CHESTER PA – All three defending champions will be on hand Sunday afternoon at Harrah’s Philadelphia, as the southeast Pennsylvania track hosts its Super Stakes Sunday of $100,000 Invitationals – the Betsy Ross Pace for mares, the Maxie Lee Trot, and the Commodore Barry Pace, going as races ten through twelve respectively on the 12:40 card.
Each of these races will also count towards the pointstandings for the summerlong Great Northeast Open Series (GNOS), in which many of these stars have been competing.
The giant card also has three divisions of the third preliminary leg of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for three-year-old pacing colts.
$100,000 BETSY ROSS MARES PACE (12th edition; stakes record 1:48.3, Southwind Tempo, 2009.)
Combined earnings of field: $7,202,760. Average lifetime mark: 1:49.3 (five in 1:50 or less).
The defending champion in the Betsy Ross is the great New Zealand import Shartin N, last year’s North American mares divisionwinner who is carrying on in final style so far in 2019 – five wins in six starts, including the Blue Chip Final, and earnings of $319,500, second only to Levy Final winner Western Fame.
And it’s hard to imagine Shartin N having more solid connections, especially in this race – trainer Jim King Jr. trained Shartin N to victory last year, and in 2017 wife Jo Ann Looney-King conditioned the victorious Nike Franco N. And their driver (and Shartin N’s co-owner) Tim Tetrick has won the Betsy Ross six times: more than all others drivers combined. He also guided Southwind Tempo to the stakes record.
Two potential liabilities for Shartin N: drawing post seven in the eight horse field, and not having raced for 22 days, and only twice in 53 days. The mare has seemed to thrive on an intermittent schedule in the past, however.
Starting just inside Shartin N will be Tequila Monday, who is merely six-for-six this year and the only double winner in the Great Northeast Open Series so far, with Brian Sears driving for trainer Hunter Oakes, whose father Chris conditioned 2013 Ross winner Economy Terror. Add in the likes of hard-hitting veteran Caviart Ally, last year’s top three-year-old filly, Youaremycandygirl, and other fast distaffs, and the Betsy Ross figures to be an interesting chess match.
$100,000 MAXIE LEE TROT (12th edition; stakes record 1:50.2, Market Share, 2014.)
Combined earnings of field: $9,424,706. Average lifetime mark: 1:51.1 (three sub-1:51, one sub-1:49).
The defending champion of the Maxie Lee, a race honoring the superb area trainer for many years, is Will Take Charge, who will be guided from post five by Scott Zeron for trainer Jeff Gillis. Will Take Charge looks to be coming up to peak form right now, fresh off a win at Yonkers, but it is likely others will draw more mutuel attention than he will.
Take, for instance, The World’s Fastest Trotter, Homicide Hunter (1:48.4 at Lexington last year), who this season is guided by the Burke Brigade (who has won this race four times: once by patriarch Mickey, and the last three by the recordsetting Ron). Homicide Hunter just won his second start of the year, at Pocono, last week, taking a GNOS contest in 1:52.3, and the early sheet says he will be getting a driver change to George Napolitano Jr., with whom Homicide Hunter won the 2018 Breeders Crown (Yannick Gingras will be in Sweden this week, competing in the World Driving Championship).
Guardian Angel AS, starting from post two, has also been a GNOS winner this year, and his chances will be helped by the sulky presence of Tim Tetrick, who has won the Maxie Lee five times, including with stakes recordholder Market Share.
$100,000 COMMODORE BARRY PACE (5th edition; stakes record 1:47.3, Wiggle It Jiggleit, 2016.)
Combined earnings of field: $5,318,913. Average lifetime mark: 1:49.1 (3 sub-1:48).
Filibuster Hanover, the highest moneywinner in the Commodore Barry with just north of $1.5 million in career earnings, is the defending champion in this event, and if victorious would make trainer Ron Burke the first horseman to have two Barry titles – no driver or trainer has won twice in the race’s four-year history. In his last start Filibuster Hanover set the pace in a GNOS event here, but was caught up the inside by the upstart Kiwi Tiger Thompson N; this week the “Tiger” has post six and “Filibuster” post seven, difficult assignments in a talented field.
Rodeo Rock won last week’s GNOS race at Pocono, defeating Tiger Thompson N and posting the fastest clocking of the year at Pocono, 1:49. Last year’s highly-regarded sophomore Courtly Choice is in the Barry, and on this Harrah’s day you can’t ignore a Tim Tetrick-driven horse (though he has yet to win this race); Tetrick will drive the hardhitting Donttellmeagain.
PENNSYLVANIA SIRE STAKES 3YO PACING COLTS ($57,218 each in races three, seven, and thirteen).
The defending champion in this group is also competing at Philly in Sunday: Proof, a winner of $450,000 and never worse than fourth in thirteen career starts, with six wins and four seconds.
But Proof is unlikely to be the favorite in his thirteenth race cut – that honor will go to Captain Crunch, who was the 2018 freshman colt pace champion, and who made his 2019 debut last Sunday at Pocono, winning over a sloppy surface in 1:49.1, fastest mile of the year by a three-year-old regardless of size of track, and with a stinging last quarter of 26, with driver Scott Zeron mostly an interested passenger late.
The third race division is topped by Southwind Ozzi, who won a Sire Stake two starts back and then was second behind Captain Crunch last week, only 1¾ lengths back, and Wild Wild Western, a PaSS winner last week. In the seventh race division, you can make a good case for most of the entrants to record their first 2019 Sire Stakes win.
With 27 horses who have won in 1:50 or less on the card, plus 30 winners of over $500,000 lifetime, including eight millionaires, the entire Sunday card at Harrah’s Philadelphia is an outstanding one.