Long Island Tea picked up a victory in the $8,000 featured trot at Vernon Downs on Saturday night. While the favorite may have made it to the winner's circle, she did not have an easy time of it at all.
Naughty Not Nice led through the bulk of the mile for driver-trainer Rick Plano and set fairly comfortable fractions of :27.1 for the quarter, :56.2 for the half, and 1:24.2 for three-quarters. Long Island Tea sat the pocket trip and was actually pinned in by Client Nine, who made a first-over move on the turn. However, Client Nine's charge faded and when that happened, Long Island Tea was guided out by driver Chris Lems and eventually wore down Naughty Not Nice to win by three-quarters of a length in a final time of 1:53.4.
Long Island Tea is owned by Steve Stewart of Paris, Kentucky and Kelley Racing Stable LLC of Gansevoort, New York. Paul Kelley is the trainer.
Long Island Tea was one of four winners for driver Chris Lems on the Saturday program. He won the first race with Ziegler Hanover, the fifth race with Lindys Real Deal, and the ninth race with Suzies Little Vic in addition to the score with Long Island Tea. Ziegler Hanover and Long Island Tea were sent off as race favorites, while Lindys Real Deal won as a 4-1 second choice, and Suzies Little Vic was a nice value play at 7-1.
The draws for the Empire Breeders' Classic Finals were also held on Saturday at Vernon Downs. The winners of the eliminations from Friday were able to select their own post positions for the Finals. In the three-year-old filly Final, Avalicious will be in post four as part of a Leigh Raymer-trained entry with Winning Pursuit. Crediama won the other elimination and selected post two. The complete post position draw from inside-out for the three-year-old fillies Final is Glowngold, Crediama, Annies List, Avalicious, Beauty Of Gray, Driving Miss Crazy, Winning Pursuit, Cut Up Hanover, and Slice Slice Baby. There are two also-eligibles with Lady With Credit the first also-eligible and Maud Blue Chip the second.
In the three-year-old colt final, Karets selected post position number three and Expressive Action will be right alongside after picking post number four. The complete post position draw for the three-year-old colts Final from inside-out is Daley Lovin, Hallenet, Karets, Expressive Action, Cash For Gold, Cashamattic, Rocky De Vie, Wild And Crazy Guy, and Crazzycrazzy. As in the fillies final, there are two also-eligibles. Mister B's Way is the first also-eligible and Elegante Attire is the second. Mister B's Way suffered an unfortunate break right near the end of his elimination and was disqualified from fourth to fifth, costing him an automatic berth in the Final.
The Empire Breeders' Classic Finals will be part of a special Sunday night program at Vernon Downs on June 8. First post that night will be 6:45 pm.
At Tioga, faced with a host of challengers in the final 300 yards, Oldford Farms and Tyler Buter's Antigua Hanover ($8.20) had just enough left in reserve, digging in to stave off three late-charging rivals en route to a 1:53.3 score in Saturday (May 31) evening's $11,000 Miracle Mile 2 pace for fillies and mares.
The four-year-old daughter of Somebeachsomewhere was beaten to the first turn by Canaco Star (Mike Merton), but brushed to the fore immediately upon Canaco Star's clearing at the apex of the first turn. After setting sensible early splits of :28.2 and :56.3, Antigua Hanover turned aside a first-over challenge from If I Didnt Care (Rick Dane), edging clear to the top of the stretch.
After dismissing If I Didnt Care's challenge on the approach to the far turn, Antigua Hanover withstood late charges from eventual runner-up Bazooka Terror (Aaron Byron) and third-place finisher Dirty Girty (Greg Merton), digging in late to prevail by a diminishing three-quarters-length margin.
Brandon Simpson handled the driving duties aboard Antigua Hanover for trainer Amber Buter.
Live racing resumes at Tioga Downs on Sunday (June 1) afternoon, with the Roll With Joe Pace headlining the card. Non-wagering events begin at 12:45 p.m. EDT, with the first of 13 pari-mutuel races scheduled for 1:30 p.m. (Vernon & Tioga)