BY FRANK DRUCKER, Publicity Director, Empire City @ Yonkers Raceway
YONKERS, NY, Saturday, March 16, 2019—Saturday night’s (March 16th) opening round of Yonkers Raceway’s George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series offered a fair amount of form and a fair amount of ‘huh?’ among the Free-For-Allers,
A half-dozen, $50,000 groups were contested in succession.
Here’s the ‘wrap’ sheet…
First division—(resending this from previous, cleaning up some copy, adding driver of Somewhere in L A)
Say this much for Dan Dube…he appreciates timing.
Approaching his latest driving milestone for a while, Dube coordinated it just right, stylishly winning Saturday night‘s (March 16th) opener of Yonkers Raceway’s George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series.
His open-length romp with favored Western Ace ($4.40) not only served as the 9,000th win of his career, but threw down the Free-For-All series gauntlet as the fastest local mile (1:51.1) of the season.
From post position No. 4 Western Fame gave nothing else a shot through intervals of :27.1, :56.2 and 1:24.1. The two-length lead off the final turn became 5¾ lengths at the wire, helped by his fast feet and a scattering behind after a nasty break by Windsong Leo (George Brennan).
Somewhere in L A (Jason Bartlett) avoided the happenstance to end up second, with Mach it So (Brent Holland), Lyons Steel (Mark MacDonald) and Don Domingo N (Matt Kakaley) settling for the remainder.
For Western Fame, a 6-year-old son of Western Ideal co-owned by Go Fast and B&I Stables, Stephen Klunowski & Gilbert Short and trained by Rene Allard, it was his first win a pair of seasonal starts. The exacta paid $17.80, the triple returned $110 and the superfecta paid $967.
The Quebec-born Dube, turning 50 this June, was the main driver of Horses of the Year Gallo Blue Chip (2000) and Rock N Roll Heaven (2010). His career purse earnings exceed $119 million.
:”He (Western Fame) was ready for this mile,” Dube said. “I thought he’d race well. I heard something behind me (field scattering), but I was in front by a few lengths so I wasn’t worried about it.
“I’m obviously happy to get to this (9,000) number. When I came down from Canada, I never thought I’d have the success I’ve had.”
Second division—Odds-on Anythingforlove A (Joe Bongiorno, $2.70)—from post No. 3—who’d been doing his damage up front, sat pocketed to the returning Rockin’ Ron (Kakaley). The latter led through intervals of :27.4, 57.2 and 1:25.1, with his stalker pulling early.
Anythingforlove A finally dispatched the leader, then held off Somebaddude (Andy McCarthy) by three-quarters of a length in 1:53.4. Luciano A (Brennan) was third, with a tiring Rockin’ Ron and Pacing Major N (Jordan Stratton) rounding out the payees.
For Anythingforlove A, a 7-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven gelding owned by Wish Me Luck Stables and trained by Jennifer Bongiorno, it was his fourth win in seven seasonal starts. The exacta paid $11.80, the triple returned $45 and the superfecta paid $228.
“I was happy to sit behind Rockin’ Ron,” Joe Bongiorno said. “(Anythingforlove A) can’t be on the lead every week against these horses, so if I could get him an easier trip, I did.”
Third division—Pole-sitting Ideal Jimmy (Brent Holland, $20) went the distance (:27.4, 57.2, 1:24.4; 1:52.4) while 3-10 favorite Beckham’s Z Tam (Tim Tetrick) never seemed comfortable, winding up a non-factor fourth.
‘Beckham’ was away second, not wanting to take the lead while losing pocket contact down the backside.
“Tim (Tetrick) said the horse just sort of fell asleep in the pocket and he probably should have put him on the front and let him pace,” trainer Bruce Saunders said. “He seemed fine, but we’re going to scope him anyway.”
Mac’s Jackpot (Kakaley) closed for second, beaten a length at 38-1, with Micky Gee N (Scott Zeron), Beckham’s Z Tam and Sam’s a Champ A (Jim Marohn Jr.) earning the minors.
For third choice Ideal Jimmy, a 6-year-old homebred Western Ideal gelding owned by D R Van Witzenberg and trained by Erv Miller, it was his fourth win in seven ’19 tries. The exacta paid $373, the triple returned $2,388 and the superfecta paid $5,031.
Fourth division—“He’s the reason I came here tonight.”
Such was the pre-race assessment of driver McCarthy, who launched Rodeo Rock ($4.40) from second-over to win handily.
From post No. 4, Rodeo Rock watched 9-10 polester Duplicated N (Tetrick) take over from longshot Rodeo Romeo (Bartlett), then lead through soft (and flat) intervals of :28 and :57 before a 1:24.4 three-quarters. Rodeo Rock worked from behind I’m Some Graduate (Kakaley), then went wide after his target.
Duplicated N owned a length-and-a-half lead in and out of the final turn, but Rodeo Rock picked him off. The margin was three-quarters of a length in 1:52.4, with Rodeo Romeo, JJ Flyin’ (Brennan) and I’m Some Graduate coming away with the smaller envelopes.
For second choice Rodeo Rock, a 6-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven gelding owned by Royal Wire Products and trained by Robert Cleary, it was his second win in as many seasonal efforts. The exacta paid $7.80, the triple returned $82.50 and the superfecta paid $473.
Fifth division—Just-over-even-money favorite I’marocnrollegend N (Kakaley) literally and figuratively hit The Wall (Bongiorno, $41.60).
Winning the draw and sitting a three-hole through fractions of :26.3; 56.3 and 1:24.2, The Wall waited for a first-up Always at My Place (Brennan) to retreat before hanging a sharp right turn for clearance.
The Wall won a three-horse scrum by a head in a season’s-best 1:53, with I’marocnrollegend N second and a pocketed Bettor’s Fire N (Ron Cushing) third. Endeavor (Tetrick) and Rockathon (Stratton) also made coinage.
For rank outsider (sixth choice) The Wall, a 5-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding owned by J L Benson Stables and trained by Nick Surick, he’s now 2-for-8 this season. The exacta paid $92.50, the triple returned $325.50 and the superfecta paid $2,230.
“They were getting out of there quickly, so I had no choice but to be third,” Bongiorno said. I wasn’t going to come first-up and I was fortunate when (Always at My Place) tired to have room. This horse had had some bad draws and been in some bad spots, so it was good to save ground for once.”
Sixth division—A gritty (though not Philadelphia Flyer Gritty) first-up effort by favored More the Better N (Zeron, $4.70).
After pole-sitting Mar Nien A (Greg Merton) rebuffed quarter-move advances of Gokudo Hanover (Brennan), the former led through early substations of :27.1 and :56.4.
From post No. 3, More the Better N hooked Mar Nien A through a :27.4 third quarter (1:24.3), eventually putting that one away early in the lane. More the Better N held off a crisply-rallying Mach Doro A (Cushing) by a neck in 1:53.2. Gokudo Hanover, Bellow’s Binge (Bartlett) and Ballerat Boomerang (Tetrick) fell into line for the remainder, while Mar Nien A backpedaled to last among the octet.
For More the Better N, a 6-year-old Down Under son of Bettor’s Delight owned by Robert Cooper Stables and trained by Ross Croghan, it was his first win in a trio of ’19 tries. The exacta paid $45.40, the triple returned $257.50 and the superfecta paid $862.
Saturday night’s $44,000 Open Handicap Trot was won by a down-the-road Eye Ofa Tiger AS (Bartlett, $7.60) in 1:56
Mike Lizzi photos