Reigning New York champions Devious Man and Barn Bella demonstrated why they possess the crowns in their divisions with extremely impressive victories in their Empire Breeders Classic finals, worth $252,000 and $228,250, respectively on Sunday (June 18) afternoon at Vernon Downs.
In fact, Barn Bella equaled champion Check Me Out's track standard of 1:51.3, while Devious Man was just off world champion and Hambletonian winner Market Share's record of 1:52.1 with a 1:52.2 mile. Four divisions of New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) for 3-year-old pacers were also contested on the undercard.
Barn Bella (Jeff Gregory) was the first to make her appearance in race eight. The daughter of Conway Hall-Bravissima, who is co-owned by Purple Haze Stables, her trainer Steve Pratt and Nancy Pratt, had not tasted defeat since last July and was vying for her 10th consecutive triumph. Leaving from post position nine, the 1-9 favorite and Gregory were content to sit in third while allowing Ostrich Bay (Scott Zeron) to cut the first quarter of the mile, which went in a swift :26.2. Shortly before the half-mile pole, the duo decided it was time to strike the front and pulled to make their move.
The filly clicked off fractions of :55.2 and 1:24 and appeared to be firmly in command of the field of 10. David Miller and Celebrity Ruth (5-2), however, had their own plan on who would be in the winner's circle. Miller pulled his charge from third heading into the final turn and his filly had a full head of steam. She nearly drew alongside Barn Bella for a the briefest of instants before that rival assumed command in the blink of an eye to quickly place two lengths between herself and her closest pursuer.
From there on in it was never in doubt, as Barn Bella strode beautifully to the wire still two lengths ahead of her colleagues. Celebrity Ruth trotted gamely for her second place finish and Sunshine Delight (Brett Miller) closely mildly for third.
With the victory, which was the third fastest trotting mile of the season for 3-year-olds behind champions Ariana G (1:51.1) and Walner (1:51.2), Barn Bella is now a perfect six-for six this year and improved her record to 15-12-0. She has banked more than $350,000 during her career.
"Oh she ranks up there for sure (with the greatest horses Gregory has driven)," said her pilot in the winner's circle. "She is limited to what she is eligible to, but she is pretty much paid up to everything in New York, so she won't be able to go against the big girls, but with what she is doing here, she is sure making us happy."
Barn Bella paid $3.10 to win, while Celebrity Ruth offered $3.70 and Sunshine Delight provided $2.70 to her supporters.
Not to be outdone by a member of the fairer sex, Devious Man supplied his own statement victory to ponder if his dam, Miss Garland, may earn the lofty distinction of foaling two Hambletonian victors in race nine, as this Credit Winner colt is a half-sibling to Vivid Photo.
With Andy Miller at his customary position in the bike, Devious Man, the 4-5 public selection, left the gate from post six and followed leader Swell Chap (10-1, Brett Miller) behind splits of :26.2, :56.3 and 1:24.4 before Stick With Me Kid, (9-1) with Brian Sears at the lines pulled from the pocket. Devious Man exploded off that one's cover and in a flash, showed the eight other colts and geldings his heels at the top of the lane.
Second choice Bill's Man (7-2, Corey Callahan) made a furious rally from eighth, but could come no closer than several lengths before the finish line. Stick With Me Kid held for third in a photo between he and Bill's Man.
Owned by Story Inc. and the Andy Miller Stable, Devious Man is now three-for-three in 2017 and 15-10-1-1 lifetime. Trained by Julie Miller, the colt's purse money is now approaching the $500,000 mark and his time of 1:52.3 is a lifetime best.
Devious Man paid $4.70 to those who wagered upon him and Bill's Man was $3.00 to place. Stick With Me Kid provided the sum of $3.50 to his backers.
When asked after the event what the future plans where the colt, Miller minced no words.
"He did that easy, but the fractions were not real strong, so when he came off cover he just trotted to the wire," he said. "I'm not sure if we are going to Pocono next week (for the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial), but pointing him towards the Hambletonian is the goal and hopefully we have some luck there."
Pacing colts compete in NYSS action
In the first division ($30,450), Heavens Gait (David Miller) would win going away in the stretch by five lengths. The 3-year-old colt by Rock N Roll Heaven would be fourth going around the last turn. Pointomygranson (Brett Miller) took the lead just after the first quarter and controlled the pace with :55.1 at the half and 1:22.2 after three-quarters.
That is when Heavens Gait ($2.90) who is owned by John Cummins and trained by Nicholas Devita, looked like he was shot out of a cannon. Heavens Gait would fly right by taking a last quarter in :25.4 and finishing the mile in 1:49., which was a track record. Pointomygranson would finish second with Joe's Bid (Jim Morril Jr.) getting third.
Heavens Gait is a Rock N Roll Heaven-Booya Beach colt.
In the second division ($30,450) American Wiggle (Scott Zeron) would shock the field with a late four-wide move. Manattack (Chris Lems) would set the early fractions :26.4, :56.0, 1:23.1. Music Is Art (John MacDonald) would take over at the top of the stretch and it looked like then the favorite Serious Major (Jim Morrill Jr.) was poised to take the victory American Wiggle ($74.00) would make his move. American Wiggle (American Ideal) who is owned by trainer Eve Bergeron with Geoffrey and Mary Howles would wear them all down in the stretch to win in 1:51. Serious Major would take second with Art Major finishing third.
In the third division ($31,050) it was Funknwaffles (Brian Sears) winning rather easily. The 3-year-old colt by American Ideal, who is owned by Crawford Farms Racing and trained by John Butenshoen ,took over just before the half. Funknwaffles ($2.20) would hit the half in :55.4, three-quarters in 1:24.2 and win in 1:51:0. Rock It Scott (John Campbell) would come late to finish second with Twin B Cowboy getting third. The win was the 2016 NYSS standout and Grand Circuit competitor's first of the season.
Winning the fourth division race ($30,450), was In A Single Bound (Billy Dobson). Outkast Blue Chip (Jim Morrill Jr.), would take the first quarter in :26.3. In A Single Bound (Roll With Joe) was restless and took over the lead too take them to the half in :55.4. Owned by Dennis and Simone Noud while trained by Monica Krist, the 3-year-old would open up by four lengths after hitting three-quarters in 1:22.4. Talent Soup (Corey Callahan) would then take a charge at In A Single Bound ($6.00). In A Single Bound would win in 1:50.2 while Talent Soup would settle for second just a length short. Cultural Paradise (Brett Miller) finished third.
Vernon Downs returns for action on Thursday (June 22) at 6:45.