Northern Companion, among the top 10 older pacers in wins last year with 17, resumed his winning ways at Pompano Park on Saturday night in the Open Handicap Pace with an ever-so-easy two length win for Robbie Hoffman in 1:51.2.
The 5-year-old gelded son of Cambest ditched his usual come-from-behind tactics and blasted out of the Hummer Starting Gate and assumed command early after a very brief tussle with Special Strides, handled by Rick Plano.
After an opening panel of :27.1, Northern Companion maintained length and a half daylight through markers of :55.3 and 1:23.3 before using a :27.4 closer to stretch his lead a bit further late in the mile.
Special Strides did finish second while Freeneasy Hanover, third throughout the mile, finished in that show spot for Jason Dillander. Dukes Up was fourth with Spring Again grabbing the final check.
For Northern Companion, trained by Howard Klohr for owner Dorothy Zarza, it was his 21st lifetime win in 70 career starts, pushing his lifetime bankroll to $106,927. The win moved driver Robbie Hoffman very close to a milestone for him -- this being his career win number 99.
Hoffman, in a post-race interview, said, "This horse is so easy to handle -- perfect in every way. Last week, he had the outside post and, since it was his first start back in a while, I didn't want to ‘gut' him but, even though he finished back, he paced his last half in :55.1 and came out of it perfectly so I decided to leave with him tonight. And when I didn't hear anyone pulling, I gave him what I consider a breather for him (a :56.2 middle half) and, after that, he did it all on his own to the wire. I was pretty confident going in tonight.”
The betting public was confident, too. They sent Northern Companion off as the 3-5 favorite and he returned $3.20 to win, keying an exacta of $11.60 and trifecta payoff of $41.00. (Pompano)