Excel Nine gave driver Mike MacNeill his initial Yonkers Raceway victory Monday night, winning the $20,000, fourth race pace with a pocket trip from the pylons.
"(Trainer) Jason Robertson and I know each other very well from Sudbury Downs (in Ontario), and he's been talking about coming to the states for a while," said MacNeill. "We originally thought about going to The Meadows, but decided Yonkers might be a good place. The money's very good, and what can't go here we've been racing at Monticello."
The 33-year-old MacNeill, originally from the Maritimes (Charlottetown) before moving to Ontario, has earned a few lessons from his early Yonkers experiences.
"I have to be less aggressive," he said. "Even tonight, I thought about cutting the mile, but then I saw Cat (Manzi) come at me early and I figured I'd just sit behind him. My horse is like a lot on a half. He seems to race as well as he draws, and we've had a lot of bad posts."
Excel Nine, a 4-year-old son of Astreos claimed out of his most recent try by his trainer and Ron Chevrier, defeated Keson's Sergei by 1 3/4 lengths, in 1:55.1. He returned $16 for his fourth win in 21 season starts.
"We looked at him earlier this season when he would have cost less, but that's part of the game," he said.
The win was MacNeill's 64th of the season and 372nd in a career which began in 2000. He has more than $1.6 million in career purses.
"I figured I'd give it a good year to see how New York would work out," said MacNeill. "So far, I've been enjoying it." (Yonkers)