Panocchio kept his seasonal record perfect by scoring his third straight win in Pompano Park's $10,000 Open Handicap Pace on Saturday night.
The 4-year-old son of No Pan Intended, owned by trainer Jim Mattison along with Emile Johnson, was driven by Bruce Ranger and stopped the timer in 1:53, scoring by a head over the late charging Freeneasy Hanover (Wally Hennessey). Cartoonist (Kevin Wallis), finished third, 2 3/4 lengths away, while Rick's Sign finished fourth. Yankees In Six completed the quintet.
Panocchio flashed his usual early speed from his outside -- but advantageous -- five post and quickly took command from Freeneasy Hanover with his stablemate, Cartoonist, next through an opening panel of :27.1. With the half in a tepid :56.1, positions remained stagnant with Yankees In Six the only one out and driving, moving from the back of the pack to third during a :28 third quarter but still three lengths away.
Turning for home, Panocchio, with a strong headwind in his face, stayed true to the wire, holding off the pocket-sitting Freeneasy Hanover in a photo to keep his record perfect.
In a post-race interview, driver Ranger said, "This horse is just a solid campaigner -- a little lazy but, nonetheless, a horse that gives all he's got when he's on the racetrack. Wally's horse (Freeneasy Hanover) was great, too, but Panocchio has that habit of digging in when it counts most. And, again, I have to give credit to Jim (trainer Mattison) who has been such a great trainer for so long."
Trainer Mattison gave all the praise to his wife, Vicki, by saying, "She's the one who gives the horse such tender loving care. Heck, the horse only jogs lightly when he's racing and I can't get him to go faster than (2):14 or (2):15 when he does train. Vicki loves this horse and, I think, he races so well because he's so happy around her. Believe me, it makes a difference!"
For Panocchio, the win was his 11th lifetime in just 28 starts, good for career earnings of $62,625 -- $13,750 of that this year in his three starts. Off at 1-10, Panocchio paid $2.20 to win.
The co-featured $8,000 Open went, in an upset, to the 23-1 outsider Shamderock, driven by Stephane Lareau in 1:53.4. This 6-year-old son of Hi Ho Silverheel's, trained by Mike Hardy for owners Mark and Phyllis Liebowitz, roared down the lane to score by a half-length over Hyperion Hanover (Bruce Ranger). Hurricane Howard (Tom Sells) finished third but was disqualified after an incident just past the opening quarter, allowing the 2-5 favorite, Canadian Touch (Kevin Wallis), to be moved up a notch to third, after scorching an opener in :25.4 before carding subsequent panels of :56.1 and 1:25.1, leaving little defense from the closers in the late stages. Dojea Maidscaptor finished fourth.
Shamderock earned his third win of the year in 15 starts -- 28th win lifetime -- to send his 2014 earnings to $15,141. Lifetime he's banked $190,596. Shamderock paid $48.60 to win. (Pompano Park)