Day At The Track

Let It Ride leads opening night program

06:18 PM 11 Jan 2021 NZDT
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YONKERS, N.Y. – Australian import Let It Ride will make his Yonkers Raceway debut in the featured $30,000 open handicap pace on Opening Night (Jan. 11). The move to the Hilltop comes after the Rock N Roll Heaven gelding took a Meadowlands preferred/open handicap in such style as to garner praise like, “he really amazed me,” from harness racing trainer Nifty Norman.

In that start Jan. 2, driver Dexter Dunn slotted Let It Ride into seventh after starting from post nine as Harambe Deo ripped an opening quarter in :26.1. Let It Ride followed the second-over cover of Rock Diamonds and drew within 4 lengths of the lead as Harambe Deo blitzed a :53.2 half-mile. Dunn tipped Let It Ride three-deep at the midway point of the final turn and the pacer rocketed into contention. 

Under a tight hold, Let It Ride angled into the stretch on even-terms with Harambe Deo. Dunn took a glimpse over his right shoulder and saw rival Hesa Kingslayer, who followed Let It Ride third-over, still 2 lengths behind and under urging. Dunn gave a few whip taps and pulled the plugs at the furlong marker. Let It Ride didn’t let up, extending through the finish line to cap the mile with a :26.1 final quarter and stopping the clock in 1:48.1, just one-fifth of a second of Golden Receiver’s record January mile at the Meadowlands in 2012.

“You just don’t see an 8-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven come from Down Under and do this sort of thing,” Norman said. “I was hoping he was a winners over type of horse. He’d been a classy old horse, but he hadn’t been very good for a couple years. He trained down good, he qualified good, every start has been good. But his last race was unbelievable. He just seems like he’s getting better all the time, too.”

Bred in New Zealand, Let It Ride won his first four starts at the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club for trainer Tim Butt with Dunn in the sulky from Feb. 10, 2017 to March 31, 2017. Over the next year, Let It Ride went unplaced in four Group 1 races in his home country, but found better luck in Australia. 

Let It Ride won six straight races at Tabcorp Park Menangle and Albion Park between May 26, 2018 and July 21, 2018, including a pair of Group 1 stakes in the AU$100,000 New South Wales Breeders Challenge Four-Year-Old Entires and Geldings Final, in which he paced the mile in 1:49.4, and the AU$200,540 Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship over 2,680 meters with Dunn driving. 

After that Blacks A Fake win, which saw Let It Ride explode out of the pocket to win by 5 lengths, the brilliance seemed to fade. Let It Ride won just three of his next 27 starts through Sept. 26, 2020. Tim and Anthony Butt, longtime friends of Norman, thought the horse would benefit from Lasix and a deal was made to export the horse to the U.S.

“Basically, I think putting him on Lasix turned him around,” Norman said. “We didn’t do a lot with him. His feet were a little sore, we changed his shoeing, put him on Lasix, and that was that. He’s such a good-winded horse. He must have a big set of lungs because he never seems to get tired. Nothing bothers him.”

Let It Ride was cleared to the U.S. Oct. 5, 2020 and made an impression as soon as he arrived in Norman’s stable. Norman says Let It Ride is easy to be around, is a simple horse to train, and describes him as a gentleman.

“He’s a grand looking horse. He’s a big, strong fellow. He’s got a great, big hind end on him and he’s in great shape,” Norman said. “He looks after himself really well. He’s got a good coat and always carries lots of weight. He’s a good-looking horse and good-natured, good to be around. He doesn’t do anything wrong. He’s a real nice horse.”

Let It Ride was ready to qualify in short order and did so at Harrah’s Philadelphia Nov. 11, 2020 with assistant trainer Scott Petherick in the bike. Off a pocket trip, Let It Ride came home in :27.2 to post a 2-length win in 1:55.1. From there, Let It Ride ran up a five-race win streak culminating with that “amazing” Meadowlands win Jan. 2. Dunn drove in each pari-mutuel start.

“Scotty qualified him and he said, ‘jeeze, this is the real deal. He’s strong as hell.’ Once we raced him a couple times – and we just raced him off the pace to see how he would be – Dexter came back and said, ‘this thing is a bull,’ ” Norman recalled. “I said, ‘it would be great if I could get him back to where he used to be.’ He said, ‘I think he’s there already. He feels better than he ever did when I drove him.’ I felt pretty good after he said that.”

Let It Ride will start from an assigned post eight in his first start at Yonkers, which will also be his first race on a half-mile, or 800-meter, track. Let It Ride spent most of his time in Australia on the 1,400-meter oval at Tabcorp Park Menangle and got several starts over various tracks measuring approximately 1,000 meters. 

Let It Ride got one start each over the 946-meter track at Cranbourne and the 931-meter track at Newcastle, which approximate the U.S. half-mile oval. In addition, Norman trains Let It Ride on the half. Norman opted to come to Yonkers before nominating Let It Ride to the Borgata Pacing Series, which closes Feb. 16, 2021.

“We’ll see how he handles a half-mile track. I don’t think that will be a big challenge; I think he’ll get around it fine. We’ll just have to see how it goes,” Norman said. “I really wasn’t worried about what he drew, I just wanted to see how he’ll get around Yonkers. I don’t think he’ll be as well-suited to it, I think he’ll be better-suited to the big track, but I just wanted to see how he got around it before I pay him into the stakes races.

“He’s a big horse, big hopple,” Norman continued. “He drives pretty good, but some horses just can’t find their speed on a half-mile track. But he seems to pace the turns really good wherever he goes. I don’t think he’ll have an issue.”

With Dunn set to drive again, Let It Ride is the 8-5 morning line favorite. The competition includes Hesa Kingslayer, the Mike Deters trainee who finished second in this open handicap Dec. 12, 2020 and won a preferred handicap from post eight at Freehold Dec. 26, 2020 before finishing second to Let It Ride last out. Hesa Kingslayer and Jim Marohn, Jr. will start from post five and are 3-1 on the morning line.

Ron Burke will send out Bettor Memories, who will start from the inside after scoring a 1:50.4 pocket-riding victory in the Meadows $16,200 open handicap Dec. 29, 2020. George Brennan will drive the 3-1 shot. 

San Domino overcame post seven to score a 1:52.3, 4 1/2-length victory in this open handicap for trainer Deborah Daguet in his last start Dec. 12, 2020. He will start from post seven again tonight with Jason Bartlett set to drive. 

Western Fame won two in a row in the local conditions in late November before getting parked the mile as the 7-5 favorite in his open debut for Shane Tritton. Jordan Stratton will look for a cleaner trip with the 8-year-old tonight.

Tookadiveoffdipper and Raukapuka Ruler, third and fourth, respectively, in the invitational pace for Borgata Series eligibles Nov. 28, and Speed Man, 35-1 winner of this open Nov. 21, complete the lineup.

Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday through Friday with a first post time of 7:15 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.

 
By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY
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