by James Witherite, Tioga Downs racing media
Eight top three-year-old pacers will contest the first jewel of pacing's Triple Crown, the 60th Cane Pace, and nine top drivers will contest the second half of the Vernon/Tioga Drivers' Championship on a blockbuster Labor Day (Monday, September 1) card at Tioga Downs.
He's Watching brings a four-race win streak into the $437,325 Cane Pace, carded as Monday's ninth race. Since fading to third in the North America Cup, the son of American Ideal proved a powerful 1:46.4 winner in the Meadowlands Pace and an equally dominant 1:49.1 winner in the Empire Breeders Classic, taking the eliminations for each respective event as well. Usual driver Tim Tetrick has once again been listed by trainer David Menary. He's Watching is one of three $35,000 supplemental entries, along with Luck Be Withyou and Lyons Somewhere.
Among those looking to deny He's Watching the first jewel of pacing's Triple Crown are Milstein runner-up Luck Be Withyou and North America Cup winner JK Endofanera.
Luck Be Withyou, the Chris Oakes-trained son of Western Ideal, chased McWicked in the $400,000 Milstein at Northfield two weeks ago, finishing in a dead heat for second with McWicked, just three-quarters of a length behind eventual winner All Bets Off, who pounced up the open stretch. Ron Pierce is listed to drive the nine-time winner.
JK Endofanera, the lone millionaire in the field, rebounded well from a sixth-place finish in the Meadowlnads, taking second in the Empire Breeders Classic before scoring a 1:50.1 Geers Stake win locally. Ron Burke has listed Brian Sears to handle the driving duties.
Ten three-year-old pacing fillies entered the Shady Daisy, which will be raced as a single $124,325 dash in the afternoon's seventh race. Fancy Desire, a $7,500 supplemental entry, leads the full field, having won the $300,000 James Lynch at Pocono in 1:49.3 among seven other career wins. Mark MacDonald has been nominated by trainer Kevin Carr to drive the Real Desire filly. Geers winner Katie Said (Marcus Miller), Pennsylvania standout Tyra (Tim Tetrick nominated), and stakes-placed Gallie Bythe Beach (John Campbell nominated) are also among the Shady Daisy entrants.
Eight distaff trotters will vie for their share of $40,000 in a Miss Versatility preliminary event, carded as the third race. Divisional standout Maven returned to her winning ways in a Preferred event at Pocono last week, struggling in prior events since returning to the States after a sixth-place finish in the Elitloppet. The Jonas Czernyson trainee will be reunited with regular driver Yannick Gingras, and will race as part of a three-mare entry with stablemates D'Orsay (Corey Callahan) and Ma Chere Hall (David Miller). Classic Martine, who has found her way into the spotlight as of late with wins in the Armbro Flight and Ima Lula events, also draws into the star-studded event, with Tim Tetrick listed to drive the Chris Oakes-trained daughter of Classic Photo.
In addition to the high-profile stakes action, nine of the premier drivers in the sport complete the Vernon/Tioga Drivers' Championship, with the first round taking place on Friday (August 29) at Vernon Downs. As in years past, the overall winner of the nine-race tournament takes home a $25,000 first prize--the equivalent of the commission for winning a $1,000,000 race. All nine drivers additionally will donate their commissions to charity.
Tioga Downs honors last year's Driver's Championship winner Jim Marohn, Jr. with a bobblehead giveaway. Fans can receive their bobblehead, as well as a Drivers' Championship t-shirt (while supplies last) at the promotions table on the tarmac prior to and during the races. Post time for the 11-race card is 1:30 p.m. EDT.