A pair of $25,000 James K. Hackett Memorial championship races were contested on Saturday night at Miami Valley Raceway, followed by an $8,500 Open Handicap pace that resulted in an all-age track record clocking.
Ohio-sired three-year-old fillies battled in the first Hackett final with favored Crown Time Keeper (Chris Page), one of the elimination heat victors last week, winning the war in 1:55. The triumphant lass was pressured to the half mile marker in :55 flat, but had enough in the tank through the stretch to hold off pocket-sitting Paydaze On The Way (Kayne Kauffman),
Crown Time Keeper is owned by Esther Crownover, who has raced harness horses continuously for over 30 years, and trained by Steve Carter. The daughter of Feelin Friskie now has seven wins and seven place finishes in just 17 lifetime starts.
A son of Feelin Friskie captured the colts division of the Hackett Memorial as well. Friskie Adam (Kyle Ater) took advantage of a relatively soft :57.1 first half before speeding home in :56.1 to stop the timer in 1:53.2 and earn the lion's share of the purse. Chance I Might (Page) and Dibs (Jim Pantaleano) shadowed the winner throughout but couldn't get closer than 2-1/2 lengths at the wire. Dr. Jerry Maloon Stable owns Friskie Adam, who now has six career victories. He was broke and campaigned in his freshman campaign by the late Sam 'Chip' Noble, and has been turned over to veteran conditioner Dan Ater for his sophomore season.
The fastest horse in the short three-month history of Miami Valley Raceway is now Justified, who scorched the highly-acclaimed five-eighths mile oval in 1:51.1. Driver Chris Page took no prisoners in the $8,500 Open Handicap coasting through fractions of :27.1, :55.4 and 1:23 on the way the the record-setting performance. Bursting Blaze (Josh Sutton) was 1-3/4 lengths back with I Found My Beach (Grismore) finishing third.
Justified is trained by Ron Burke and is co-owned by Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi LLC.
Miami Valley has just seven programs left in its 65-night inaugural meet which started February 8. The final three nights will include multiple $40,000 divisions of the Ohio Sires Stakes for pacing and trotting fillies on Friday (May 2), multiple $40,000 divisions of the Ohio Sires Stakes for pacing and trotting colts following the simulcast presentation of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday (May 3), and conclude with a pair of Grand Circuit events on Sunday night, May 4.
An impressive list of nominees,with career earnings in excess of $20 million dollars and including several past Breeders Crown champions, are expected to make the $50,000 Chip Noble Memorial pace for older mares and the $60,000 Miami Valley Distaff for older trotting mares a pair of Grand Circuit races to remember.
At Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Bandolito outdueled Dynamic Youth to win the featured Preferred Handicap pace on Saturday night. The race carried the night's top purse of $25,000.
Dynamic Youth set the early pace and was able to rate the speed well. Yet Bandolito, the 4-5 favorite in the field of six, came ranging up first over on the back stretch for trainer/driver Daryl Bier. The two were hooked up in a close battle for pretty much the entire second half of the mile, with Bandolito finally prevailing by a neck in 1:50:2. Eighteen finished third.
Bandolito, a 4-year-old stallion owned by Daryl and David Bier and Charles Dombeck, had won his previous two starts at Dover Downs and now has four wins in six races in 2014. It was his 13th lifetime victory in just 17 starts, pushing his career earnings to $241,415.
In action at Vernon Downs, after prevailing against similar company a fortnight ago and finishing a respectable second to Fireyourguns in last week's top pacing event, Kelly Hope's Stonebridge Master ($3.00) took top honors in Saturday (April 26) evening's $8,000 Miracle Mile 2 Pace, posting a 1:54.2 victory in going-away fashion over sloppy going.
The eight-year-old Artsplace gelding raced patiently from off the pace, tracking live cover from Western Trademark (Fern Paquet, Jr.) before swinging three-wide in upper stretch. At immediate asking from Aaron Byron, Stonebridge Master powered clear of his four rivals, winning by a widening 1-1/4 lengths over Western Trademark, while pacesetter Sheer Brilliance (Claude Huckabone, III) was worn down late, finishing third.
Earlier in the card, a pair of $4,000 second round divisions of the Anthony Farina Pacing Series were contested, in which William Donovan's Medusa ($2.30) remained undefeated through three career races. The three-year-old Bettor's Delight fully controlled a :58 half mile before pushing clear on the far turn, scoring a 1:55.2 win by a 6-1/2 length margin in rein to Chris Lems. Joseph Meylan's Stony Brook ($3.30) prevailed in the other division, scoring a 5-length win in 1:56.1.
Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Thursday, May 1, with the first of 10 races scheduled for 6:45 p.m. EDT. The upcoming Thursday card marks a switch to a three-night weekly schedule at Vernon, as well as the beginning of the Showdown Handicapping Contest, worth $1,500 to the last contestant standing. Visit showdown.vernondowns.com for further details.
Salazar finally got a look at what life is like on the inside as he strolled around the Buffalo Raceway oval, going gate-to-wire in the $10,500 Open Pace on Saturday night (April 26).
The heavily-favored Salazar ($2.60) has started the last eight times in the five post or worse. Despite the horrendous starting positions, the 8-year-old gelding has been more than competitive in the Opens finishing no worse than fourth including one victory. So the post relief was much appreciated.
Starting from the rail, Salazar went right to the lead for driver Ron Beback Jr. and put up fractions of 28.1, 58.1, and 1:27. en route to a season best 1:55 winning time over the fast track. He had a comfortable length advantage at the top of the stretch and the scorching 27.3 final quarter had the remainder of the field in surrender mode. Sand Savage Drew Monti) finished 3-1/2 lengths back in second while Fantasypan (John Cummings Jr.) was third.
Owned by Lisa Denison and trained by Lisa Lederhouse, Salazar (McArdle-January Spur) has now scored four victories in 14 appearances this season. He has earned $29,072 in 2014 and $247,656 lifetime.
The racing will resume on Wednesday night at Buffalo Raceway with a 13-race program scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. For more information including upcoming promotions, race replays, results and the latest news, go to http://www.buffaloraceway.com/
Down south at Pompano Park, Cartoonist, given a "picture perfect" drive by Kevin Wallis, easily took top honors in Pompano $10,000 Open Pace on Saturday night.
The four year-old gelded son of Modern Art stopped the timer in 1:53 after posting front end fractions of :27.4, :57.3 and 1:25.4 along the way--his winning margin just short of three lengths over Rick's Sign, driven by Andy Santeramo. Neptune Blue Chip finished third for Bruce Ranger while McGreat and Shamderock completed the quintet.
It was the fourth win in 14 starts for Cartoonist, pushing his seasonal bankroll to $25,560, just a shade below what he earned the entire full season of 2013.
Ina post race interview, driver Kevin Wallis said, "Since the five post is so advantageous here, I thought it would be good to use this horse's good gate speed and try and control the pace. We got a nice breather during the second quarter so I feelt rather comfortable he could carry his speed the rest of the way...and he did."
Indeed, the :55.2 final half mile sealed the deal for the SSG Stables of North Boston, N.Y.
Trainer Jim McDonald added, "He's developed into a very solid racehorse over time and he sure is reliable for a :27 and a piece final quarter. He's very consistent and I am hoping the best is yet to come."
In somewhat of a betting oddity, the order of finish was exactly as the public predicted with the winner, off at 1 to 2, returning $3.00, the 7 to 2 second choice finishing second, followed by Neptune Blue Chip (6 to 1), McGreat (8.50 to 1) and Shamderock (8.90 to 1).
(Miami Valley, Pocono, Vernon, Buffalo, Pompano files)