The storyline entering Saturday night's eliminations for Yonkers Raceway's Art Rooney Pace for 3-year-old colts/gelding was the undefeated He's Watching.
The storyline leaving those races was He's Watching (Jim Morrill Jr.) having to wait for another night.
Take nothing away from down-the-road, $40,000 elim winners Stevensville (Tim Tetrick, $21.60) and All Bets Off (Matt Kakaley, $2.30), who lead an octet into next Saturday's $300,000 final. What transpired with He's Watching, the 8-for-8 frosh divisional champion of a season ago, was totally unexpected.
Sent postward as the 10 cents on the dollar from post position 2 in his 3-year-old parimutuel debut, the New York-bred track-and world-record holder of last summer looked like he wanted no part of his work night. Taken a bit wide in the first turn, he settled loosely-pocketed as Stevensville—from post 6—led through early intervals of :27.3 and :56.2.
However, going toward the 1:25.1 three-quarters, Morrill was asking questions and not getting the required answers. Stevensville widened to win by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:53. Second went to 44-1 outsider Gold Rocks (Scott Zeron), with Bondi Hanover (Brian Sears) third. Fourth—and the final berth in the final--went to a break-recovering Unlocked (Brent Holland), with Forty Five Red (George Brennan) fifth and He's Watching bring up the rear sixth, beaten 17¼ lengths.
For third choice Stevensville, a son of Somebeachsomewhere co-owned by (trainer) Ray Schnittker, Paul Bordogna and Ryan Miller, it was his second win in three seasonal starts. The exacta paid $342, with the triple returning $1,249.
As for He's Watching, "He just acted as if he wanted to run off at any time,” Morrill said. "I would have been happy sitting a two hole, but I couldn't get him to relax. I probably shut his air off, but there was nothing I could do.”
"It was an unfortunate set of circumstances,” co-owner/trainer Dave Menary said. "There didn't appear to be any physical issues, but what happened happened. He's too good a horse, and we'll go back and see. I'm confident this is just going to be a blip on the radar.”
All Bets Off made short work of the second elim for the Rooney, leading—from post 3—through sub-sections of :27.1, :56.1, 1:25.1 and 1:52.3. The final margin was 2 1/2 lengths over Some Playa (Brennan), with Ideal Fashion (Sears) third and Thereisapaceforus (Jason Bartlett) fourth and into the finale. Maxi Bon (Zeron) broke down while on the move down the backside and was distanced.
For All Bets Off, a statebred son of Bettor's Delight co-owned (as Burke Racing) by (trainer) Ron Burke, Frank Baldachino, Panhellenic Stables and Rosemary Shelswell, he's now 2-for-3 this season. The exacta paid $8.30, with no triple wagering.
"He was just solid from start to finish,” Kakaley said. "I popped the plugs and he took off.” Did he have any concerns after seeing the eventful doings of He's Watching? "No, not at all. "
The open draw for the 23rd Art Rooney Pace is Tuesday afternoon.
As was the case in the eliminations for the Art Rooney Pace, death-and-taxes favorites in the elims for the Lismore (3-year-old pacing fillies) were no better than a 50-50 proposition.
Southwind Silence (George Brennan, $2.90) was a handy, wire-to-wire winner in the first, $20,000 elimination. From post position 4, she threw down essentially equal halves (:28, 57.1, 1:26, 1:54) before winning by a length-and-a-half. Bettor Business (Dan Dube), last season's upset New York Sire Stakes champ, snapped second over an-early-impeded Palm Beach (Morrill). It Was Fascination (Scott Zeron) was far ahead of the misbehaving A Little Starstruk (Jason Bartlett), the former earning her place in next Saturday's final.
For "Silence,” a daughter of Well Said co-owned (as Burke Racing) by (trainer) Ron Burke, Larry Karr and Joe DiScala Jr., it was her first win in two seasonal starts. The exacta paid $11.60, with no triple wagering.
The second elim for the Lismore saw inside number Also Encouraging (Brian Sears) sent off as the 35-cents on-the-dollar favorite. After moving from third, she secured the lead from Tyra (Morrill) at the :57.1 half (:28.3 quarter).
However, Also Encouraging had no resistance when Rusty's Bliss (Jason Bartlett) came challenging. "Rusty” gained the lead just after the 1:26.4 three-quarters, but with no one behind her, Tyra—from post 2--was able to slip out….and slip by. Tyra whipped a stubborn "Rusty” by a length-and-a-half in 1:54.4. Gentlemen's Delight (Dan Dube) was third, with Also Encouraging fading to fourth. That earned her a place at the table next week, but was of no solace those place pool bridge jumpers ($29,422 of the $32,153 on the beaten choice).
For Tyra, a daughter of McArdle owned by CC Racing and trained by Joann Looney-King, she returned $6.50 (second choice) for her first win in three '14 tries. The exacta paid $105.50, with the triple returning $177. With the jumpers taking their leap, the place prices were $20.80 and $62.50, respectively.
The open draw for the $124,744 final of the Lismore takes places Tuesday afternoon. (Yonkers)