By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness
Chip Lackey gave the Gene Vallandingham-trained Giant Sculpture a perfect drive in last week’s Open Handicap Pace, working out a two-hole trip with the son of Village Jolt and posting a four-length decision in a lifetime-best 1:52 clocking.
“I don’t have many winner’s circle pictures on my wall, but this is one I’ll be proud to put up there,” said the veteran Lackey. “Winning an Open Pace and having the picture taken with Gene and Lou Pena was very special.”
Vallandingham and Lackey go back to 1973, when Gene first came to California. “I went to work for Gene when he first got out here, and then I went back with him to Maywood Park the next year and he was the leading trainer.”
The victory with Giant Sculpture was the second in five starts with Lackey in the sulky. “The first time I drove him back in January he was 11-1 and put in a real game, first-over effort and got there by a nose. He had also put in some solid races coming into last week, giving me a good finish every time.”
According to Chip, post position played a big role in his strategy last week. “We had been drawing outside Doc’s Zippy every week and I didn’t want to battle with him early, but this time we were inside and I sent my horse and was able to work out a pocket trip.
“They may have been going :55 to the half that night, but I knew I had a ton of horse. I made sure to ease out a little early so we didn’t get trapped in, and he gave me a super kick. It was very gratifying to go out there and win a race like this for such great people.”
Sire Stakes, Open Pace, Jim Grundy Series on tap
A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for 3-year-olds that finds King Of The Crop and Rikybrnthegaragdown renewing their rivalry; the opening leg of the Jim Grundy Trotting Series featuring Donna Letsgo and an Open Pace are the main attractions at Cal Expo Saturday night.
King Of The Crop had to settle for second in the first stakes clash for the sophomore pacing colts on January 18, but has posed for pictures following the last two big-money events. The Little Steven homebred carries the banner of Frank Nevarez with James Kennedy doing the driving and training.
The bay performer left little doubt in the February 1 clash, drawing off by five and a half-lengths that evening in a snappy 1:55 1/5 mile. Backed down to 1-5 for the most recent gathering of this group two weeks ago, he had to work much harder as he opened up on the lead at the head of the lane and held by a head over Rikybrnthegaragdown.
The latter is by Living It Up out of the Sportsmaster mare Sports Bra and races for Maryann Plano with son Luke reining and training. He made every pole a winning in the first Sire Stakes of the season on January 18, was a distant third in the next one and then fell just short of catching his arch-rival in that last added-money affair two weeks ago. He returned last week to post a convincing score in a conditioned event.
Last week’s Open Pace saw Giant Sculpture pulling off the upset. He is a 6-year-old son of Village Jolt who carries the banner of A Piece Of The Action LLC, is conditioned by Gene Vallandingham and will once again be handled by Chip Lackey.
He was able to work out a perfect trip in the most recent clash at the head of the class, sitting the pocket and then exploding in the stretch for a four-length score in a lifetime-best 1:52 performance.
One And Only had to settle for the exacta completion that evening while leaving from the outside post as the 1-2 favorite for owners Richard Morita and David Yamada, conditioner Lino Pacheco and pilot Luke Plano. He rattled off five straight victories at this top rung between December 21 and January 21, including a score from the demanding No. 10 post