In a five-horse photo, Northern Companion, again handled by Dave Ingraham for trainer Howard Klohr and owner Dorothy Zarza, gutted out top honors in Pompano Park's $10,000 Open Pace on Saturday night.
The 6-year-old son of Cambest showed remarkable gameness and resiliency, refusing to give up when he appeared beaten in mid-stretch, and scored in 1:52, his winning margin officially a neck over the late surging Who's Your Maddy (John MacDonald). Freeneasy Hanover (Wally Hennessey), stablemate of Who's Your Maddy, finished third just a half length away, edging past pacesetting Hillybilly in the final stride. Cruizin K C picked up the nickel in the six-horse field.
It was Hillybilly who rocketed out of the gate into the lead just past the first eighth pole, but midway around the turn with positions now established, driver Bruce Ranger grabbed a hold of his charge and rated him through an opener of 27.3 with Freeneasy Hanover, Who's Your Maddy and Northern Companion next, about 4 1/2 lengths off the lead.
Sensing the very moderate pace, Ingraham began his grind forward with one lap to go and was third, two lengths off Hillybilly through a soft opening half in :57. On the backside, things really started heating up and, by the final turn, were sizzling as Northern Companion was put through a supreme test during a third panel in :26.4, his one tick faster.
Turning for home, Hillybilly kicked clear again with Freeneasy now taking up the chase with Northern Companion now two lengths away and drifting out a bit and Who's Your Maddy flying between horses.
But, when it counted, Northern Companion refused to be denied in the photo finish victory.
In a post-race interview, driver Dave Ingraham said, "This was not easy. To grind forward through a quarter like that is amazing and, yes, I thought we were beaten in mid-stretch but this horse really has that rare quality about him that, when he gets some racetrack in front of him, he wants to gobble it up. He just never quits."
"Buddy's" win (he's called Buddy around the stable), was his third this year and 35th lifetime, sending his lifetime bounty to $208,082--$21,250 this young season in seven starts.
As the 1-2 public choice, Northern Companion paid $3 to win. (Pompano Park)