Nuncio rolled to a facile 8 1/4-length victory in a division of Tuesday’s $199,980 Pennsylvania Sires Stake at The Meadows, completing his sweep of the four PASS preliminary legs. In the other split of the event for sophomore colt and gelding trotters, known as the Hickory Smoke, Datsyuk had to work harder but still won and cemented his spot in the championship, which is set for Sept. 7 at Harrah’s Philadelphia.
Nuncio, who hadn’t raced since his tough loss to stablemate Trixton in the Aug. 2 Hambletonian, had little trouble dispatching the field, vaulting to the front for John Campbell and scoring in 1:53.2. Dony Andreas overtook Don Dorado late for place. Campbell called it just the type of start Nuncio needed, since Stall TZ’s son of Andover Hall-Nicole Isabelle will perform again this week, in Friday’s $376,000 (est.) Zweig Memorial at Vernon Downs.
"I didn’t have to stress him at all today; he was cruising pretty easy,” Campbell said. "You’re always concerned a little bit when they come out of a couple hard races like you had in the Hambletonian. But he’s bounced back, put on a little weight, and he felt great today.”
In most other years, Nuncio’s impeccable credentials — six wins in nine seasonal starts, first or second in all 19 career outings, nearly $1.1 million in lifetime earnings — would place him at the forefront of divisional championship discussions. But the only horses to have beaten him this year, Trixton and Father Patrick, also are Jimmy Takter trainees and are grabbing more attention.
Campbell cautioned not to count Nuncio out just yet.
"The year’s not over,” he said. "It’s a long time between now and the vote, and there are a lot of big races yet, so I’m not conceding anything in that regard. He’s talented enough that he could win any of those races or all of them.”
Fresh off his 25-1 upset of Father Patrick in the Tompkins-Geers, Datsyuk was headed for the lead from post 6 when trainer/driver Charlie Norris noticed an early duel developing and dropped in fourth. The Explosive Matter-Pink Ribbons gelding moved confidently first over and defeated the rallying Madewell Hanover by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:53.4. Early leader Wheelsandthelegman saved show.
"I could have gone on with him, but I thought the leader would carry us to the stretch anyway,” said Norris, who owns Datsyuk with Leonard Buckner. "I really wasn’t worried. The way he’s been racing out of a hole, I was pretty confident. I had to get after him in the stretch a little — he was kind of lazy.
"I don’t think he’s as sharp as he was, like for the Beal, but he’s coming back. He got beat a couple times, but now he has his confidence back. I look for him to be really sharp for the final.”
Norris said the tentative schedule for Datsyuk, who extended his career bankroll to $250,650, includes the Old Oaken Bucket at Delaware and Grand Circuit action at the Red Mile. (The Meadows)