The weather wasn't nice, but the week ending harness racing card (November 5) at Cal Expo was while highlighted by Sires Stakes, Series' Finals, and Winners-Over action.
Two $15,000 California Sires Stakes had center-stage for freshmen colts & geldings, on which Ra Ra Steven & El Azteca scored.
In the event for the pacers over a track listed as 'good,' Ra Ra Steven, leaving moderately from post-four in the field of five for Rich Wojcio, raced three-wide until two-wide into the first-turn before getting the lead after 3-16ths of a mile into a :30.1 opening quarter.
Pacing an easy :30.3 second-quarter into a 1:00.4 first-half, Wojcio kind of let a notch on his youngster at the 9-16ths mile marker, then started rating his pacer again at the five-eighths mile station, then gave him a tap of the whip midway through the final-turn when Bloom N Doom (Bruce Clarke) pocket pulled. Reaching the three-quarter mile pole, timed in 1:30.1, Wojcio knew the race was far from over.
"I knew it would be a fight to the wire because I knew both of Bob Johnson's horses, Bloom N Doom & Hollywood Star (Lemoyne Svendsen), were behind me," said Wojcio.
What the horses behind Ra Ra Steven didn't know was that when Wojcio showed his charge the whip at the three-quarters, the gelding would see it an accelerate. Bloom N Doom, however, stayed with him. Now in full gear at the head of the lane, Wojcio went to work and his pacer was holding firm - - at the time.
"I thought I had Bloom N Doom beat, but then I heard Hollywood Star coming late and I got very concerned, but my horse fought and gave me all he had."
Being asked for everything he had, Ra Ra Steven just lasted to win ($6.40) by a nose. Bred in part by Billie Schwartz in ownership partnership with David Rachford and trainer Jim Wilkinson Jr., the son of Little Steven stopped the timer at 2:00. Hollywood Star flew to the wire to just miss, and Bloom N Doom finished 1-1/2 lengths farther back, in third.
"I'm glad the wire came up when it did because there's no question if we go another step that Hollywood Star beats me. Still, I thought it was a very good effort especially with him being a baby and on an off track. My thanks to Junior (Jim Wilkinson) for a good job and allowing me to drive the horse," finished Wojcio.
In the event for the trotters, held prior the betting card in a non-wagering race over a fast track, Al Azteca made it three straight, all in Sires Stakes.
Getting the lead going into the first-turn from post-position four in the field of the same number for breeder/owner/trainer Marco Rios, the pair set a very slow first-half pace of :33.2 & 1:06.1. Choosing to let the before the gate breaking High Dollar (Steve Desomer) go after pushing him until yielding to the 9-16ths pole, Rios moved his colt back out just past the midway point of the final-turn into a 1:36.3 three-quarters.
Racing a bit wide just to the top of the stretch, but taking over the lead with under 3-16ths of a mile to go, El Azteca would only need three whip swishes with about a sixteenth of a mile to go to win by 2-1/2 lengths in a no doubter, timed in 2:07.1. Light Red (Lemoyne Svendsen) finished in second, and High Dollar finished 10-3/4 lengths father back, in third.
A pair of $10,000 Finals of the Bronte Epilepsy Research Amateur Series, sponsored by Lou Pena, were contested over a sloppy track.
In the Late Closer final for the ladies, Spanish Rosey and driver Marchand won ($11.20) by 3-1/2 lengths. Owned & trained by Robley Johnson, the eight year-old stopped the timer at 2:01.4, thus recording her 31st career win. Red Star Gilda (Karen Isbell) won a three-horse photo for second, and Incredible Gambler (Robert Stepien) finished just a nose back, in third.
In the boys division, Serious Art & pilot Dave Siegel scored ($3.80) by 2-1/4 lengths. Claimed back for this race by Williams Hernandez and Georgette Wenseslao, the Matias Ruiz trained five year-old gelding paced the mile in 1:58.2. Rude Awakening (Karen Isbell) recovered well from a break well before the start and from being far back early to rally for second, and Nightscreamer (Brian Marchand) finished 2-1/4 lengths farther back, in third.
The usual weekly feature, that being the $4,500 Winners-Over pace, was last but not least on the marquee, on which Myra's Hi Ho repeated for Jim Lackey. Owned by Hank Wieseneck & Marty Garey in partnership with trainer Bob Johnson, the five year-old gelding won ($17.60) in 1:56.2 over the sloppy going. Stable-mate Ivegotwhatuneed (Lemoyne Svendsen) finished in second, and Haggin Oaks (James Kennedy), the lone lady in the race, rallied nicely late to finish just a nose back, in third.
Live racing resumes at Cal Expo on Thursday (November 10) at 5:30 p.m. (PST) and continues on Friday (November 11) & Saturday (November 12) at 6:00 p.m. On Thursday and every live card, Cal Expo offers free admission, as well as free preferred & general parking after 4:30 p.m. Also on Thursday night from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Cal Expo offers a complete Lasagna dinner, which includes salad and bread, for just $3.00. Additionally on Thursday, beer & wine can be purchased for $3.00 each as well.
Cal Expo, in partnership with the USTA Strategic Wagering Committee, will offer the Thursday Pick 4's with a 15% takeout and a $10,000 Guarantee on the Late Pick 4. Beginning this week, Cal Expo will offer a reduced 15 percent takeout rate on all Pick 4’s. In addition, all late Pick 4’s will come with a $10,000-guaranteed pool. On Saturday night, there will be a 0% takeout on successful Late Pick 4 tickets made on track or at Twinspires.com.
by Scott EHRLICH