Did two weeks off and the outside post hurt Albion? Definitely not! Winners-Over harness racing pacers, in quest for a purse of $5,600, were featured at Cal Expo on a windy Saturday night (May 5), on which Albion won his sixth in the last seven.
In advance of starting from his assigned post-eight in the field of seven (post-one was scratched), driver Luke Plano knew what the main issue was.
"Obviously I thought my chances were good mainly because the horse had been extremely sharp in all recent efforts, but the post was my biggest concern," stated Plano. "As far as strategy, I was inclined to make a gate decision."
With the field sent on their way, Plano left alertly with his charge and had good reason.
"In Cowboy Hanover's (Rich Wojcio) qualifier, he seemed a bit overly aggressive in the beginning. If he was going to be the same way - - I didn't want to have to deal with him. As it turned out he seemed completely under control at the gate, so I opted to fire out and see what happened."
Racing three-wide and leading as the field entered the first-turn, Plano started crossing over a bit, but One And Only spilt rivals, thus Plano had his pacer three-wide again and taking a hold.
"At the eighth pole, it seemed like Haggin Oaks and James Kennedy, and One And Only and Jim Lackey both seemed to accelerate quite a bit. So since I saw a big three-hole, it was my best option to take it."
Tucking in after 3-16ths of a mile into a :27.3 opening quarter, did Plano use his six year-old?
"I did use him because it was a solid quarter, but I still thought he could handle it."
With the second-quarter pace into a good headwind resulting in a :30.4 split, Plano was appreciative.
"Lackey was giving his horse a break, but he was also giving my horse a break and I thought that helped me. As a result of the pace being slow, I elected to stay where I was and give my horse a breather as opposed to moving to the front."
Flushed first-over past the five-eighths mile station, Plano had his gelding gaining quickly at the midway point of the final-turn, then drew even with momentum at the three-quarter mile pole, timed in 1:28.1.
"When I moved him he felt really strong and was making up ground effortlessly."
Taking a half-length parked out lead very late in the final-turn, a pretty confident Plano knew why things looked pretty good.
"I thought the second-quarter breather was key to him being hard to handle. Once I had One And Only headed, I knew he wasn't my main concern, but I didn't know how much pace horses behind me."
Drawing clear into the lane and under urging, Albion led by two-lengths with an eighth of a mile to go, then opened up the rest of the way while under a drive until the last sixteenth of a mile, all while pacing a wind-aided :26.1 final quarter.
"Once he forged into the lead, he was extremely powerful and paced strongly right down to the wire."
Owned by Dan Tullio & James Mascola in partnership with trainer Matias Ruiz, Albion won ($3.60) by 3-3/4 lengths, in 1:54.2, thus recording his 26th career victory. Haggin Oaks, the lone lady in the race, finished in second, and Ivegotwhatuneed (Lemoyne Svendsen) finished a half of one-length farther back, in third.
"It was a very sharp effort off a week and Matias did a very good job of having him in top form," finished Plano.
Live racing resumes at Cal Expo on Friday (May 11) & Saturday (May 12) at 6:00 p.m. (PDT). On every live card, Cal Expo offers free parking & free admission after 4:30 p.m. On Friday, Cal Expo offers Happy Hour from 4:00-7:00 p.m. on which Beer; Well Drinks & Wine are offered at $4 each, while a Burger with fries is offered at $5.
Cal Expo currently offers a reduced 15 percent takeout rate on all Pick 4’s. Additionally, all Late Pick 4’s now come with an increased $20,000-guaranteed gross pool. Also, the Friday Late Pick 4 will offer a 0% takeout on all winning wagers made on track or at Twinspires.com, while the Saturday Late Pick 4 will be broadcast on TVG.
by Scott EHRLICH