The Great Northeast Series rolled on Sunday at Harrah's Philadelphia with the open pacers in action going for a purse of $30,000 each.
The first division featured the return of soon-to-be million-dollar pacer Mel Mara (Corey Callahan), who qualified sharply in 1:51.3 here in preparation for his return. His bid for victory at first asking as a 9 year old was hampered by a break after the quarter due to a broken hobble hanger.
The day belonged to the Jake Leamon trainee Rockeyed Optimist (Brett Miller) who was making his third start off of a layoff. The 7-year-old gelded son of Rocknroll Hanover was content to sit behind the speed of early pacesetter Barimah A (Andy Miller) before beginning a first-over grind just shy of the half.
After a spirited battle for the lead, Rockeyed Optimist was able to sustain his bid, winning by a neck in 1:50.2 over a hard charging Always At My Place (David Miller). Feeling Cam Lucky (George Napolitano Jr.) finished third. The fractions were :26.4, :56, and 1:23.1.
Rockeyed Optimist won for the 31st time in his career for the ownership group of Anthony Perretti, Virginia Berkner, Joseph Battaglia, and the A And B Stable. His earnings are now over $625,000.
The second division featured the North American debut of Heaven Rocks A (David Miller). The overseas purchase of the Let It Ride Stables, Dana Parham, and Misty Miller was coming off a solid 1:51.1 qualifier at the Meadowlands, which included a :26.3 final quarter versus freshman champion pacer Lost In Time.
At the start, it was the two outside horses put into play early. Western Fame (Mark MacDonald) crossed over from post eight, but was quickly overtaken by the red-hot Rodeo Romeo (George Napolitano Jr.). After enjoying a mostly uncontested lead, he was engaged by Heaven Rocks A at the eighth pole, but was able to gamely hold off the overseas import to win by a neck in 1:49.4. Boston Red Rocks (Brett Miller) finished third.
It was the 13th career win for the 6-year-old son of Rocknroll Hanover, and his fourth win in his last five starts. It was his second straight triumph in the series. He is owned by Oompa's Farm and Bob Mondillo, and trained by Chris Ryder. (Harrah’s Philadelphia)