Pouncing from the pocket on the approach to the far turn, Keith Pippi's Traverse Seelster ($3.30) recorded the fastest mile ever at Tioga Downs for an older trotting gelding, taking Saturday (Aug. 23) evening's $15,000 Open Trot in 1:52.4.
Brandon Simpson settled into the pocket with the six-year-old Angus Hall gelding, drafting behind Lutetium (John Cummings, Jr.) through a :56.2 half before making his two-wide push with five-sixteenths to go. Traverse Seelster responded at once, kicking clear to a three-length lead on the far turn. Through the stretch, he was chased home by Twin B Spike Man (Mike Simons), but last week's Open winner could only muster a second-place finish, closing to within a length and a half. Spice It Up Lindy (Jim Meittinis) rallied from last in the field of five to take third. Oh No Three O (Corey Braden) was a non-threatening fourth, and early pacesetter Lutetium faded to last after giving way.
Amber Buter trains Traverse Seelster, whose 1:52.4 mile bested Tac's Delight prior record for older trotting geldings by a fifth of a second. The overall track record for trotters stands at 1:52.3, most recently achieved by Obrigado.
Sunday (August 24) afternoon's 13-race card kicks off at 1:30 p.m. EDT, with freshman trotters taking center stage in a quartet of Kindergarten Classic preliminaries.
At Vernon Downs on Saturday night, Chris Lems, who will be representing Vernon Downs in the Drivers' Championship Race For The Cup on Friday, Aug. 29, at Vernon, was the driving star of the Saturday night program with four victories. Lems' first two winners were favorites in the wagering, Tarport Andy in the opener and King Of Kings in the third. He then scored back-to-back winners later in the evening with a front-running score from Credit To Elgin in the ninth and a strong closing drive in the tenth with High Mileage.
The $6,500 feature race on Saturday night was won by Oh My Joepa (Rocknroll Hanover-Nittany Lion), who has now won two of the last three starts at Vernon Downs. Oh My Joepa (Claude Huckabone III) sat toward the tail end of the field through the first quarter of a mile before making a strong first-over move to the front. From there, he led the rest of the way, building up a four-length lead as the horses made the top of the stretch. Western Tsunami (Roman Lopez) closed strongly in the stretch to get second and Market Force (Jimmy Whittemore) also finished well toend upthird. You Bet Your Glass (Frank Davis) had gone off-stride at the start and still managed to finish fourth. A Fool For Mark crossed the finish line fifth, but was disqualified for interference with multiple horsesat the three-quarter mile mark and placed last. The fractions were 26.4 for the quarter, 55.4 for the half, 1:22.4 for three-quarters, and a final time of 1:51.
The complete order of finish was: Oh My Joepa, Western Tsunami, Market Force, You Bet Your Glass, Fearless Chip, Martial Bliss, and A Fool For Mark. (Tioga & Vernon)