The honeymoon is not over for Bill Mack when it comes to harness racing.
Mack, a breeder/owner in central New Jersey, sends 3-year-old filly trotter Sally Savannah into Wednesday's third round of the Bobby Weiss Series at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Sally Savannah finished second in her Weiss division last week and was third in the opening round.
Driven by George Napolitano Jr. for trainer Neal Ehrhart, the filly is 9-2 on the morning line.
The 71-year-old Mack has owned horses since retiring from his job as a criminal court administrator for the state of New Jersey. Most of his horses have "Savannah" in their names, which is a nod to the city where Mack and his wife Lorraine spent their honeymoon.
"(Sally Savannah) is racing very well," Mack said. "I like her determination; she just seems to like to race. I'm hoping to have a nice year with her."
A homebred daughter by stallionout of Mack's mare Sassy Savannah, Sally Savannah won two of nine races last year and earned $42,512. She won a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Stallion Series, finished second to world champion Designed To Be in a division of the Pennsylvania All Stars and capped her 2-year-old season by finishing third in her division of the Keystone Classic.
"She finished last year well and she's back where she left off," Ehrhart said. "We toyed around with the idea of putting her in the regular sire stakes last year, but thought it might be pushing it. It worked out because she did well in the Stallion Series.
"I don't know yet where we'll put her this year. I'd rather be a star in the Stallion Series than put her in over her head. A lot of the top 3-year-old (trotting) fillies are going to come out of Pennsylvania. Maybe she'll get there, but she'll let us know."
Sally Savannah, who was named by one of Mack's granddaughters because she was naming all her dolls "Sally" at that time, also is eligible to the Arden Downs Stakes and Currier & Ives this year.
"This series should be a good prep for the sire stakes," Ehrhart said. "She's been facing a lot of 4-year-olds (in the Weiss) and that's what has impressed me.
"This horse is a lot like her mother, and that's a good thing," the trainer added. "George Napolitano said (Sally Savannah) is a very smart horse. She can size up a race and know where she needs to be."
Sassy Savannah was a rare yearling purchase for Mack. He bought her for $6,000 under the name Strapless at the 2002 Standardbred Horse Sale. Sassy Savannah won a division of the Arden Downs as a 2-year-old and a Landmark Stakes at age 3, finishing her career with $101,242.
"She was sick as a dog at the sale," Ehrhart said. "That might have hurt her (price in the auction), but it didn't hurt her down the road."
Mack and Ehrhart have been a team for nearly 15 years. Mack found Ehrhart through an advertisement in Hoof Beats magazine.
"He's a nice person," Mack said. "He's easy to deal with. He's done I think as well as could be expected with my horses."
Said Ehrhart of Mack, "He's the epitome of what a good racehorse owner should be. He cares about the horses and is patient and never puts them in positions they shouldn't be in. We have a trust and he has confidence in me. He leaves me to do my thing and we've held our own."
The two hope to continue the success with Sally Savannah. She faces six rivals Wednesday in the Weiss Series, which is for 3- and 4-year-old female trotters that entered 2014 with fewer than three career wins or $40,000 in lifetime purses. Clementine Dream, who finished second in theSeries final in January, is the 5-2 favorite. Connie Keeper, who has finished second in both her Weiss races, is the 2-1 choice in the first division.
Perfect Alliance and Take The Money, both undefeated this year out of the stable of trainer, are skipping this week's races after winning their starts in the previous two rounds.
"It's a lot stronger series than I had anticipated," Mack said. "I think she'd have to hit the board (Wednesday) and next week to make the final. But I always have high hopes for my horses. Hopefully she'll do alright."by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications