Dee's Rocketman, Panocchio win in series
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Dee's Rocketman and Panocchio each won photo finish decisions as the Fred Monteleone Memorial Series continued at Pompano Park on Sunday night (March 4).
After the five-eighths mile sprint in the opening leg of the three race series, the distance stretched to the normal mile distance in this round with both winners hitting the wire in 1:52.2 in each of these $12,000 events.
Dee's Rocketman, driven by Mickey McNichol, scored his fifth win in seven 2018 starts in the opener, holding off the furious late surge of Drachan Hanover, handled by Wally Hennessey, by a head. Rocky's Z Tam, with Ricky Macomber, Jr. in his sully, finished third with Lyons Johnny next. A Cool Card completed the first race roster in this quintet.
At the outset, Rocky's Z Tam zipped off the wings into an early lead, taking the field through a sizzling opening panel of :26.2. Shortly thereafter, Lyons Johnny (John MacDonald) made a sharp quarter move to the top and took the field half way through the mile in :55. On the backside, Dee's Rocketman, away fifth and last, began sprinting first up, reaching third and gnawing away past the third station in 1:23.3 with Drachan Hanover now in pursuit, as well. Turning for home, it turned into a sprint to the wire with Dee's Rocketman holding off Drachan Hanover on the wire.
In a post-race interview, driver-trainer Mickey McNichol related, "of course, the quick pace heledp us a bit and my horse does his best from off the pace. He doesn't mind the open air and, when I sent him first up on the backside looking for some cover, there wasn't any--but that didn't bother him at all. He just kept on going and we held off a very good horse (Drachan Hanover) at the end of the mile."
Dee's Rocketman now has banked $24,485 with his quintet of wins this young season. Lifetime, the 6-year-old ridgling son of Rock N Roll Heaven has bounty of $143,747 to go along with his Pompano Park mark of 1:50.4 for breeder-owner Joseph Martinelli Sr.
Off as the second choice at 3 to 1, Dee's Rocketman paid $8.80 to win.
Panocchio, the track record holder at Pompano Park, was driven by Wally Hennessey and held off a very determined Doo Wop Hanover, handled byAnthony Kerwood, by a neck. Uncmprmising Z Tam, with Ricky Macomber, Jr. in his bike, finished third after cutting fractions of :27.3, 56.1 and 1:24. Hollywood Sign finished fourth after appearing to lack racing room turning for home. Sing For Me George earned the minor award in the field of five.
Panocchio, the now eight year-old gelded son of No Pan Intended, was given a well deserved two month rest in mid-December and had his initial 2018 start last week in the first leg of the Monteleone Memorial--the five-eighths mile sprint--where he finished second after sawing off the panels of :27.1 and :55.1 in an event won by Hollywood Sign in 1:08.2,just off world record time.
This time around, Panocchio was reserved off the early pace before going first up on the backstretch, engaging in war with the leader before pushing his nose in front mid-stretch and then holding off the surging Doo Wop Hanover.
Trainer Jim Mattison was very happy with his charge's performance saying, "He needed the time off after a tough racing season--31 starts--and, you know, they aren't machines, so you hope for the best every time they step foot on the racetrack. I don't train him much--maybe 2:20 or 2:30--but he sure knows what to do when he gets back of the gate."
Panocchio now has 59 career wins (37 at Pompano Park) in 141 starts with earnings now vaulting over the $500,000 plateau with the win--$500,143 to be precise--for trainer Mattison, who co-owns with Emile Johnson Jr. Off at odds of 4-5, Panocchio paid $3.60 to win.
The Fred Monteleone Memorial concludes next week with a purse of $30,000 awaiting in the final leg going 1 1/4 miles.
Racing continues Monday night with first post set for 7:20 p.m. (Pompano Park)