Hambletonian runner-up Nuncio is part of the favored 5-2 Jimmy Takter-trained entry with stablemate Father Patrick in Friday's $340,000 Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters at Vernon Downs. Nuncio has post seven and the services of his regular driver, John Campbell, right next to Father Patrick in post eight.
Nuncio got a pre-Zweig warmup Tuesday, Aug. 26, with a 3 1/4-length victory in 1:53.2 in a division of the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes at The Meadows. The victory came in wire-to-wire fashion from post seven, something the now more mature and well-schooled Nuncio handles nicely.
"The difference is, at the beginning of this year and at the end of last year, when he did go to the front he wouldn't relax,” Campbell said. "Now we've raced him from behind a number of times and we've got him so he realizes he doesn't have to do everything in the first half.
"When you do go to the front with him now, he's not trying to run through his bridle and he's relaxing. That's what we had to try to get through to him at the beginning of the year. Fortunately for us, he caught on rather well.”
Nuncio was making his first start since his second-place finish to stablemate Trixton in the Aug. 2 Hambletonian at the Meadowlands. Campbell and the colt were able to control the fractions, which was important given the quick turnaround to the Zweig.
"He didn't have to work too hard and he did it rather easily,” Campbell said. "I was certainly cognizant of the fact that he was going to have to come back and race Friday. I didn't want to race him hard and it did work out that way.”
Nuncio has won six of nine races this year and earned $613,346 for owner Stall TZ. He has won 11 of 19 career races, never finished worse than second in any start, and earned $1.07 million.
Father Patrick, who has won 16 of 19 career races and $1.27 million, will try in the Zweig to snap the first losing streak of his career. He went off stride at the start of the Hambletonian and finished second to Datsyuk on Aug. 17 in a division of the Tompkins-Geers at Tioga Downs.
"The only thing I can really count on with Nuncio is from the first time I raced him, even when he was unrateable, he always raced his heart out,” Campbell said. "He's raced good every time. Going into the (Zweig) I expect him to again. Whether that's good enough and how good Father Patrick is, we don't know. But I expect him to go his race and if Father Patrick does beat him, he's going to be tough to beat.” (HRC)