The highly anticipated 2017 debut of McWicked proved to be highly successful as the now six year-old son of McArdle scored a 1:50.4 win in Pompano Park's $12,000 Open Handicap Pace "Romp at the Pomp" Pace on Sunday night (Feb. 12).
David Miller, also making his 2017 driving debut, was in the bike for the victory, the 12,027th of his Hall of Fame career.
Facing a stout field of competitors including the highly vaunted Panocchio, McWicked took command three-eighths into the mile and went on to score by three-parts-of-a-length over that main rival with Rocky's Z Tam just another neck back in third. Drachan Hanover finished fourth while Uncmprmising Z Tam finished fifth—those next four less than two lengths off the winner in the classy sextet.
As the outset, Rocky's Z Tam, with Ricky Macomber, Jr. in the bike, pushed the Hummer Starting Gate's wings out of the way with Panocchio, starting from the outside six post with driver Wally Hennessey, surging right alongside and into the lead heading into the initial turn and proceeding to an opener in a hot :26.3 with McWicked settling into third—but not for long.
Once they straightened away in the lane for the first time, Miller sent McWicked in search of the lead, taking command under the line the first time and then going on to post a half in :54.4 and three-quarters in 1:23.2 with Panocchio sitting chilly and Rocky's Z Tam outside and charging.
In the lane, Rocky's Z Tam got within a long neck of McWicked and Panocchio snuck through along the pylons but neither could seriously threaten the leader to the wire as he sealed the deal with a :27.2 finale.
In a post-race interview, driver David Miller related, "I thought he raced very well for his first time back. I was fortunate enough to drive him as a three year-old and he put in some awesome miles back then, especially when he went that mile in 1:47.3 with a last half in :52.3. He was great all the way to December when he won the Progress Pace (Dover Downs) in (1):48.4.
"Tonight, he didn't have any breathing situations that had bothered him the past couple of seasons and he was solid all the way through. It was a very good effort, especially for his first start back!"
Owned by the SSG Stables' Ed James, McWicked won for the first time since that aforementioned Progress Pace on Dec. 7, 2014, and James was elated with the win saying, "I have been in this business for over 60 years and the thrill of reaching the winner's circle never gets old. I am sure glad I was here at Pompano to see this win."
Trainer Jim McDonald was also elated with the victory saying, "This horse may have been the favorite on the toteboard here tonight but he sure was a longshot to regain his winning ways.
"He developed a breathing problem and it took some time to address the problem and then cure it. He seems like his old self again and we hope the progress continues.
McWicked now sports a lifetime bankroll of $1,767,487. As the 2-5 post-time favorite, McWicked paid $2.80 to his multitude of followers.
The $10,000 Open 2 Pace went to Rockntouch, skillfully handled by Mickey McNichol. The five year-old gelded son of Rock N Roll Heaven, in the garden spot as Fritzie Pic Up Man (Kevin Wallis) spun through panels of :26.2, :55.2 and 1:22.3 and sitting chilly a Grande Seelster challenged around the final bend, found some room in deep stretch to, first, get by the leader and, then, hold off the late surge of King Of The Crop (Dave Ingraham) to score by a head in a lifetime best 1:51.2.
Fritzie Pic Up Man did finish third, a half length away, while Dee's Rocketman finished fourth, The favorite, Bluehourpower, picked up the nickel in an "even-steven" effort after a three week respite due to injury.
Owned by Fred Monteleone Stable along with Salvatore Promuto, Rockntouch scored his second win of this semester and 15th success lifetime. He's now banked $119,595 career-wise--$13,175 this young season. As the 4-1 second choice, Rockntouch paid $10.40 to win.
Though McWicked and David Miller were in the spotlight with his "Romp at the Pomp" win, the driving star of the night was Wally Hennessey, who drove six winners on the Sunday night program.
The Hall of Fame Driver scored with Tick Tok Tag ($3.60), Tony Cheesecake ($6.60), Officernagentleman ($2.80) Whogoesfirst ($6.60), B Evas Lucky Lad ($6.20) and Del Rio Seelster ($3.60).
The latter won the Super Hi-5 final, which had multiple winners, now sports a carryover of $70,526 going into Monday night's program.
That card also features a $10,000 guaranteed pool for the Pick-4, conducted on races 6 through 9. Post time set for 7:20 p.m.--By John Berry/Pompano Park