Day At The Track

Harness racing notebook - Ken Weingartner

07:42 AM 30 May 2014 NZST
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The 2013 Dan Patch Award winner in the 2-year-old pacing filly division, Precocious Beauty, makes her 2014 harness racing debut on Friday in a $41,300 division of the New York Sire Stakes at Vernon Downs. Precocious Beauty races in the first of three divisions and is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line.

"I've already got the butterflies, that's for sure," said breeder/owner Jim Avritt Sr. "She came through the winter fine, trained well down in Florida. Qualified well there and at Mohawk, I didn't get down to see her since I have a bunch of broodmares and yearlings [at his Kentucky farm] and just couldn't get away."

Avritt said trainer Gregg McNair had no particular goals for the winter. Last season, Precocious Beauty won seven of 11 races, including the She's A Great Lady Stakes, and finished second on three occasions. She equaled the world record of 1:50.1 for a 2-year-old filly pacer on a mile track when she won a division of the International Stallion Stakes at The Red Mile.

"Just tried to maintain what we had," he said. "She's a filly who will give you whatever she has to give; she just goes what she has to go. The other filly I have [in the sire stakes the same night], Barefoot Beauty, she is also a very talented filly, but she's always wanting to give you everything she's got, and more too. It's hard to rein her back, she qualified and came the last half in :55.4."

Avritt will not be able to make the debut, but hopes to catch up with his homebred soon.

"I've got another mare to foal out. I might save my air miles for the Fan Hanover (eliminations June 7 at Mohawk Raceway and final on June 14) if we're lucky enough to make the final."

Avritt has a yearling filly from broodmare Precious Beauty, a Rock N Roll Heaven-sired half-sister to Precocious Beauty at home in the wings. Precocious Beauty is by Art Major.

"We have a half-sister to break next fall - Passionate Beauty," he said. "I'll keep all the fillies out of Precious Beauty from here on."

Precocious Beauty's driver for much of last year, Doug McNair, son of trainer Gregg McNair, is optimistic about her form coming into the season.

"She wintered pretty good, she was down in Florida all winter," McNair said. "She was a big filly last year, but she filled out a little bit more this year. Size-wise, she looks great. She feels about the same. She qualified a couple times and we schooled her once and she seems like she should be ready to go a pretty good trip here."

Blush Hanover is the 2-1 favorite in Precocious Beauty's NYSS division. The Linda Toscano-trained filly has won three of four races this year after being unraced last season. That sire stakes split also includes Delightful Dragon, who was slow to make it to the races last season because of issues with her knees but finished the campaign by winning the Three Diamonds Stakes.

"She's come back very sound," trainer Noel Daley said. "She can go right with the top ones, I think. She's a big strong filly. She's got the will and the desire. She didn't have a tough year by any means. A few of the speedy ones last year had a lot of racing; it's always interesting to see what comes back."

Sweetnsinful, who finished second in last year's New York Sire Stakes championship and is trained and co-owned by Homer Hochstetler, is the favorite in the second NYSS division. Bill Donovan's Medusa, trained by Paul Kelley, is the favorite in the third division. She was unraced at 2, but has won all five of her starts this year.

* * *

Some of the top contenders on the road to August's $1.2 million Hambletonian Stakes head to The Meadows in western Pennsylvania for three divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for 3-year-old male trotters on Friday.

Leading the way is last season's Dan Patch Award-winner for best 2-year-old male trotter, Father Patrick, who on May 21 won his seasonal debut by 4-1/2 lengths in 1:53.3 in a division of the Historic-Dickerson Cup at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Father Patrick brings a 10-race win streak to The Meadows.

"I love this horse," trainer Jimmy Takter said. "He's a serious, serious animal. I think he's the horse I've been waiting for that's really, really, special."

Also racing in the sire stakes are Hambletonian hopefuls Amped Up Hanover, Auspicious Hanover, DD's Hitman, Datsyuk, Exodus Hanover, Fashion Tagman, Il Sogno Dream, JJ Alex, Journey, Nuncio, Outburst, Sarcastic Man and Uva Hanover.

For more about Friday's PASS for 3-year-old male trotters at The Meadows, check out Evan Pattak's story.

* * *

At New York's Vernon Downs on Friday night, Hambletonian eligible trotters Lukas Hall and Expressive Action are the favorites in their respective eliminations for the Empire Breeders Classic.

Lukas Hall, the 7-5 choice in the first elim, has made three starts this year and finished second twice. He was second to Flyhawk El Durado in a division of the New York Sire Stakes and second to Trixton in the Simpson Memorial. He is driven by Jim Morrill Jr. and trained by Kevin McDermott.

Expressive Action, who is 9-5 in the second elim, is 1-for-1 this season for trainer John Grasso and driver Mike Simons. He opened his campaign by winning a division of the New York Sire Stakes.

Other Hambletonian hopefuls in the Empire Breeders Classic eliminations are Karets, Mister B's Way, and Rocky De Vie.

* * *

The top three horses in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll - Sebastian K, Perfect Alliance, and Somwherovrarainbow - are idle this weekend, but four of the older male pacers in the Top 10 are in action. Three of the group - No. 4 Foiled Again, No. 6 Dancin Yankee, and No. 8 P H Supercam - are in Friday's Molson Pace at Western Fair. Seventh-ranked Sweet Lou is in Sunday's Roll With Joe at Tioga Downs.

Also in action from the Top 10 is Trixton, who is in Saturday's New Jersey Sire Stakes final for 3-year-old male trotters. Trixton is Hambletonian eligible.

Ken Weingartner

Harness Racing Communications

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