For the 10th time in 11 starts since returning to Pompano Park, Panocchio, handled by Wally Hennessey, has taken top honors in Pompano Park's top pace—the $12,000 Open Handicap.
With temperatures in the cool 50's and the track rated "sloppy" on Sunday night, the 7-year-old gelded son of No Pan Intended scored a hard-earned half-length victory over Uncmprmising Z Tam, driven by Ricky Macomber Jr. with Respectable Dream, with Rick Plano in the bike, third, a length away. Drachan Hanover finished fourth in the classy quartet after a backside binge from the back of the pack to push his nose in front past the third station.
With the scratch of Bluehourpower, Panocchio was, as usual, sent winging when the gate sprang and took a clear lead around the opening turn, reaching the initial quarter in :27.2. After a second quarter breather that left Panocchio with a 1 ½-length advantage halfway through the mile in :56.3, the leader was forced to pick up the pace as Drachan Hanover brushed up strongly with a :27.1 panel of his own to poke a nostril in front at the third station in 1:24.3.
In the lane, Panocchio responded and put Drachan Hanover away, only to have attacks develop from both sides as Uncmprmising Z Tam slipped through along the inside with Respectable Dream charging on the other side.
But Panocchio, again, as usual, was up to the task on the strength of his :27.3 finale to score his fourth straight win.
After the event, winning driver Wally Hennessey remarked, "This horse always does his best---gives his best. The track was a couple of seconds off with all the rain today and this was no cakewalk and I think MacDonald's horse (Drachan Hanover) stuck his nose in front around the final bend.
"The great thing about Panocchio is that you don't have to get after him as he knows what to do himself when a horse comes along side. He digs in himself.
"It doesn't matter if he misses a week because Jimmy (trainer Mattison) doesn't train him hard—usually only around 2:30. But every time this horse steps on the track to go behind the gate, he's all business. Jim and (wife) Vicki are just great."
Co-owned by Jim Mattison, along with Emile Johnson, Panocchio is now four-for-four this semester, good for $24,000 and, now with 52 lifetime wins (31 at Pompano Park), the grand gelding now has a career bankroll of $421,368 to go along with his track record performance at Pompano of 1:48.3.
As the 1-10 favorite, Panocchio paid $2.20 to win.
In the $10,000 Open 2 Pace, First Of Itskind, with Macomber in the bike, scored in 1:52 for his first Pompano Park win in three tries.
Heart Felt was second for Bryce Fenn, three parts-of-a-length away, while Rockntouch closed stoutly along the inside to finish third, just a nostril or two further back.
First Of Itskind, a 6-year-old altered son of Western Terror, started from post eight and won an early war with Cadillac Phil and Heart Felt, taking command at the opening station in :27.1 and then wiring subsequent panels of :55.4 and 1:23.2 before holding off his main two challengers with a :28.3 finale.
Trained by Jason Robinson for owner Robert Main, First Of Itskind won for the 17th time in his career stretching 94 starts to send his lifetime earnings to $175,501.
As the 6-5 toteboard favorite, First Of Itskind returned $4.40 to win. (Pompano Park)