Yonkers set to host George Morton Levy and Blue Chip Matchmaker Series finals

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Ted Black

April 18th, 2018

This coming Saturday evening, Yonkers Raceway will earn the distinction of hosting harness racing's first two Grade I events of the season when the New York half-mile oval presents the $532,000 George Morton Levy Series final for Free-For-All pacers and the $373,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series final for Free-For-All pacing mares on a stellar card worth roughly $1.2 million.

Among the eight finalists that earned enough points to reach the George Morton Levy final on Saturday, five competed in all five preliminary rounds, including defending series champion Keystone Velocity (Daniel Dube) and 2016 hero Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton), who will start from posts three and seven, respectively. Keystone Velocity, a sharp 1:52.1 winner last week for trainer Rene Allard, arrives off two good efforts, while Bit Of A Legend N sports two wins, two seconds and one third-place finish in five good outings.

As luck would have it, Western Fame (Mark Macdonald) and Dr J Hanover (Brett Miller) both skipped the fourth round and returned last weekend with decent tightening efforts and they drew posts one and two, respectively. Western Fame, winner of both the March 24 and 31 prelims for trainer Jimmy Takter, will leave from the coveted rail with Dr J Hanover, winner of the first three rounds for trainer Tony Alagna, will certainly make his presence known from just outside of him.

The Levy final also includes two-time leg winners Somewhere In L A (Jason Bartlett) and Mach It So (David Miller), who got posts five and six, respectively, while second round winner Evenin of Pleasure (Joe Bongiorno) starts from post four and Rockin Ron (Yannick Gingras), the only horse in the final to skip the last preliminary round, will leave from the dreaded eight hole for trainer Ron Burke.

Five of the eight horses in the Levy final have already earned over $1 million in their respective careers - in fact, the group has 233 wins and nearly $10.6 million banked collectively - and Bit Of A Legend N can eclipse the $2 million plateau in career earnings with a first- or second-place finish here. Mach It So has already banked over $2.5 million, while Keystone Velocity and Somewhere In L A can surpass $1.5 million with a first- or second-place finish. Both Western Fame and Evenin of Pleasure would become millionaires with a victory.

One race earlier Yonkers will host the latest edition of the Blue Chip Matchmaker series final for Free-For-All distaffers where five of the eight finalists competed in all five legs. Eerily, both Shartin N (Tim Tetrick) and Sell A Bit N (Stratton) both skipped the April 6 round and then promptly drew posts one and two, respectively, for the final. Twinkle (Eric Goodell), who won two legs and skipped round four then was a gritty fourth following a long, first over bid last week, drew post seven.

Shartin N has been the odds-on favorite in each of her first four prelims and figures to be well-backed again in the final despite making multiple breaks en route to an eighth-place finish one week ago. She has drawn well in the series and has displayed versatility and speed and boasts seven wins in nine starts overall this year for trainer Jim King, Jr. and 14 victories in 22 lifetime tries overall and gets the coveted rail for the final.

Just outside of her is Sell A Bit N, the lesser of the two Tritton trainees in the series. Sell A Bit N won two legs of the series - both from the rail - and knocked defending champion and stablemate Mackenzie A from the final with her win last week. Twinkle won twice in the series and has ample early speed, although she may find reaching the top difficult from post seven.

Lady Shadow (Bartlett) perhaps arrived as one of the future book favorites to capture the final but she collected only one win in five legs and finished second once, third once and fourth twice. Medusa (Gingras) has speed, while Motu Moonbeam N (Brent Holland) and Dudesalady (Scott Zeron) prefer to do their best work from well off the pace and will have to do so this week from posts five and six, respectively. Lakeisha Hall (George Brennan) drew the dreaded eight hole for the final in an unlucky and unlikely scenario for Burke.

Lady Shadow was the 2016 Maryland-bred harness horse of the year and raced well last year while yielding the honor to Devious Man, a sophomore trotter trained by Julie Miller. Lady Shadow, Dudesalady and Twinkle, who combined for four series wins in 14 starts between them, represent the solid contingent of Winbak Farm products in the final.

One race earlier eight older pacers will clash in the $100,000 Levy consolation, where Christen Me N gets the rail off a sharp second-place finish behind Keystone Velocity last week, while Missile J, the beaten favorite in last year's lucrative final, has to settle for a chance at minor spoils in the consolation from post seven.

Then one race earlier it will be Mackenzie A (Stratton) who will look to make good on her failed promises thus far when she starts from post six in the $75,000 BCMM consolation. The defending series final champion never drew inside post six in four preliminary rounds and won twice and was fifth once and eighth once and failed twice as the solid choice. L A Delight won twice in just three series outings, but gets post eight here for trainer Nancy Johansson of JK She's A Lady fame.

One race prior to that in the $40,000 Open Handicap for older pacers, The Real One (Pat Lachance) makes his belated return to the New York half-mile oval following a determined 1:51.3 victory over conditioned foes at The Meadowlands last week in his seasonal debut. The all-age track record holder, courtesy of a 1:50 mark two years ago at age six, uncorked a 25.4 kicker to prevail last week and gets assigned post position six in a modest group that includes Melmerby Beach (Macdonald), Roland N Rock (Holland), Badix Hanover (Barlett), Somewhere Fancy (Dube) and Statesman N (Stratton).