McWicked tries for third Franklin title
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No horse has ever captured multiple Ben Franklin Pace trophies, and elimination winners Western Fame and Lather Up are among the group of eight older male pacers that will try to keep returning champion McWicked from becoming the first. Western Fame is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s (June 29) $500,000 Ben Franklin final at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono while Lather Up is the 4-1 third choice behind McWicked at 3-1.
Western Fame won the faster of last week’s two eliminations, defeating This Is The Plan by three-quarters of a length in 1:48.1. It was Western Fame’s first start in seven weeks, following a fifth-place finish in an invitational at Pocono. Prior to that loss, the 6-year-old stallion reeled off four consecutive victories on his way to claiming the Levy Memorial Pacing Series championship at Yonkers.
“He’s back like he was early in the year,” said Western Fame’s driver, Dan Dube. “You never miss a week (in the six-week) Levy and it’s tough. He had a little bit of time off and he’s fresh right now. I think if we get some racing luck, the horse is good, we should be all right.”
Western Fame, who starts from post four on Saturday at Pocono, has won six of nine races this season and banked a career-high $466,300. For his career, Western Fame has won 22 of 76 starts and $1.50 million. Rene Allard trains the horse for owners Go Fast Stable, Stephen Klunowski, B & I Stables, and Gilbert Short.
“He’s done everything right,” Dube said about Western Fame, who has hit the board in eight of his nine races this season. “I like everything about him. He’s got good gate speed and when you turn for home, he goes again. He’s just a nice horse.”
Lather Up won his Ben Franklin elimination by a neck over Springsteen in 1:50.1. The 4-year-old stallion has won four of six races this season and earned $95,960 for trainer Clyde Francis and breeder/owners Barbara and Gary Iles. He will start Saturday from post seven with regular driver Montrell Teague.
“You never want to be outside that far,” Teague said. “Usually when there is that much money on the line they mix it up; that’s what I’m hoping for, anyway. But you never know how it’s going to work out.”
Lather Up was one of the sport’s top 3-year-olds in 2018, with his 11 wins including the North America Cup. He is among four 4-year-olds in the Franklin’s nine-horse field. A 4-year-old has won the Ben Franklin four times in its 12-year history, with the most recent being Luck Be Withyou in 2015. The others came in succession: Vintage Master (2010), We Will See (2011) and Betterthancheddar (2012).
For his career, Lather Up has won 19 of 31 races and $1.06 million.
“Judging from last year, I didn’t think he would have a problem going to the open ranks and going against older horses,” Teague said. “He’s proved it so far. He’s come back and is winning races and it can’t get much better than that. He’s matured (from last year) and it seems like he’s still got the same kind of speed. He was one of the better ones last year so I thought it would translate to the open ranks.”
The remaining 4-year-olds in the Franklin are Springsteen, This Is The Plan, and Dorsoduro Hanover, who was the 2018 Dan Patch Award winner for best 3-year-old male pacer.
McWicked, who leaves from post one Saturday with Brian Sears at the lines for trainer Casie Coleman, finished third in the Franklin elimination won by Lather Up. The 2018 Horse of the Year has one win and two third-place finishes in three starts this season. The 8-year-old stallion could become the first repeat winner of the Franklin but would not be the oldest. That distinction is shared by Foiled Again and Keystone Velocity, who were both 9.--By Ken Weingartner/USTA
Following is the field for the $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace.
1-McWicked-Brian Sears-Casie Coleman-3/1
2-Springsteen-Simon Allard-Rene Allard-5/1
3-Beckhams Z Tam-David Miller-Jamie Macomber-10/1
4-Western Fame-Dan Dube-Rene Allard-5/2
5-This Is The Plan-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-6/1
6-Miso Fast-Corey Callahan-Virgil Morgan Jr.-15/1
7-Lather Up-Montrell Teague-Clyde Francis-4/1
8-Duplicated N-Tim Tetrick-Jim King Jr.-20/1
9-Dorsoduro Hanover-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-12/1