CHESTER PA – The fall stakes season at Harrah’s Philadelphia began on Sunday with four $30,000 divisions of the John Simpson Memorial Stake for three-year-old colts on both gaits.
Longtime Yonkers stalwart Jason Bartlett came to Philly on Sunday and won four races, three of them in stakes company. Two of the stakes triumphs came on the trot, including the fastest winner of the quartet, the Trixton colt Alternative Fact, who lowered his mark to 1:53.3 while notching his fourth straight win. Alternative Fact parked favored Explosivebreakaway a long way before yielding the lead, then rallied from the pocket to record a 1¼ length win over the pacesetter for trainer Ray Schnittker, who is also co-owner with Steven Arnold and Joe Sbrocco. In this race Steuben Hanover was interfered with just before the start and had all money wagered on him refunded.
The other two trotting stakes were taken by George Brennan, who has combined with “fellow shipper” Bartlett to win 635 races at Yonkers this year as the 1-2 drivers at the Hilltop. The faster of Brennan’s winners was the Muscle Mass gelding Cavill Hanover, who rallied past favored pacesetter Hatikvah by 1¼ lengths while taking a lifetime best of 1:54.4. Åke Svanstedt trains the winner of $190,815 for the ownership of Little E LLC, Wolfgang A Stable Inc., and Börje Näsström.
Muscle Massive, Muscle Mass’s full brother, sired the other of Brennan’s victors, the colt Mass Fortune K, who brushed to the lead in front of the stands then withstood pocketsitter Captain Krupnik by 1½ lengths while equaling his lifetime mark of 1:54.1. Norm Parker trains the winner, who went over $200,000 in lifetime earnings, for owner Robert Key.
The fastest of the four Simpson Stakes pacing winners was the Roll With Joe gelding Rollwithpapajoe, who also exceeded $200,000 in his career bankroll with a 1:50 engine score that featured back fractions of :54.1 - :26.3. The time was a lifetime best for the Joe Bongiorno-driven sophomore, trained by his sister Jennifer for Barbara Bongiorno Stable LLC, Bill Lambos and Dionisios Liberatos. Second in the fast mile was Meadowlands Pace winner Best In Show, who was 3½ lengths behind the winner and a neck ahead of Aflame Hanover, whose Pennsylvania Sire Stakes consolation victory was faster than the time of Championship winner Southwind Ozzi.
Another horse with national credentials, New York Sire Stakes final winner Hickfromfrenchlink, was the second successful trainer/driver teaming of Jason Bartlett and Ray Schnittker during the stakes-laden card, as the So Surreal colt notched his sixth straight win in a 1:50.3 – 54.2 mile that saw second-place Respect Our Flag 3¼ lengths in arrears at the wire. Hickfromfrenchlick, named for basketball star Larry Bird, bumped his earnings to $541,927 in a career that has seen him take 13 of 19 starts.
The other two pacing colt stakes section were taken by driver George Napolitano Jr. “George Nap” started the card by teaming with trainer Tom Cancelliere, owner/brother John, and the Sweet Lou colt Love Me Some Lou, who despite having only one race in 37 days and having to go raw, withstood Seafarer by a neck to push his winnings to $231,452.
Napolitano also drove the Somebeachsomewhere gelding Quatrain Blue Chip, who came clear up the inside from the pocket and fended off the late charge of Lyons Night Hawk by 1¼ lengths in 1:52. Chris Oakes conditions the winner for Mac Nichol and Gerald Stay.
Exactly one week ago, George Napolitano Jr. was dumped to the Harrah’s oval when a horse of his made a break and hooked wheels. As Napolitano pointed his vehicle towards Pocono for nighttime action after notching three successes on the Sunday afternoon card at Philly, he had won 26 races in the interim, 13 at each track.