OK Heavenly, cleverly driven by Kevin Wallis, pulled off an upset at Pompano Park on Wednesday night, taking top honors in the $11,000 Open Pace for Mares in 1:51.3.
The 5-year-old daughter of Sportswriter spoiled the 2017 debut of Godiva Seelster, handled by Wally Hennessey, edging by that grand mare in deep stretch to score by a half-length.
New arrival Gweneeee J, with Jim Meittinis in the bike, closed fastest of all to finish third, a length away, with the pacesetting Wild Wanda fourth. Goldstar Rockette, also making her seasonal debut, was a late-charging fifth, just two lengths off the winner, in the classy sextet of ladies.
At the outset, four of the six mares were on the engine leaving with Goldstar Rockette (post 1) yielding to Single Me (post 3), who, in turn yielded to Wild Wanda (post 5), who then gave way to Godiva Seelster (post 6), but not for long. After a sharp :26.2 opener, Wild Wanda reclaimed the top spot and took the field half way home in :55.1.
On the backside, Wild Wanda was on a mission of her own, pacing her third panel in :27.1 to reach the third station in 1:22.2 with Godiva Seelster ready to pop from the pocket and OK Heavenly suddenly rolling up into contention.
Godiva Seelster then took command once they straightened away with OK Heavenly rolling up alongside a sixteenth from home and then on to the victory—her third of the year in six starts.
In a post-race interview, driver Wallis remarked, "this mare does have gate speed but there seemed to be a few others that had their site set on being close up so I really had no choice but to take her back.
"The pace was pretty stiff early, so I was very content to sit tight until the backside.
"I asked her at the start pole (three-eighths out) and she started grinding away, although it's tough to make much progress on a :27.1 quarter.
"She just kept grinding away until she got to the wire."
OK Heavenly now has banked $20,680 in this young season and $170,007 career-wise.
As the 8-1 fourth choice, OK Heavenly paid $18.60 to win.
The $9,000 Open 2 Pace for Mares went to Arodasi, driven by George Napolitano Jr.
The classy 8-year-old daughter of Western Terror stormed from eighth after the opening :27.1 quarter and paced her final three-quarters in 1:24.4 to score by 1 ¼ lengths over the pacesetting Southwind Trini (Hennessey).
Astarisontheway, looming boldly in the lane, finished third, two lengths away. Jets Are On finished fourth after being prominent much of the mile while Drea's Good Powow picked up the nickel in the field of nine.
Trained by Joe Pavia Jr. for Peter Shank, the AGC Stables and the Joe Pavia, Jr. Stable, Arodasi earned her initial win of the season and 32nd lifetime, pushing her career bounty to $386,546.
As the 9-2 fourth choice, Arodasi paid $11.20 to win. (Pompano Park)