The final Mares Open Handicap Pace feature of January at Pompano Park on Monday night ended in a blanket finish with Special Sweetheart overlooked to the tune of 5-1 and digging deep to score a narrow decision in a cavalry charge to the wire.
George Napolitano Jr. put the 6-year-old daughter of Western Ideal-Ladys Special Girl on the point early and she was forced to deal with a strong first-over move down the backstretch by Ed Hensley's Keep On Flirtin. In the stretch, Nillabomb angled out from the second-over trip for Wally Hennessey to barely miss at the final buzzer in 1:53.2.
Billie Blue Chip was also closing hard late in rein to Joe Pavia Jr. in her 2012 debut, and the pocket sitting Runaway Tray, driven by Anthony Napolitano, was blocked and had to settle for fourth. Special Sweetheart, trained by Peter Pellegrino for 4 For 3 Stable of Bronxville, N.Y., is now a 25-time career winner of $834,469.
Will there ever be a live race program this season at The Isle Casino Racing Pompano when trainer John McNeil III doesn't win at least one race? At this stage, you'd have to go all the way back to Jan. 18 when the McNeill-trained mare MC Tbone IDA was a strong second to find a Pompano card when there wasn't at least one winner sent out by the track's youngest conditioner in the 2011-2012 meet.
The remarkable run for the 24-year-old trainer hailing from Vernon Center, N.Y. in his first winter at Pompano continued on the Monday in the first race. In the Mares Open II Pace for an $8,500 purse, Napolitano worked out a pocket trip for Looney Dune and she responded with a life's record performance in 1:52.4. The 4-year-old daughter of Bettor's Delight-Sandscreen is owned by Ellen McNeil of Vernon Center, N.Y. and it was the mare's first win of 2012 from four starts.
McNeil would also win with his other starter on Monday as MC Thunderstruck was kept back of an opening half battle in :57 by driver Bruce Ranger to sweep up for a life's mark of 1:56.2 in a $4,000 conditioned trot. Breeder Ellen McNeil has retained ownership of the 5-year-old Conway Hall-Lala Land Lindy gelding. (Pompano)