Despite the fact he was making his first money start in over four months, Southwind Pepino was impressive Friday night at Miami Valley Raceway, fighting fierce wind gusts and six creditable rivals to capture the $9,000 Open Trot.
A winner of eight races and $165,000 last year, Southwind Pepino, a handsome six-year-old son of Chocolatier, had just a mediocre qualifier under his belt before this initial triumph of 2014.
Content to drop in fourth from an assigned outside post position, driver Hugh Beatty Jr. moved into the second-over position in the outer flow after seeing pedestrian initial panels of :29.4 and :59 posted by front-running Cashahallic (Jim Pantaleano), who ultimately faded to fourth at the finish. At the three-quarter mile marker reached in 1:28.3 Beatty flipped Southwind Pepino three-wide around Bookem (Josh Sutton), who was racing bravely first-up on the outside and finished third. The winner opened up a two-length margin in midstretch, then held off runnerup Quick N Slick (Dan Noble), who was closing furiously after getting away at the back of the pack early.
Beatty owns Southwind Pepino in partnership with Robert Sharrits.
At Buffalo Raceway Friday night, a sloppy track and a race surface that favored front runners was the perfect recipe once again for Lutetium as he scored his third straight convincing victory in winning the $10,500 Open Trot.
The front-running and off-track loving Lutetium ($2.80) bolted right to the top at the start of the race and played catch me if you can with the rest of the field. After posting fractions of 29, 1:01.1 and 1:31.2, the race to the wire wasn't a matter of who was going to win but by how much. Lutetium (Kevin Cummings) enjoyed a six-length edge at the top of the stretch as the rest of the field threw in the towel. He was throttled down by mid-stretch as Heartsaregonnaroll (Jim McNeight) was a distant second and Studio City (Aaron Byron) third.
The margin of victory for Lutetium (Credit Winner-Luby) was 3-1/4 lengths after splashing and dashing to a winning time of 2:01.4.
It was the third win in eight appearances this season for Lutetium, who is owned by Colleen Girdlestone and trained by Mark Laidlaw. The win pushed the 7-year-old gelding's bank to $18,585 in 2014 and $204,291 lifetime.
Earlier in the day at The Meadows, Southern Allie captured the $18,000 pace feature. Last at the half and facing a tough journey in the slop, Southern Allie unleashed a relentless first-over move to capture his second straight victory — and fourth in his last five races — in the winners over $10,000 Life/Preferred Handicap Pace.
Southern Allie trailed by 7-1/2 lengths when Eric Ledford sent him after the leader, Dedi's Dragon, who was making his first start of 2013. He needed every bit of stretch to do it, but Southern Allie nailed Dedi's Dragon by a nose in 1:54, with early leader Brooklyn Flight a close-up third.
Randy Bendis trains Southern Allie, a 7-year-old Allie's Western-Pershing Angela gelding who now boasts $688,019 in career earnings, and owns with Tom Pollack, Jack Piatt II and R. Lewis Hauber.
Dave Palone drove four winners and Aaron Merriman three on the 14-race card while Tyler Stillings collected training and driving doubles.
(Miami Valley, Buffalo Raceway, The Meadows)