Looped from the gate and forced into brutal fractions of :25.2/:52.1—in the slop, no less—Racing Hill showed his talent and heart when he drew away from the field late and captured Saturday's $400,000 final of the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids at The Meadows in a career-best 1:48.4. The pocket-sitting Check Six could not improve his position in the lane and finished second, 2 1/4 lengths back, while Fernando Hanover was a ground-saving third.
Racing Hill entered the 50th edition of the Adios with the flashiest credentials, including his victory in the $500,000 Hempt Memorial final and second-place finishes in the finals of the North America Cup and the Meadowlands Pace. But if his rivals didn't appear up to the task of beating Racing Hill, it seemed that weather and the trip might do him in.
Rain punctuated by storms—the skies cleared shortly before the Adios went off—created a surface that proved tiring to some early leaders throughout the card. And Racing Hill, the 2-5 favorite, couldn't wrest the lead from Check Six until just before the three-eighths.
"The race was not going the way I wanted it to go," said winning driver Brett Miller. "I was expecting a few more people to leave and kind of shooting for the three hole. When that didn't happen, I said to myself, we're in trouble."
Miller had an even stronger reaction when he realized how fast Racing Hill was going.
"When I saw the time flash up," he said, "I wanted to throw up. I didn't think there was any way he could keep going. He goes to the half in :52.1 and keeps going. Horses don't do that."
Once he thwarted the first-over challenge of long shot Another Daily Copy, the son of Roll With Joe-Chasing Ideals opened up and had only the timer to beat. The win pushed his career bankroll to $970,028.
Tony Alagna, who trains Racing Hill for owner/breeder Tom Hill, said he expected a swift opening half-mile if only because his colt was facing five foes from the powerful Ron Burke stable.
"I didn't think they would let us get to the half in :55," Alagna said. "I knew they would make us earn it. I'm a big believer in watching drivers' body language. I was watching Brett in the bike, and he was telling me that he felt he had something left."
Alagna said he plans to give Racing Hill two weeks off before his next engagement, the Battle of the Brandywine.
Manhattan Beach took fourth and More Dragon fifth, meaning that Burke, who entered six horses in Adios 50 and saw five advance to the final, finished 2-3-4-5.
Did he find that frustrating or satisfying?
"Definitely satisfying," Burke said. "My horses raced well. Racing Hill was unbelievable."
Miller entered Adios 50 as the leading money-winner in the history of the event among drivers who had never won an Adios final. With the victory, he vaulted to eighth on the all-time Adios earnings list with $562,286.
Although the track was sloppy, Racing Hill matched the time of last year's winner, Dude's The Man. They're tied for the fourth-fastest Adios final.