With the sounds of summer serenading fans on the apron as Balmoral Park enjoyed its yearly "Beach Party,” the 2013 Hanover Stakes season kicked off on Saturday night with a $37,100 event for 3-year-old trotting colts.
After dominating the ICF ranks through his first five starts of the year, William Wright and Mystical Marker Farms King Mufasa continued his early season march to stardom as he knocked off nine rivals by 1 ˝ lengths in a lifetime best of 1:54.3.
Despite drawing the inside post, driver Mike Oosting elected to take back as the gate sped away allowing entrymate Powerful Poe (Todd Warren) and Semper Fit (Dave Magee) to battle through an opening quarter in :29.1.
"I just wanted to let things settle before I moved with him tonight,” said Oosting. "He can leave like a runner out of there if you need him to but we've avoided doing that this year and he's a much more relaxed horse because of it.”
Moving from fourth on the backstretch, Oosting was able to flush cover from his entrymate Powerful Poe who had been sitting in the pocket after allowing a hard charging Longwell (Dan Shetler) to lead the field through a half-mile in :58.2.
"I was pretty happy that we wound up getting covered up heading into that last turn,” explained Oosting. "That wind was really howling right in our faces on the turn and things were starting to quicken up so just getting a little breather with a horse in front of us really helped him tonight.”
Continuing to grind away around the far turn, King Mufasa took dead aim on Powerful Poe as the two moved by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.3. Under only mild urging from Oosting, King Mufasa quickly swallowed up Powerful Poe with a :27.3 final quarter to post his seventh career victory in 14 starts. Powerful Poe held on gamely to finish second while Longwell battled on to be third.
After the win, Oosting continued to sing the praises of trainer Mike Brink and the gelded son of Powerful Emotion-Foxy N Diamonds.
"He was nice and relaxed and fit as could be out there again tonight,” said a smiling Oosting. "Every time I've driven this horse for Mike he's been exactly the same which is a testament to his handling of him. That was a much better mile than the time would indicate because the track was a little soft and he wasn't getting a hold of it quite as well as he usually does. But he still finished up strong and was just waiting for me to ask him which I really didn't have to do.”
Part of a three-horse entry, King Mufasa returned $2.20 & $2.10 while upping his career bankroll to $73,452. There was no show wagering.
Sophomore pacing colts were also in action on Saturday night as a field of seven Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-olds battled in a $12,000 Betzotic Stakes. After a spirited stretch drive it was William P. and William C. DeLong's Fox Valley Action who came out on top as he benefitted from a perfect to steer by Todd Warren to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:54.1.
After getting away second as Fox Valley Norman (John DeLong) led the field through an opening quarter in :29.1, Warren moved his charge to the lead as the field headed down the backstretch. Still setting a leisurely pace, Fox Valley Action led the field by the half-mile station in :59.4. Things began to heat up on the far turn as a hard charging Big Brad (Robert Smolin) came rolling up to grab command, leading the field past the three-quarter-mile pole in 1:27.3.
After sitting right on the helmet of the pacesetter, Warren maneuvered Fox Valley Action to the outside with an eighth of a mile to go and the gelded son of Sportsmaster-Anything You Ask responded beautifully, zipping right on by for his second in seven starts this year. Fox Valley Norman re-rallied up the inside to finish second while Big Brad finished third.
Sent off at a very generous 3-1 price, the Roger Welch trainee returned $8.80, $5.60 & $2.40 while increasing his career bankroll to $191,412.
The 50 Cent Pick 5 wager was not hit on Saturday night resulting in a carryover pool of $4,723. With that carryover Balmoral Park management and the USTA Strategic Wagering Council have announced that there will be a guaranteed pool of $25,000 on Sunday's 50 Cent Pick 5. The Pick 5 is contested on races 2-6 each night. Post time for the Sunday opener is 7:10 p.m. (central). (Balmoral)