest trotter in the history of the sport courtesy of his 1:48.4 score at Lexington's Red Mile last Saturday afternoon for trainer Chris Oakes, might feel somewhat shortchanged in this spot. One of the horses that Homicide Hunter buried at Lexington last weekend was Will Take Charge, who got a belated invite to the International.

Homicide Hunter has won eight of 13 starts this year and earned just over $350,000 for Crawford Farms Racing and already boasts of two world records, having set one at this distance when taking the $100,000 Great Northeast Open series final at Pocono Downs last month in 2:22.2. He has won 38 of 75 career outings and banked nearly $1.5 million overall and will look to prove - at least via margin and final clocking - that he should have been invited to the International.

Looking to upend Homicide Hunter, who will start from post 10 in the second tier in the field of 10 trotters in the Harry Harvey, include Warrawee Roo (Daniel Dube), Top Flight Angel (Andy Miller), Guardian Angel As (Matt Kakaley), Yes Mickey (Jason Bartlett) and the durable mare, NF Happenstance (Jack Parker, Jr.) who finished fourth in the Open Handicap last weekend despite a brutal, parked-the-mile journey.

Then one race later in the main event, the $1 million Yonkers International Trot, North American-based trotters Marion Marauder (Scott Zeron), Ariana G (Yannick Gingras) and Will Take Charge (Tim Tetrick) will look to defend the continent against a stellar group of invaders from across the globe that includes Up And Quick (Bartlett), Rongostarr Treb (Wim Paal), Pastore Bob (Johan Untersteiner), Cruzado Dela Noche (Sears), Arazi Boko (Alessandro Gocciandoro), Lionel (Goran Antonsen) and Slide So Easy (FLemming Jensen).

Marion Marauder looms the solid choice courtesy of his coveted rail draw and superb credentials that includes 20 wins and over $3 million banked from 48 starts with prior tallies in the Hambletonian, Yonkers Trot and Kentucky Futurity among numerous others. Ariana G, who sports 26 wins from 37 career outings for trainer Jimmy Takter, recently captured the $150,000 Dayton Derby and earlier prevailed in the $400,000 Hambletonian Maturity while throwing subpar performances into the mix along the way.

Among the invaders, Ringostarr Treb and Arazi Boko rate the serious contenders. 'Ringo' has already won three of six starts and nearly $600,000 this spring and summer for trainer Jerry Riordan including three lucrative scores with Paal at the lines. Arazi Boko has been the top trotter in Italy this year, winning seven of 15 starts and over $350,000 for his trainer-driver and should be a major player if he can get involved from post eight.

Then three races later in the $250,000 Dan Rooney Invitational for older pacers, McWicked (Sears) and Lazarus N (Gingras) will continue their newly formed rivalry on a half-mile track for the first time. McWicked just outlasted the late bid of Lazarus N to capture the $180,000 Allerage Farms in 1:46.2 at Lexington last weekend and both will be well-supported in this event.

McWicked may actually be favored for the first time in their rivalry courtesy of his recent score and the simple fact that he drew post two in the Rooney, while Lazarus N got post six. McWicked owns an 8-3-2 slate and over $1 million banked from just 15 starts this year for trainer Casie Coleman, while Lazarus N has won twice and finished second three times in five starts this arriving as the 'Down Under Wonder' having won 35 of 45 starts and over $2.5 million while competing in New Zealand.

Looking to topple McWicked and Lazarus N - or at least hope to split them in the exacta - are railbound Nuclear Dragon (Tim Tetrick), Endeavor (Trace Tetrick). Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton), Evenin Of Pleasure (Joe Bongiorno), Mach It So (Bartlett) and Always At My Place (George Brennan).

Nuclear Dragon actually finished ahead of McWicked three starts back when he was second in the $250,000 Ewart Memorial at his home track of Scioto Downs where he boasts a pair of sub-1:48 scores. Endeavor has been the dominant force at Hoosier Park for trainer Ed Hart, but was unlucky while third over in the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington. Bit Of A Legend N arrives off a sharp, first over score in the $44,000 Open Handicap here last weekend for trainer Peter Tritton and brings 46 win and nearly $2.4 million banked from 138 career outings and a genuine fondness for the New York half-mile oval and could forge an 8-1 upset here.

Not long after the festivities end at Yonkers Raceway during their rare Saturday afternoon card, Charles Town will present the nine-race West Virginia Breeders Classics worth close to $1 million - at one time purses hovered close to $2 million - where onlookers will see the best state-bred runners compete in one- two- and three-turn events.

in the opening race on the card, the $75,000 WV Triple Crown Nutrition BC for two-year-old fillies at 6 1/2-furlongs , Battleground Star (Arnaldo Bocachica) looms the odds-on choice having won both of her starts for owner-breeder-trainer Jeff Runco, including the $50,000 Rachel's Turn Stakes here last month as the tepid 3-2 choice. But the daughter of Astrology will get another serious test from Parisian Diva (Luis Batista), an unlucky but gritty second as the 3-2 second choice in the Rachel's Turn for trainer Stacey Viands and owner-breeder Melinda Golden, who supplemented the homebred filly into this event.

One race later in the $75,000 WV Division of Tourism BC for three-year-old fillies going seven furlongs, B's Wild Cork (Antonio Lopez) looms the solid favorite from the rail for onwer-breeder-trainer James W. Casey. She was second behind Late Night Pow Wow in the Sylvia Bishop and watched that filly come back to take the Grade III, $300,000 Charles Town Oaks in her next start. See Ya Manana (Bocachica) was third in the Bishop for Runco and seeks her fifth win from 12 starts and first stakes tally in this spot.

Then one race later in the $75,000 Vincent Moscarelli Memorial for two-year-old colts traveling 6 1/2-furlongs, Burnin Ring O Fire (J.D. Acosta) rates the solid choice following his mild upset in the $50,000 Henry Mercer Stakes here last month for trainer Ollie Figgins, III of Dance To Bristol fame and owner-breeder Ray Pennington, III. Blushing Owen (Ashley Castrenze) was a game second in the Mercer, while Midday Man (Lopez) makes his stakes debut following a handy, seven-length score in his career debut late last month for Casey.

One race later in the $75,000 WV Lottery BC for three-year-old colts going seven panels, Jaxbradenrishi (Acosta) will seek his first stakes score for trainer Claudio Gonzalez and owner-breeder Robert Cole, Jr., having been third in the Frank Gall and fourth in the Robert Leavitt here. Opera Nite (Bocachica) has won three of eight starts and was a sharp second in the Leavitt and certainly merits respect in this spot following a modest third-place finish as the choice in an allowance race at Mountaineer Park last month for Runco.

Then one race later in the $75,000 WV Dash For Cash BC, Aaron's Tap (Bocachica) looms the odds-on favorite after winning his last two, including the $35,000 Last Enchantment Stakes here last month. The Northern Afleet gelding rained by Runco has won four of his last five starts and five of eight at the one-turn sprint distance of 4 1/2-furlongs over the strip. Defending champion George Town Cat will look for another 41-1 shocker from the rail, while Eutaw Street will seek to end his bridesmaid status in one-turn sprint stakes for trainer David Walters.

One race later in the $75,000 WVTBA Onion Juice, named for the hero of the first West Virginia Classic here back in 1987, Follow The Notion (Jose Montano) and Help a Brother (Batista) will renew their rivalry in this spot, a race each horse has won in the past. Follow The Notion owns three wins in eight starts this year for owner-breeder-trainer Gary Williams, Jr., while Help a Brother has won his last two starts for owner-breeder-trainer Lewis Craig, Jr., including a sharp allowance victory at Mountaineer Park.

Then one race later in the $125,000 Cavada for fillies and mares traveling seven furlongs, Late Night Pow Wow (Fredy Peltrouche), recent winner of the Grade III, $300,000 Charles Town Oaks for owner-trainer Javier Contreras, will tackle older rivals for the first time and jumps into the fire right away. Defending Cavada heroine Moonlit Song (Oscar Flores) will seek to regain her winning ways here for owner-breeder-trainer Tim Grams against Maryland invader Anna's Bandit (Xavier Perez), who forged a mild upset in the $50,000 Sadie Hawkins here last month for trainer John [Jerry] Robb.

In fact, the presence of those three talented fillies chased away most would-be participants since only three others joined the fray. Late Night Pow Wow has won six of seven starts and arrives riding a five-race win streak for Contreras that included a prior score in the Sylvia Bishop. Moonlit Song has won four times and been second four times in eight starts this year for Grams, but she has yet to garner a stakes tally at four and has been unable to duplicate her solid sophomore form when she won eight of 11 starts and earned over $230,000.

Then one race later in the $300,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic, a race that was once worth $500,000, Runnin'toluvya (Flores) will seek to maintain his stellar form for Grams having won his last five starts, including the $50,000 Frank Gall Memorial Handicap here last month. Runnin'toluvya has yet to travel a distance of ground beyond two turns, but previous Classic winners Lucy's Bob Boy and Charitable Annuity scored off similar backgrounds.

Trainer Jeff Runco will send out North Atlantic (Bocachica), Weekend Liberty (Gerald Almodovar) and Grumpelstiltskin. North Atlantic, clearly the dominant force locally in horses traveling three turns, was second in the Classic last year behind Charitable Annuity and Weekend Liberty was third in that affair. Grumpelstiltskin actually won the Jefferson County Stakes handily on the undercard here last fall but was recently buried in the Gall and will have to improve considerably for a serious upset bid.