Panocchio, making his 2014 debut here at Pompano Park on Saturday night, scored a gate-to-wire victory in 1:52 for Bruce Ranger.
The 4-year-old son of No Pan Intended, trained by Jim Mattison, who co-owns with Emile Johnson, put up panels of :27, :56.3 and 1:23.4 en route to the win, which measured a half length over Freeneasy Hanover (Wally Hennessey) with Yankees In Six (Matt Romano) third. Cartoonist, last turning for home, paced the fastest final quarter in the race--:27.3--to finish fourth while Rick's Sign, who made a threatening move around the final turn to pull along side the leader, picked up the nickel in the sextet, 2 1/2 lengths back.
In a post-race interview, driver Bruce Ranger said, "I drove him last year when he took his mark here at Pompano (1:50.4), so I knew he was a very nice horse and I had had driven him in a couple of qualifiers for Jim (trainer Mattison) the past couple of weeks and he seemed very strong, especially the last one when he paced in (1):54 and a piece with a last quarter in :27 and change. Jim said, 'I don't have to tell you how to drive him...you know what he likes,' so it looked like he was anxious to get the show on the road so I sent him. On the backside, when he heard the other horse coming, he grabbed on and got down to business. He performed great, especially for his first start."
Panocchio, who was lightly raced at two--winless in six starts--won eight times in 19 starts last year andearned $37,516. The win on Saturday night pushed his lifetime bounty over the $50,000 mark, now at $53,125.
As a slight 9-5 favorite, Panocchio paid $5.60 to win. (Pompano)