It was a dazzling night of action at Vernon Downs with the highlight being the return of Father Patrick (Cantab Hall-Gala Dream) to his winning ways in the $340,000 Zweig Memorial Trot. Father Patrick (Yannick Gingras) assumed the lead almost immediately and led all the way home to win in an impressive time of 1:52.2. His entry-mate, Hambletonian runner-up Nuncio (John Campbell), tracked Father Patrick all the way but could never get the upper hand on him and had to settle for second. Flyhawk El Durado (Mark Macdonald), who had scored wins in four consecutive New York Sire Stakes races entering the Zweig, finished third after tracking the entry pretty much throughout the event.
The fractions for the Zweig Memorial were 25.4 for the quarter, 56 seconds for the half and 1:25.2 for three-quarters. Father Patrick is owned by Father Patrick Stable of East Windsor, New Jersey and the trainer is Jimmy Takter. The complete order of finish for the Zweig Memorial was: Father Patrick, Nuncio, Flyhawk El Durado, Resolve, Sumatra, Martiniwithmuscle, Expressive Action, Auspicious Hanover, and Skates N Plates.
Superstar trotter Sebastian K also came to Vernon Downs on Friday night to score in the $236,000 Crawford Farms Open Trot. While it was anticipated that Sebastian K (Korean-Gabriella K) might just blaze to the front and set a new track record time, it was a far more tactical performance from the Ake Svanstedt trainee. He did seize the lead immediately after the start, but then driver Svanstedt settled the horse in nicely to go through a quarter in 28.1, the half in 57.3, and three-quarters in 1:26.3. This relatively unhurried pace allowed Archangel (Yannick Gingras) and Market Share (Tim Tetrick) to make challenges to the leader, but Sebastian K had plenty left in the tank to win in a final time of 1:53, which did equal the Aged Horse track record time set by For You Almostfree in 2013. Archangel settled for second and Market Share was third.
Sebastian K is owned by Knutsson Trotting Inc. of Vero Beach, Florida. The complete order of finish for the Crawford Farms Open Trot was: Sebastian K, Archangel, Market Share, Bee A Magician, Flanagan Memory, Intimidate, Mister Herbie, Quick Deal, and Master Of Law. Spider Blue Chip was a scratch (sick).
The $150,000 filly division of the Zweig was also held on Friday night and was won by Shake It Cerry (Donato Hanover-Solveig), who rallied up the inside in the stretch to pass rivals Heaven's Door and Bikini So Teeny. Her victory came in a time of 1:53.4. Shake It Cerry is owned by Solveig's Racing Partners of East Windsor, New Jersey, trained by Jimmy Takter, and she was driven to victory by Ron Pierce.
The opening leg of the 2014 Tioga-Vernon Drivers' Championship took place on Friday night and there was a tie for the top spot between Yannick Gingras and Ron Pierce with 20 points. This tie means that the two drivers will split the $10,000 prize for leading after the first round of the Championship. Corey Callahan is third with 13 points and the defending champion Jim Marohn Jr. is fourth with 11 points. Points are awarded as follows: 10 points for a win, 7 points for second, 5 points for third, 3 points for fourth, and 1 point for fifth. The Drivers' Championship will continue at Tioga Downs on Labor Day Monday with Round Two. (Vernon Downs)