By Ray Cotolo, for The Red Mile
LEXINGTON, KY— Freshmen colt trotters occupied the Friday night card at The Red Mile, with four divisions of the $396,000 Bluegrass Stakes contested on September 26. Habitat and The Bank put in the quickest miles of the four divisions contested.
William Wellwood champion Habitat once again reigned supreme, this time by ¾ lengths over Honor And Serve and Cruzado Dela Noche in 1:53.4.
The early tempo setter was Honor And Serve, leading Canappealformore and Habitat through a :28.2 first quarter. Yannick Gingras soon gave Habitat the cue to circle by his foes, clearing the field slightly after a :57.4 (:29.2) half.
Boots N Chains gradually progressed to Habitat’s wheel around the far turn. Habitat, through three-quarters in 1:26.3 (:28.4), began to draw away from his competitors. Cruzado Dela Noche, traveling second over, fanned off cover and began a bid down the center of the course, while Honor And Serve snuck out of the pocket. Yet, they were runner-up as Habitat held on in a lifetime-best of 1:53.4 (:27.1).
A son of Conway Hall-Habit’s Best-Muscles Yankee, he’s owned by Burke Racing Stable, Out Horse Cents Stables and Weaver Bruscemi, trained by Ron Burke and driven by Yannick Gingras.
“I think he was as sharp, but he was maybe too sharp,” Yannick Gingras said in regards to Habitat’s margin of victory. “He was a little keen tonight. Usually, he lets me do what I want with him. He's usually two fingers to drive, but he was a little wound up tonight, and I think that cost him a little bit of energy.
“Coming to the top of the stretch, I knew I had a big last quarter left in him, but Honor and Serve and that horse Dave was driving [Cruzado Dela Noche] are two quality horses as well. He was 1-5, but it was no 'gimme,' there was good horses in here.”
Pulling first over nearing the half, The Bank gradually grew closer to the front and eventually passed Piercewave Hanover in a 1:53.4 mile.
Sent for the top was One Direction, with Piercewave Hanover taking the pocket. Past the quarter in :28.3, Piercewave Hanover swept to the top. Yannick Gingras tried to ration his speed as he trotted the half-mile in :56.2 (:27.4).
Around the far turn, The Bank began to charge towards pacesetter. He remained 3 lengths off the lead through a 1:25.1 (:28.4) third quarter.
Shortening in stride, Piercewave Hanover’s lead slowly diminished. The Bank was rallying down the center of the track and went by Piercewave Hanover in the final strides to win by a ½ length in 1:53.4 (:28.3), a lifetime best.
Earning $64,810 this season, the son of Donato Hanover-Lantern Kronos-Viking Kronos is owned by Christina Takter and Goran Falk and is trained and driven by Jimmy Takter. Sent off the public choice, he paid $4.80 to win.
“I know my horse is extremely honest and I haven't used him at all,” Jimmy Takter said. “I kind of got a little bit messed up at the start; I didn't want to rush him out of the gate. He can leave very good, but I just felt like I wanted to race him from behind because he's not really sharp enough for cutting it.”
Southwind Stryker defeated Peter Haughton winner Centurion Atm in a 1:53.4 effort.
The lead was occupied by Walter White, who led Whataworkout, Mercury Fashion, Centurion Atm, and Southwind Stryker respectively past a :28.3 first quarter. He remained in control through a :57.3 (:29) half, but Centurion Atm was grinding towards him first over.
Southwind Stryker tracked Centurion Atm around the far turn as he battled with Walter White for control. After a 1:26 (:28.2) third quarter, Centurion Atm gained control.
Centurion Atm was trying to gain separation from Southwind Stryker, but instead began to brace for his challenge. The two were stride for stride in the final hundred yards and at the line, Southwind Stryker had a nose on Centurion Atm, with Wicker Hanover finishing fourth, but placed third due to a lapped-on break by third-place finisher, placed fourth, Whataworkout.
The son of Muscle Hill-Soxeelady-Conway Hall paid $10 as he triumphed over the 1/5 favorite. He’s owned by Brad Maxwell, Paul Van Camp, Herb Liverman, and, trained by Brad Maxwell, and was driven by Tim Tetrick. Breaking his maiden, Southwind Stryker established a lifetime best of 1:53.4, and has earned $99,641 lifetime.
“That horse that I was following [Centurion Atm] has some go,” driver Tim Tetrick said. “My horse has been racing, and his [Ake Svanstedt’s] horse had a big break and only one qualifier, but my horse had to earn it. If I had been third over, it would have been tough to catch him, but the trip worked out perfectly.”
Billy Flynn remained undefeated after a game stretch battle with 8/5 second-choice Muscle Diamond, traveling wire-to-wire in 1:55.4.
Taking the lead was Gabe The Bear Dean as the octet trotted into the first turn. Billy Flynn tracked him from second, with Suit And Tie traveling third. Pilot Brett Miller gave the cue for Billy Flynn to circle by the 30-1 shot, clearing control in a :29.2 first quarter.
Billy Flynn turned the march to the half into a stroll, reaching that station in :58.1 (:29.4). Suit And Tie broke from third, causing confusion with Progression and Muscle Diamond. Regardless, Muscle Diamond began his charge towards favored Billy Flynn entering the far turn. The two hooked up to duel at three-quarters in 1:28.3 (:30.2).
The battling Billy Flynn and Muscle Diamond edged 3 lengths clear of Progression trotting in third. As Muscle Diamond appeared to get a nose in front, Billy Flynn fought back at the inside and managed, not only to retake the lead, but extend his margin of victory to a length over Muscle Diamond in 1:55.4 (:27.1).
A $2.80 winner, Billy Flynn, a son of Cantab Hall-Zeta Jones-Enjoy Lavec, is owned by Bender Sweden Inc., trained by Staffan Lind and driven by Brett Miller. He has now earned $312,057 this season.
“He’s done everything right so far,” trainer Staffan Lind said. “I hope he can stay on track. It’s a long season with a lot of races, so whenever you can steal one is good.”
Uncle Lasse, a full-brother to Dan Patch champion Shake It Cerry, was victorious in 1:54.1 over Guess Whos Back.
Getting away in the pocket, Uncle Lasse soon pulled two wide and circled around early pacesetter Iron. After a
quarter in :28.2, Uncle Lasse cleared the front. He was uncontested through a :57.3 (:29.1) half and strolled to three-quarters in 1:27 (:29.2).
Sugarmakesmecrazy began to pursuit Uncle Lasse, with Guess Whos Back following second over. Guess Whos Back managed to swing off his cover and take second, while Sugarmakesmecrazy chased in third. Uncle Lasse won by a length in 1:54.1 (:27.1), a lifetime best.
Owned by Solveig’s Racing Partners, trained by Jimmy Takter, and driven by Ron Pierce, he paid $4.60 to win. He has earned $203,279 this season.
“He was super sharp, a little on edge,” Ron Pierce said. “He's good feeling colt, a little edgy, but his gait was flawless and he had plenty of trot.”
Racing resumes on Saturday, September 27 with the $331,000 Bluegrass for two-year-old colt pacers, $185,200 Bluegrass for three-year-old colt pacers, and the $146,600 Bluegrass for three-year-old filly pacers. Post time is scheduled for 7:00pmEDT.
Race replays can be found on The Red Mile’s YouTube channel: Red Mile Harness.