The first of eight visits by the lucrative New York Sires Stakes (NYSS) takes place Sunday afternoon at Batavia Downs and for the local fans it's a chance to see some of the biggest names in harness racing. The 3-year-old colt and gelding pacers will be on hand and that means some very exciting action.
There will be three legs of the NYSS and two of the Excelsior series and the entrants will be competing for combined purses in excess of $140,000. The first division goes for $39,200 and looks to be the main event as it is loaded with talent and speed.
Perennial training leader Ron Burke will start 3-5 morning line favorite All Bets Off, who ships in with some impressive credentials. He won the $300,000 Art Rooney Pace at Yonkers Raceway in May and after winning his elimination heat in 1:48.3, finished third in the $500,000 Hempt final at Pocono Downs behind McWicked last month. In that race, McWicked set a new world record for 3-year-old colts on a five-eighths mile track (1:47.3).
This will be the third start in the NYSS for All Bets Off this year who won at Vernon Downs in 1:50.2 and just ten days ago finished second at Yonkers in 1:52.4 to Capital Account, who looks to be his toughest competition in today's race. He has earnings of $291,575 already this year.
All Bets Off, who starts from post five and will be driven by Matt Kakaley, is part of an entry that includes stablemate Keystone Honor.
Capital Account has competed in some high-profile stakes already but without positive results. He drew post eight in both the $69,000 Somebeachsomewhere and $45,500 North America Cup elimination at Mohawk and finished well beaten in both. But even though he does not sport the gaudy numbers of the morning line favorite, he certainly has beaten him.
In his last start at Yonkers in NYSS action, Capital Account was pulled third over up the backside before tipping four deep around the leader All Bets Off at the top of the stretch. He then outpaced the 1-5 favorite to the wire to win by a half-length. The 16-1 shot was overlooked last week but certainly won't be in here.
Capital Account is trained by Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter and will start from post three for leading NYSS driver Jim Morrill Jr.
The second $39,200 division is headed by Canadian conditioner Cassie Coleman's Twin B Tenacious. After getting 2014 off to an inauspicious start, Twin B Tenacious has now strung together four straight wins (the last a NYSS event at Yonkers) and registered a 1:50.3 lifetime mark at the Meadowlands in the process. Steve Smith, who has been at the helm for all four victories, will once again be in the bike and start from post four.
Forty Five Red, who is another entry from the powerful Burke stable, comes in off two consecutive wins at Yonkers Raceway which includes his seasonal mark of 1:52.3 in his last outing. Although he hasn't missed a check all year, his most recent outings have probably been his best to date and indicate he will be a legitimate threat to the favorite.
The third division is worth $38,500 and looks to be a wide-open affair.
Stay Up Late has been made the morning line favorite but has yet to win in stake action at three. He has gone off the favorite in his last three starts but his sole victory this year came in an overnight event at Yonkers Raceway on July 8 in 1:53.3. He gets Jim Morrill Jr. up for the first time this year and starts from post four
Neat draws the rail for trainer Erv Miller and is coming in off three very impressive starts. After just getting beat in 1:53.4 in a NYSS race at Buffalo on June 27, Neat finished second in an overnight at Pocono Downs in 1:50.1 over a sloppy track the following week. He was then back in Sire Stake action at Yonkers his last start where he got away sixth and chased a :56 flat last half parked out to finish third in 1:52.3.
Neat is rated at 5-2 for driver Brent Holland.
The 3-1 third choice Sir Sam's Z Tam has the fastest seasonal mark and the most money earned of any other horse in this race, but also has the only NYSS victory this year. After hitting the board four consecutive times, he found himself parked out in a fast last half at Yonkers before finishing fifth.
Sam's Z Tam will start from post three for trainer/driver the Pat Lachance.
The undercard features two divisions of the Excelsior series and they are slated to go as race seven and ten.
The first split goes for $12,600 and has two horses that have dominated the class; Cabbie's Delight and Murder He Wrote.
The 8-5 favorite Cabbie's Delight has not been worse than second in six Excelsior starts. In fact he is the point's leader to date in the series. He won four straight out of the gate before finishing two close seconds in his most recent starts.
Trainer Sam Serianni has Jason Bartlett in the bike this week as he looks to get back in the winner's circle.
The 9-5 co-favorite Murder He Wrote has won his last two starts, including a NYSS event at Buffalo Raceway where he blew up the tote board at 45-1. The roan gelding drew immediate respect after that when he went off the prohibitive favorite the following week at Yonkers where he won wire to wire in 1:54.1.
Morrill will drive Murder He Wrote and starts from post five for conditioner Linda Toscano.
The final $12,600 Excelsior contest is headlined by 2-1 choice Believeinthespirit. After having negligible success in four straight NYSS races, trainer Ed Lohmeyer reclassified his charge to the Excelsior and the change has proven fruitful. Believeinthespirit has won his last two starts in convincing fashion and looks to continue the streak from post two.
The 5-2 second choice Archetto Hanover is the second highest point getter in the Excelsior series behind Cabbie's Delight and has three wins and two seconds to show for his efforts. Trainer Erv Miller has Brent Holland up for this trip and will depart from post five.Post time for the first race is 1:15 p.m. (Batavia Downs)