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M Life Rewards finals set for Monday at Yonkers

July 20, 2020
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A pair of $60,000 series finals and $30,000 consolations headline the Monday night program at Yonkers Raceway. The M Life Rewards Ladies and M Life Rewards Gents Pacing Series will each conclude after being interrupted and postponed by the efforts to contain the coronavirus in March.

The M Life Rewards Ladies Pacing Series was originally scheduled with three preliminary legs March 2, 9, and 16 with a $50,000 added final March 23. However, due to the coronavirus lockdown that halted racing at Yonkers beginning March 10, only the first two preliminary legs were contested. A pair of 4-year-old mares top the standings heading into the rescheduled final, Affluent Seelster and I’m Very Special, who each won divisions of both preliminary legs.

Affluent Seelster took advantage of a pocket trip from the inside post position to post a 33-1 upset in her division of the first preliminary leg March 2. The Paul Stafford trainee utilized a :28.2 final quarter to track down pacesetter North Star Ideal in a neck victory. Affluent Seelster proved the shocking result was no fluke when she repeated a week later as the 3-5 favorite.

Affluent Seelster has made three starts since harness racing resumed in the Northeast, most recently connecting with a head win on the front end in a $12,800 overnight at Harrah’s Philadelphia July 8. Affluent Seelster drew post four in the M Life Rewards Ladies Pacing Series final and is 9-2 on the morning line with Brent Holland programmed to drive.

Unlike Affluent Seelster, I’m Very Special was heavily favored in her divisions of both preliminary legs of the M Life Rewards Ladies Pacing Series and made good both times for trainer Peter Pellegrino and driver Jason Bartlett. The American Ideal daughter scored by two lengths in the first leg, second division and three-quarters of a length in her second leg split, each time clocking 1:53.4 with a :27.3 final quarter.

I’m Very Special has a pair of placings at the Meadowlands and Harrah’s Philadelphia June 24 and July 3, respectively since returning to racing post-lockdown. In her latest start July 16 at Yonkers, she finished sixth in the non-winners of $25,000 last five condition. I’m Very Special drew post eight in the M Life Rewards Ladies Pacing Series Final and is 8-1 on the morning line.

Although sixth in the series standings after a narrow loss to Affluent Seelster in leg one and a fifth-place finish in the second leg, North Star Ideal was installed as the 6-5 morning line favorite in the final. The Tom Milici-owned and trained mare qualified an 11 3/4-length winner locally June 29, pacing a 1:55.3 mile with a :27.3 final quarter. The Western Ideal daughter then posted a front-stepping win in 1:53.4 in a $13,500 Yonkers overnight July 13.

North Star Ideal drew the inside post in the $60,000 final and will employ the driving services of Matt Kakaley after Jason Bartlett opted for I’m Very Special. Kakaley drove North Star Ideal to a pair of open-length victories at Yonkers earlier this year before Greg Merton piloted in the preliminaries and Bartlett drove last time out.

Like its distaff companion series, the M Life Rewards Gents Pacing Series was originally scheduled with three preliminary legs beginning weekly March 3 and culminating in a final March 24. As the March 10 Yonkers program was the first to fall to the coronavirus lockdown, only the first preliminary leg was contested. There were four divisions of the series first leg, and all four winners from those four splits entered the final.

Semi Tough overcame post seven in the first division of the preliminary leg to post a 1 1/4-length victory in 1:54.2. Trained by Ron Burke, the 4-year-old Somebeachsomewhere son competed in legs of the Graduate Pacing Series at Tioga Downs and the Meadowlands June 21 and July 4, respectively, before posting a 1:51.1 win in a $10,400 Meadows overnight in his most recent start July 13.

Semi Tough drew post six in the M Life Rewards Gents Pacing Series Final and is 7-5 on the morning line for driver George Brennan.

The Andrew Harris-trained Tap Tap Tap took advantage of a pocket trip to track down heavily favored rival East Beach in the second division of the preliminary leg to post a mild 4-1 upset in 1:54. A homebred for S S G Stable, Tap Tap Tap finished seventh from post seven, beaten 3 3/4 lengths in the non-winners of $25,000 last five condition at Yonkers in his return June 25. Tap Tap Tap was caught as the pacesetter in his most recent start in a $9,000 overnight at Harrington July 13.

Tap Tap Tap and driver Jason Bartlett will start from post one in the M Life Rewards Gents Pacing Series Final. The pair are 5-2 on the morning line.

The third M Life Rewards Gents Pacing Series preliminary leg division went to Razor’s Edge by a nose over Lying In Cash and Shamma Lamma, who dead-heated for second in a blanket finish. Razor’s Edge was trained by Ron Burke when last seen at Yonkers in the preliminary, but since moved to the Gilbert Garcia-Herrera stable.

Razor’s Edge finished second in a dead heat for his new conditioner in a $13,600 overnight at Pocono Downs June 27 and was up the track in his last start at Harrah’s Philadelphia July 12 after starting from post eight. He is 20-1 on the morning line for Austin Siegelman and will start from post five.

Virgin Storm was the only wire-to-wire winner in the series preliminary, having scored by three-quarters of a length for Jason Bartlett and Chris Marino. Now in the barn of Michael Spaccarelli Jr., Virgin Storm has been racing in the Pocono conditions and was most recently third on Independence Day. Mike Simons will drive Virgin Storm in the final at 12-1. (SOANY)

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