Sister Sledge, Sweet Shirley Mae take last PASS leg
August 25, 2020
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Sister Sledge, last year’s Pennsylvania Sire Stakes two-year-old trotting filly champion, became the only horse in the classification to win two 2020 PASS prelims when she took one of two $92,392 divisions of the final preliminary for this group in 1:52.4 on Tuesday afternoon at The Downs at Mohegan Sin Pocono.
The Father Patrick filly let Next Level Stuff force SVF Blushingbride to take the two-hole going to a :27.2 quarter, then moved outside for driver Brian Sears and grabbed command in front of the stands. The pair hung up middle splits of :55.3 and 1:24.1, then coped with the late move of potential pocket rocket Next Level Stuff by a length. Ron Burke trains the winner of $728,849 for Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Jason Melillo, and J&T Silva- Purnel & Libby.
With the victory, Sister Sledge became her division’s final point leader, and thus is now in a position to accomplish in her championship (Philly, Sept. 6) what only two other horses in the 27-year history of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes have achieved: be their group’s top point winner and championship winner at both two and three. Unusually, both of these previous two were also trotting fillies: Coulatine in 2004-2005 and Frau Blucher in 2012-2013 (the latter winning her sophomore Championship in a dead-heat with archrival Classic Martine).
The Muscle Hill filly Sweet Shirley Mae earned herself a spot in the championship, being given a skillful drive by driver Andy Miller to work her way from between horses to go from last to first in the lane and take a new mark of 1:54.2. Sweet Shirley Mae, who had been third in her only other Sires appearance this year, won by a neck over first-over Fifty Cent Piece, who in turn photoed second-over Queen Of The Hill, who in turn photoed pocketsitter Sans Default. The Dominico Cecere-trained miss, owned by Moni Market Breeders, picked a good opportunity for her first victory since September 14 of last year at Lexington.
The unofficial final point totals for this class (contact the PA Horse Racing Commission for the official standings) calculate to: Sister Sledge, Next Level Stuff, Fifty Cent Piece, Sans Defaut, Crucial, Dip Me Hanover, Queen Of The Hill, Sweet Shirley Mae, Solsbury Hanover, and Miss McKee and Whose Blues (tied).
There were also three $20,000 divisions for this classification’s Stallion Series horses. Ron Burke will also have the likely favorite for this Championship as well, as his Muscle Hill pupil Dune Hill swept her preliminaries, winning her in 1:55.1 after racing three-wide a long way for driver Matt Kakaley, but nonetheless being handled confidently late. Dune Hill, owned by Joseph Di Scala Jr., will now look to join 2012 freshman trotting colt Smoother Ride and 2013 sophomore pacing colt Shock It To ‘Em (still the fastest StS Championship winner ever in 1:50.1) as the only horses in this competition to sweep their prelims and then take the final.
The Muscle Massive filly Miss McKee is in a unique position: she was 2-for-2 in the Stallion Series, including winning Tuesday in 1:55.1 as the pacesetter for driver George Napolitano Jr., trainer Jack Baggitt Jr., and J L Sadowsky LLC. But she also made two Sire Stakes starts and earned 35 points, tying her for tenth – you can’t declare for both, so does she take her spot in the Stallion Series final, or declare in the Sire Stakes, hope for good luck and slide into the rich Championship, or if not hope that a Consolation race fills?
The other Stallion Series winner, Sweet Tea, broke her maiden in 1:56 with a big stretch rally after an exhausting pace for driver Marcus Miller, trainer Steven Brabrook, and owner Stephen Klunowski, but with only a fifth in her sole other StS appearance, she also is “on the bubble” to get in the Championship only if others go elsewhere. At least she repaid her scattered backers with a $111.20 win mutuel on Tuesday.
The unofficial Stallion Series top 10 point-earners are: Dune Hill, Alittlebitofsugar, Perth Angel De Vie, Witchey Woman, Margot, Hannah, Miss McKee, Aunt Bee, Syrinx Minx, and Queso Fresco. (PHHA/Mohegan Sun Pocono)