On a night that saw steady rain and heavy fog for most of the 13-race program, Western Joe emerged from the mist to explode by the field in the Meadowlands Saturday night feature, the $20,000 Preferred Pace.
Starznheaven, fresh off an upset win in this event one week ago at 22-1, made his way to the lead after the quarter and was still on the point at three-quarters in 1:23.2 while being pressed by 36-1 longshot Ponyta Boy.
Then the pace fell down.
Awesomeness, the even-money favorite, tipped off his live cover and was raging through the lane, on the way to what appeared to be an easy win.
But Western Joe had other ideas.
The 4-year-old son of Western Ideal, who won this race on Jan. 20 as the even-money choice, was forgotten in the wagering this time around, sent to the gate at 14-1, the sixth choice in the seven-horse field.
Driver Pat Berry handled Western Joe patiently, sitting a three-hole from the outset. He swerved off the rail in mid-stretch and exploded past the field using a final quarter of :27 to catch Awesomeness by a neck. Bettor’s Edge finished third.
Western Joe won for the third time in four starts this year and completed the mile in 1:50.4 for trainer Chris Choate and owner Anthony Ruggeri. He returned $30.20 to his backers.
The Early Jackpot Super High-Five resulted in a single-ticket winner. Even though 6-5 favorite Big Top Hanover won the ninth race, that one bettor walked away with a payout of $15,071.64. There were two players who lasted six legs in the 20-cent Survivor Pick-10, with each cashing in for $7,964.88. The Pick-4 saw a total pool of $78,199 and despite the middle two legs being won by favorites, the payout was $1,099.80 for a 50-cent bet. … All-source wagering was $2,463,011. The Late 20-cent Jackpot Super High-Five did not result in a single-ticket winner, swelling the carryover to $101,270.81. (Meadowlands)