BY FRANK DRUCKER, Publicity Director, Empire City @ Yonkers Raceway
YONKERS, NY, Saturday, October 19, 2013--It was generally a formful foray Saturday night, with Yonkers Raceway hosting eliminations for both the Messenger Stakes--final jewel of the Pacing Triple Crown--and its companion event, Lady Maud Pace.
Ten 3-year-olds--eight colts and two geldings--tried the Messenger, while 14 soph ladies went at in the Maud.
The first of two, $40,000 elims for the 58th Messenger saw 1-2 choice Sunfire Blue Chip (Yannick Gingas) prevail first-over. Away third from post position No. 3, he stayed there are Lonewolf Currier (Brian Sears) took over from Ronny Bugatti (catch-driver Dave Miller).
Those three appeared in some tight early quarters (:28 quarter) before "Lonewolf" made the lead. After a 56-second half. Sunfire Blue Chip made his methodical move. He engaged the leader in and out of the 1:23.4 three-quarters, with Lonewolf Currier taking a length lead into the lane.
However, he was surrounded on both sides, with "Sunfire" getting the best of "Ronny" by a head in 1:52. Lonewolf Currier was third--beaten a length, with Good Day Mate (Tim Tetrick) whipping Dedi's Dragon (George Brennan) for fourth...and a place in next week's final.
For Sunfire Blue Chip. a son of American Ideal trained by Jimmy Takter for co-owners Christina Takter, Brixton Medical, R A W Equine & Jim and John Fielding, he returned $3 for his eighth win in 18 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $23.4, and there was no triple wagering.
"He's become a lot better as the season has gone on," Gingras said of Sunfire Blue Chip. "He wasn't nearly this sound when he was here earlier (fourth in Art Rooney Pace). Now, all he needs is a path where no one's in front of him, either on the lead or first-up.
The second elim was simple enough for the gelding Lucan Hanover (Miller). Winning the draw, the 35-cents-on-the-dollar choice claimed the lead from Word Power (Brennan), then laid down the law through intervals of :27.4, :57, 1:25.1 and 1:52.2.
The final margin was a measured three-quarters of a length over Word Power, with a first-up Twilight Bonfire (catch-driver Tim Tetrick) third. Odds on Equuleus (Sears) won his private battle with Bet the Moon (Gingras) for fourth...and that invite for next week's finale.
For Lucan Hanover, a son of Western Ideal trained by Casie Coleman for West Wins Stable and Christine Calhoun, he returned $2.70 for his ninth win in 17 '13 tries. The exacta (two wagering choices) paid $6.40.
"He's just a lot more relaxed than he's been," Miller said. "I always try to score him down with a purpose just so he knows it's time."
Gingras and Miller took turns winning the elims for the Messenger after they alternated winning the eliminations for the Lady Maud.
Gingras, doing the honors with Charisma Hanover ($7.60) from post No. 3, blew past 7-10 fave Somwherovrarainbow (Sears) and won for fun...fun being 4¼ lengths in 1:51.4. That effort set a sew track record for her division.
Handsoffmycupcake (Dan Dube) chased home the winner, with Certified Ideal (Jim Pantaleano) and Parlee Beach (Tetrick) third and fourth, respectively, to earn their "come back" invites.
While "Rainbow" was stopping on the lead, it appeared that New York Sire Stakes champ Social Scene (Brennan) was choking down in the pocket. That tandem finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
"Charisma," a a daughter of Dragon Again co-owned (as Burke Racing by (trainer) Ron Burke and Weaver Bruscemi, she's now 10-for-16 this season. The exacta paid $146, with the triple returning $235.
"I never took the plugs out," Gingras said. "I know she went a big mile, but I expect her to be ready for (the final)."
Miller and Scandalous Hanover ($3.20)--a $15,000 supplemental entrant--worked around pole-sitting longshot Live Entertainment (catch-driver Gingras) right at a 28-second opening quarter.
After that, soft-subsections of :57.1, 1:26.1 and 1:54.3 give "Scandalous" a two-length victory. Antigua Hanover (Jason Bartlett) won the scrum for second, with Live Entertainment and Jerseylicious (Cory Callahan) also making the final.
"That (front end) is really not her game." Miller said. "She tends to wait on horses, but I take a chance and put her on the lead. She does like to win."
Scandalous Hanover, a Dragon Again miss, trained by Coleman for West Wins Stables and Adriano Sorella, is a .500 hitter (11-for-22) this season (6-for-7 since the barn change). The exacta paid $67, with the triple returning $205.
The draw both stakes finals, worth $450,000 and $176,684, respectively, takes place Tuesday afternoon.
The Raceway's five-night-per-week live schedule continues, with first post every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:10 PM. Evening simulcasting accompanies all live programs, with afternoon simulcasting available around the NYRA schedule.