Yonkers Raceway to host pair of tough series this weekend

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Ted Black

March 16th, 2018

While many sports enthusiasts are focused on the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament often known as "March Madness" that got underway Thursday, serious and novice harness racing fans will turn their attention to Yonkers Raceway as the half-mile oval in New York hosts the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series for pacing fillies and mares on Friday and the  George Morton Levy Series for older male pacers on Saturday night.

Friday's opening round of the Blue Chip Matchmaker will tip-off with the seventh race and feature a number of quality older pacing mares. Railbound Shartin N (Tim Tetrick) will make her local debut for trainer Jim King, Jr. after climbing through her conditions and winning the F-M Open Handicap at Dover Downs twice this winter, each time as the odds-on choice. Her main rivals in here, Mach It A Par and Gina Grace N, both drew poorly and will leave from posts seven and eight, respectively.

One race later Sell A Bit N (Jordan Stratton) and L A Delight (Yannick Gingras) will leave from posts one and two, respectively, and likely as the top two choices in the wagering. Newcomers Medusa and Newborn Sassy (Tetrick) will start from posts five and eight, respectively, but figure to be competitive in future legs where they draw inside.

One race later in the third Matchmaker split, Lady Shadow (Jason Bartlett) will look to regain her winning ways from post two for trainer Richard Banca. A seven-year-old Shadow Play mare and the 2016 Maryland-bred harness horse of the year, Lady Shadow slipped slightly last year during a campaign in which she won eight times and earned over $335,000 from 16 starts, but she is undoubtedly the class of the field with 33 lifetime wins and over $1.92 million banked from 71 career tries and a mark of 1:48.1.

Then one race later in the fourth and final Blue Chip opening split, defending champion Mackenzie A (Stratton) will look to overcome post seven in her seasonal debut for Tritton, while Maryland-breds Dewar N Soda (George Brennan), Twinkle (Eric Goodell), Vintage Babe (Brent Holland) and Lispatty (Brennan) will seek to join their illustrious fellow state-bred distaffer, Lady Shadow, at some point in the final.

Then on Saturday night Yonkers will host the opening round of the prestigious, ultra-tough George Morton Levy series for older pacers and many of sport's top free-for-allers are back for this year's five rounds and potentially the $500,000 final on April 21.

Saturday's fourth race is the opening leg's first division and features Mach It So (Bartlett) who drew post two for trainer Jeff Bamond, Jr. Mach It So has performed well in the Levy series since 2014 and he arrives with 40 wins and over $2.44 million banked from 120 career outings. Last year, Mach It So won the $250,000 William R. Haughton Memorial for the second time in three years and was the runner-up in the voting for champion aged pacer behind Keystone Velocity.

Speaking of Keystone Velocity, the reigning division champ and Levy series final hero will make his seasonal debut one race later from post seven. Last year, Keystone Velocity (Daniel Dube) won 8 of 22 starts and earned nearly $800,000 en route to being named division champ and he established a new lifetime mark of 1:47.3 while capturing the second edition of the $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway in all-age track record time.

Keystone Velocity will make his seasonal debut from post seven following a sharp 1:52.1 qualifier at Pocono Downs, but he still may need a race or two to reach Levy form. Always At My Place and Christen Me N drew favorably, posts two and three, respectively, while local mainstay Bakersfield has post four. Pompano Park invaders Mister Daytona N (Stratton) and Waikiki Beach A (Scott Zeron) will look to transfer their good form from the Florida five-eighths mile oval north.

Then one race later in the third split, All Bets Off will make his seasonal debut for trainer Ron Burke following a pair of good qualifiers at the Meadowlands. Another Levy fixture, All Bets Off concluded the previous campaign with a 5-5-4 slate and $735,000 banked from 26 starts and arrives with a solid 27-23-15 slate and over $2.93 million banked from 103 career outings. He won the inaugural edition of the Potomac Pace at Rosecroft in 1:48.2 then finished second to Keystone Velocity in last year's event.

Among the serious rivals in here are Dr J Hanover (Brett Miller), Somewhere In L A (Bartlett), Awesomeness (Jim Marohn, Jr.) and Gokudo Hanover. Dr J Hanover owns the distinction as being the fastest pacer in the history of Canadian racing courtesy of his 1:46.4 score there last year. Somewhere In L A was a factor throughout the Levy series last spring and arrives off two victories against overnight rivals here for Banca. Awesomeness has two wins and been second twice in his last four outings at the Meadowlands for trainer Brett Pelling.

Then one race later in the softest of the five Levy splits, Rockin Ron (Gingras) will seek redemption following a sixth-place effort as the 3-5 choice in the Open Hcp here two weeks ago for Burke. Railbound Western Dynasty (Bartlett), Thisjetsabookin (Stratton) and Evenin of Pleasure (Joe Bongiorno) all figure to be factors in this event and throughout the series and one or two of them could make the final.

Then several races later in the fifth division, oddly stationed as the penultimate race on the card, Bit Of A Legend N (Stratton), the 2016 Levy final hero, will make his seasonal debut for Tritton off one qualifier while leaving from post three. Last season the Bettor's Delight stallion owned an 8-5-5 slate and earned over $520,000 for the late Harry Vonknoblauch, including a sharp score in the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington Raceway. He has always displayed a fondness for the strip but he may need a race or two to reach peak form off one qualifier.

Railbound Missile J (Tetrick), the beaten favorite in last year's Levy final, Great Vintage (Gingras) and Open Hcp regulars Long Live Rock (Dube) and Killer Martini (Brennan) will look to foil the seasonal debut for Bit Of A Legend N. Missile J will be difficult to beat from the rail in this group and will get an early start on making his second straight appearance in the lucrative final here on April 21.