Badlands Nitro, who wears saddle pad two but leaves from the one post in Saturday’s $301,072 Max C. Hempt Memorial Pace at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, is the early-line favorite.
Badlands Nitro was the fastest winner of the two Hempt elimination races last Saturday, coming from off the pace and stopping the timer in 1:51. Badlands Nitro raced on the outside for half of the mile before winning by 2 1/4 lengths.
“He’s definitely a contender and I like my chances in the Hempt,” said driver Brian Sears.
A winner of $173,721, Badlands Nitro’s racing career could have suffered a serious blow last year in the Matron Sakes at Dover Downs. In that race, First Rate, driven by Tony Morgan, knocked down the George Teague-trained 3-year-old colt.
Teague said Badlands Nitro got karate chopped when First Rate jumped right straight up. Teague’s prized colt had to have stitches to the damaged hock.
Noting it could have been worse, Teague added his colt didn’t sustain any lasting injuries in that Matron mishap.
“He’s a very versatile colt,” said Teague, noting Badlands Nitro can do well by being on the front end or by coming from behind.
Badlands Nitro was purchased at the Harrisburg Sale for $16,000 and is co-owned by John Celii.
Chris Oakes, who trains Hempt starter Duke Did It, feels the 2008 version of the Hempt is a wide-open race. Duke Did It received a two-hole trip behind second Hempt elimination winner Its That Time, finishing second.
Oakes is looking for his second straight Hempt win after Tivoli Hanover captured last year’s race with a time of 1:51 with Eric Goodell in the bike.
“That first Hempt elimination race was loaded,” said Oakes, perennially one of the top trainers at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. “I’d probably give a slight edge to Badlands Nitro but there are several horses in here that could win. A lot will depend on how the race sets up early-on.” (edited from Pocono release)