Harness racing's version of "The Thrilla in Manilla" takes place on Sunday night at Pompano Park with the "Romp at the Pomp" featuring the South Florida track record holder Panocchio in a classic match-up with the $1.7 million dollar winner McWicked, making his Pompano Park debut in a comeback effort.
Carded as the second race on the 11 race program, Panocchio, the winner of 10 of his 11 starts in South Florida this season and holder of the 1:48.3 track record here, is the 2 to 1 morning line favorite and will begin his journey from the outside six post. The Jim Mattison trained seven year-old has 52 lifetime wins and $421,368 on his resume and will have the driving services of Hall of Fame driver Wally Hennessey in his bike.
McWicked, now six years-old, is the brilliant son of McArdle that has a mark of 1:47.3 as a three year-old, achieved in the $500,000 Hempt Final at Pocono Downs. That mile, featuring a final half in an amazing :52.3, was just one of many successes for McWicked under the direction of Casie Coleman in 2014. He also won the Adios, Progress Pace and Breeders Crown, among others.
The past two seasons have been winless ones for McWicked as he battled breathing problems.
Under the careful handling of trainer Jim McDonald, McWicked has been, "hopefully," nursed back to health and a pair of sharp qualifiers at Pompano Park seem to indicate that may be the case.
McDonald remarked, "Yes, he had these problems. We addressed them and, hopefully, he'll make his presence felt as a six year-old.
"He qualified very well showing no signs of stress breathing. In his first qualifier back, he won in 1:52 with a last half in 54.4. The second one, he went in 1:51.2 with a back half in :55.1.
"I don't know whether he'll win, but the others will sure know he's in the race--that's for sure."
Yet another Hall of Fame driver, David Miller, will be in to drive McWicked. Miller, who has amassed over $12,000 wins, handled McWicked during his three year-old stakes season. McWicked is listed as the second choice in the morning line at 7-2.
First Oc Itskind (Tom Jackson), Drachan Hanover (John MacDonald), Uncmprmising Z Tam (Mike Simons) and Rocky's Z Tam (Ricky Macomber, Jr.) round out the very talented field.
The Sunday program concludes with a Super Hi-5 finale with a carryover $65,098. Also, Sunday's Pick-4, conducted on races six through nine, offers a $20,000 guaranteed pool.
Post time is set for 7:20 p.m.--By John Berry/Pompano Park