by James Witherite, Tioga Downs racing media
Classic winners He’s Watching and JK Endofanera gave a thrilling battle through a :54.3 last half-mile in their $12,500 Empire Breeders Classic elimination on Sunday (August 3) afternoon at Tioga Downs, and while He’s Watching eked out a half-length win, the rivalry will continue in next week’s $255,525 final.
With a mid-card rain squall downgrading the track to sloppy, He’s Watching ($2.90) made a first-over push against pacesetting JK Endofanera (Brian Sears) after a :56.3 half mile. The two champions were locked in battle for the final three-eighths of the mile, tracked intently by Capital Account (Yannick Gingras) through three-quarters in 1:24.0. In the final hundred yards, He’s Watching pushed his head just past, prevailing in 1:51.1 in rein to Tim Tetrick. JK Endofanera proved valiant in defeat, while Capital Account kept pace well enough to hold third. Western Conquest (Marcus Miller) stayed on for fourth from a midpack stalking trip, guaranteeing a berth in the final.
He’s Watching, trained by David Menary for Menary Racing, Inc., Brad Gray, Michael Guerriero, and the Muscara Racing Trust, will start from post 3 in next week’s final, as selected by his connections.
Earlier on the card, Tetrick took the other Empire Breeders Classic elimination for three-year-old pacing colts and geldings, sustaining a first-over bid with Winds of Change ($18.00) en route to a three-quarter length win over a late-charging Neat (Marcus Miller) in 1:50.2. Twin B Speedo (Mark MacDonald) and Forty Five Red (Yannick Gingras) completed the first four finishers of the earlier elimination.
Linda Toscano trainee Winds of Change will start from post 1 in the final for owners Brittany Farms and Val D’Or Farms.
Of the fifth-place colts and geldings, Ideal Magic was drawn by lot into the final, while Archetto Hanover will be the also-eligible.
While “The Intimidator” swept the colt eliminations, the two eliminations for three-year-old pacing fillies both went to Brian Sears.
Sears’s first-over drive aboard Precocious Beauty ($5.40) was enough to wear down pacesetter It Was Fascination (Scott Zeron) and subsequently stave off a stalking charge from Delightful Dragon (David Miller) in the 1:51.4 second elimination, while It Was Fascination and the ground-saving Just Fine (Jimmy Whittemore) rounded out the top four.
Precocious Beauty, trained by Gregg McNair for owner James Avritt, Sr., will start from post 3 in next week’s $244,875 distaff final.
Sears teamed up with Major Dancer ($4.40) to win the earlier elimination for fillies, sweeping to the fore in the final yards for a 1:51.4 victory, chased home by Blush Hanover (Jim Morrill, Jr.). Pacesetting longshot Medusa (Tim Tetrick) held third after being gathered in, while A La Notte Hanover (David Miller) mounted a late rally to round out the top four.
The Casie Coleman-trained Major Dancer will start from post 2 in next week’s final for Coleman’s West Wins Stable, Mac Nichol, and Adriano Sorella.
Of the fifth-place fillies, Suplemental Income was drawn by lot into the final, while Table Talk will be the also-eligible.
Both Empire Breeders Classic finals will be contested next Sunday afternoon, August 10.
In addition to the Empire Breeders Classic eliminations, a pair of Geers Stake events were held for two-year-old pacing colts and fillies, respectively.
Cashaway ($4.60, Tim Tetrick) held sway in 1:53.1 in her $31,607 division, narrowly holding off a late charge from Crescent City (Mark MacDonald), who was blocked from the pocket until all but the final 40 yards. JK She’salady (Yannick Gingras) triumphed in the earlier division, making a bold first-over move to beat Single Me (Tim Tetrick) in 1:54.0.
In a $39,182 division for colts and geldings, Dealt a Winner ($2.50, Brian Sears) pushed clear late off a first-over trip, edging clear from Western Pioneer (David Miller) and keeping a chasing My Hero Ron (Marcus Miller) at bay for a 1:54.2 win, while Rock n’ Roll World (David Miller) pounced from the pocket to beat Sonofa Sizzle (Dan Daley) 1:54.2 in a $38,682 split raced as an early non-wagering event.
Live racing returns to Tioga Downs on Saturday (August 9) evening, with first post slated for 6:15 p.m. EDT.