With bright stars abundant in the night sky at Pompano Park on Wednesday night (Feb. 21), three of those stars--two of the equine kind--came down to earth as Modern Mercury and Born To Thrive took top honors in their respective $11,000 Open trots. The third star was human kind as owner John Campagnuolo basked in the starlight as owner of both and, for good measure, scored the hat trick as his Groovey Kid won in the class just below the Open.
Modern Mercury, handled by Wally Hennessey for trainer Rob Harmon and owner Campagnuolo (or J.C., as he is known around the track) took command at the opening :28.2 stanza and went on to post panels of :57.1 and 1:26.4 before a solid :28.4 finale sealed the deal in 1:55.3 over She's All In, driven by Rick Plano. Second Sister, with Jim Meittinis handling her lines, was third while Diamond Dagger finished fourth. Vicki All picked up the final minor award in the classy septet.
Said Hennessey after the race, "She (Modern Mercury) is finally getting confidence in herself. Her only other win this yeara was on the front end so I thought maybe I'd try that again tonight. She's always been right there with them off the pace but never seemed to have the confidence in herself to pass them from off the pace when things get serious.
"Tonight, she really showed me that she has confidence in her game. It was an excellent performance."
The 5-year-old daughter of Donato Hanover now has a pair of wins in eight starts, good for $16,500. Her lifetime bounty now stands at $111,375.
As the lukewarm 5-2 favorite, Modern Mercury paid $7.20 to win.
Born To Thrive, the sharp 5-year-old gelded son of Swan For All, came from dead last in his field, trotting his final three-quarters in 1:24.2 for catch-driver John MacDonald to pin a two-length defeat in 1:54 on Boli, making his 2018 debut for Wally Hennessey. Sooo Handsome, fresh off his two world record performance at the shorter five-eighths mile distance at Pompano, was third, 2-1/2 lengths away for Rick Plano, after carving up numbers of :28, :57.1 and 1:25.1.
Uncle Hanover was fourth while BJAnthony picked up the nickel in the field of seven.
Trainer Plano explained using catch-driver MacDonald, remarking, "They don't have 'team-to-pole' racing at tracks--yet," he said, "so, since I train both Sooo Handsome and Born To Thrive, I had to take Sooo Handsome since my wife owns all of that one.
"Johnny (MacDonald) does know Born To Thrive so I asked him to drive and do the best he could with him. He's a very good racehorse, you know, and you can do anything with him. When I left out of there with Sooo Handsome, I figured he'd be at the back but the pace was reasonable, so he really had to rock late to get there. Very proud of his performance."
Campagnuolo owns along with Victor Contento and Maryann Plano and the horse now shows a 7-5-1-0 scorecard in 2018 with $24,900 in earnings. Lifetime, Born To Thrive has banked $221,238.
At 2-1 when the bell started, Born To Thrive paid $6.80 to win.
Groovey Kid, trained by Dan Hennessey for Campagnuolo, gave "J.C." his hat trick by extending his winning streak to two with a 1:56.2 for Wally Hennessey. The 7-year-old altered son of Cincinnati Kid dug in late to hold off Jack Rules (Andy Santeramo) by a head. Winemaster Hanover (Peter Wrenn) finished third.
Groovey Kid paid $8.00 as second choice in the betting.
The mid-week program also produced some explosive payoffs as College Major, driven by Ricky Macomber, Jr., lit up the tote-board with a $95.40 mutual keying a trifecta payoff of $10,194.80 and a 20-cent superfecta bonanza of $8,588.88.
One race later, driver Sergio Corona piloted Cowboy Hall to a $76.60 win, resulting in a 20-cent pentafecta payout of $5,997.98.
Those events triggered a Pick-5 carryover of $7,351.92 and a $25,000 guaranteed pool for the Saturday night Pick-5 covering races one through five. (Pompano)