The Sunday night (July 22) program at Running Aces featured the signature race of the 2018 season, the $50,000 Dan Patch
The top five finishers from each of the two July 8 eliminations lined up for battle with nine noses on the gate and one trailer in the second tier. The 10-horse field was deep with talent of both the equine and human variety, and the excitement in the air was palpable for the richest harness race to date in the state of Minnesota.
Immediately as the gate sped away from the field it was clear that this would be no ordinary race, as Nine Ways, who had established himself as a deep closer in his two local starts, was charging fastest off all towards the front for driver Sam Widger and they took command quickly. Fan favorite Firedrake (Nick Roland) was fast from the inside to secure the coveted pocket position, and it was race-on as the rest of the field scrambled for position going five-in and five-out past the quarter in :26.4.
Stevensville (Rick Magee) had fired from the seven post and was caught first-over, with Trashytonguetalker in the second-over slot (from post 10) as they passed the half in :54.1. Bettors Promise (Lemoyne Svendsen) had also left from post nine and was third-over heading to the five-eighths pole. Nuclear Dragon (Kyle Husted) vacated the fourth-over spot to try a three-wide backside sweep and Hawks Red Chief (Brian Detgen) was out and moving from last, while To The Limit was at the pylons in mid-field and I'm An Athlete (James Kennedy) was toward the back of the pack as well as Gold Star Mysti (James Yoder), who saved ground throughout.
Rounding the final bend, Nine Ways was keeping Trashytonguetalker at bay, with Firedrake a close pocket third. The three-quarter marker flashed a time of 1:22.2 and the outer flow began to deteriorate as they turned-in and straightened for home, with I'm An Athlete and Nuclear Dragon locking wheels in the lane.
Nine Ways was holding firm with a sixteenth to go, but Firedrake exploded from the pocket and To The Limit closed toward the pylons. For a split second, it appeared that Firedrake may be able to get by the longtime leader, but Nine Ways was determined and fought to the wire, keeping a neck in front and denying last year's Dan Patch FFA champion Firedrake from repeating for two straight titles. To The Limit was a strong third and the only mare in the field, Gold Star Mysti, who was tenth in the early stages, checked home a solid fourth. Trashytonguetalker picked up the final check after I'm An Athlete was disqualified for causing interference to Nuclear Dragon.
The final time of 1:51.1 for Nine Ways registered a new track record for 4-year-old pacing geldings, eclipsing the 1:51.2 record set last Sept. 3 by runner-up Firedrake.
Nine Ways is a Maryland-bred, by Delmarvalous and out of the Cam's Card Shark mare Nine Of Hearts, bred by Winbak Farm. Nine Ways ($11.40) is owned by Antonia Storer and trained by Denise Maier. He now shows four wins in 21 starts this season and has boosted his career bankroll to $126,441.
Racing returns to Running Aces on Tuesday night (July 24) with an 11-race program kicking off at 7 p.m. (CDT) and featuring two carryover pools: $3,652.57 in the 20-cent Jackpot Pick-5 and $1,873.72 in the 50-cent Hi-5 in race 10. (Running Aces)