Day At The Track

Big stakes at Harrah’s Philadelphia

11:21 PM 29 May 2017 NZST
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Crazy Wow, harness racing Harness racing Lady Shadow, harness racing Harness racing Mossdale Conner, harness racing Harness racing
Crazy Wow and driver Yannick Gingras winning the Maxie Lee
Scott Cantor photo
Crazy Wow and his winning connections
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Lady Shadow and driver Yannick Gingras win the Betsy Ross Pace
Scott Cantor photo
Lady Shadow and her winning connections at Harrah's
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Mossdale Conner and driver Jordan Stratton winning the Ben Stafford Jr. Invitational
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Connections of Mossdale Conner in the winner's circle
World Wide Racing Photo
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Mossdale Conner, Lady Shadow win Invites

Chester, PA --- The Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational at Harrah’s Philadelphia proved to be the perfect remedy for Crazy Wow’s early-season bout of seconditis.

Crazy Wow, who was second in each of his first three races this year, picked up his first win of the campaign in Sunday’s $150,000 event for older trotters, defeating JL Cruze by 2-3/4 lengths in 1:52. Charmed Life, the only mare in the race, was third. Tuonoblu Rex, the second choice behind 3-2 favorite Crazy Wow, went off stride while challenging for the lead on the final turn and finished sixth.

The Maxie Lee was part of a stakes tripleheader at Harrah’s Philadelphia. Lady Shadow won the $150,000 Betsy Ross Mares Invitational and New Zealand-bred Mossdale Conner won the Ben Stafford Jr. Invitational for older male pacers.

A 5-year-old stallion, Crazy Wow got to the front from post five in the opening quarter mile and set fractions of :27.3, :56.4, and 1:24 on his way to victory.

Crazy Wow’s first three races this year were on the mile oval at the Meadowlands and winning trainer Ron Burke said the switch to Philly’s five-eighths-mile track was a benefit.

“I was happy,” Burke said about Crazy Wow, who had a streak of four consecutive second-place finishes dating back to last year and won for the first time since July. “He’s been good every start this year. On a little track he’s going to get a little more of a breather in there. And it was big getting the half in :56.4.

“(Tuonoblu Rex) had already left and had to be first up. Obviously JL Cruze wasn’t as sharp today as he’s been the last couple weeks. You just hope you’re good when you need to be good.”

Yannick Gingras drove Crazy Wow, a son of Crazed out of the mare No Pan No Gain, for owners Our Horse Cents Stables, Stable 45, J&T Silva Stables, and Deo Volente Farms.

Crazy Wow, who paid $5.00 to win, has won 16 of 46 lifetime races and earned $1.67 million.

Earlier this month, Crazy Wow finished second to Resolve in the Cutler Memorial at the Meadowlands. He entered the Maxie Lee off a second-place finish to JL Cruze in the Preferred at the Big M on May 19.

“Hopefully this is the start of him winning a few and not being second as much,” Burke said. “A couple things didn't go quite perfect (in his earlier races) and in this group it’s going to have to go perfect for him because he’s not that much better than these horses. But he’s as good as any of them.

“Who gets the better trip, who gets a little luckier, that’s who is going to win.”

The Maxie Lee is named after longtime horsemen Maxie Lee. A native of North Carolina, Lee made a name for himself as a trainer and driver in the Philadelphia area at Liberty Bell and Brandywine. He had back-to-back Delaware Valley Harness Horse of the Year winners in the mid-1970s with Black Gamecock and Valley Ken. In 1990, Lee became the first African-American with a starter in the Hambletonian, with the Peter Haughton winner Backstreet Guy.

Crazy Wow

Peter Tritton wasn't looking for another horse, but the trainer is happy New Zealand-bred Mossdale Conner found his way to his stable. After watching the 8-year-old gelding win Sunday's $150,000 Ben Stafford Jr. Invitational to extend his U.S. win streak to four, Tritton said "he's the best horse I've ever had."

Mossdale Conner and driver Jordan Stratton won the Stafford by two lengths over long shot Jins Shark in 1:49. Christen Me, another New Zealand-bred import, finished third followed by All Bets Off.

The Stafford was part of a stakes tripleheader at Harrah's Philadelphia. Lady Shadow won the $150,000 Betsy Ross Mares Invitational and Crazy Wow won the Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational for older trotters.

Tritton and Harry Von Knoblauch, who owns Mossdale Conner with Ellen Kinser, have enjoyed success with New Zealand-bred horses. Just as recently as Friday their New Zealand-bred 8-year-old stallion Bit Of A Legend won the Molson Pace in Canada.

So when Tritton's Down Under agent called him recently and implored him to buy Mossdale Conner, Tritton decided it would be best to listen.

"He told me not to miss this horse," said Tritton, an Australia native based in upstate New York. "The stars aligned and we got him."

Mossdale Conner, who won the 2015 Taylor Mile, a Group 1 event in New Zealand, started his U.S. career with three consecutive wins at Yonkers Raceway. He won his debut in 1:51.3 and his most recent at The Hilltop in 1:51.4.

In the Stafford, Mossdale Conner, the even-money favorite, battled Jins Shark for the lead in a :26.1 opening quarter-mile. After securing the top spot, Mossdale Conner and Stratton parked Somewhere In LA around the second turn and posted fractions of :54.1 and 1:21.1.

"It almost looked like I knew what I was doing," a smiling Stratton said in the winner's circle. "The horse was going to overcome anything today. He was really good today and the front end was holding up all day. Since they resurfaced the track it's been unbelievable. Everything worked out.

"Only time will tell (how good he might be), but right now it seems like he doesn't know where the wire is. Every time a horse comes at him, he waits on me to call him and he wants to race them again. I think down by the wire if a horse would have headed him, he would have gone (1):48."

Tritton agreed.

"He's been racing two miles over there and I think he appreciates the shorter distance," Tritton said. "He's the best horse I've ever had. I knew that a month ago. He's got no bottom. I don't know if it will stay that way, but right now he's got no bottom. He's got speed, but he's strong. He just keeps going."

Mossdale Conner, a son of Bettor's Delight out of the mare Mossdale Kara, has won 17 times in his career and earned a total of $478,500. His four victories in the U.S. have been worth $126,000.

Mossdale Conner

The invitational was named in honor of Stafford, a popular local horseman who raced predominantly in Delaware and at Harrah's Philadelphia. He passed away in July 2016 at the age of 45.

In the Betsy Ross, returning Dan Patch Award-winner Lady Shadow raced to an early lead and never looked back. She defeated New Zealand-bred Nike Franco by 2-1/2 lengths in 1:49. Blue Moon Stride finished third.

Yannick Gingras drove Lady Shadow for trainer Ron Adams and owners David Kryway, Carl Atley, Ed Gold, and BFJ Stable. The 6-year-old mare was the even-money favorite and paid $4.00 to win.

"Right now maybe she's a little sharper than the others are and she's older," Gingras said. "A couple of these mares are only 4 so it's tougher for them. We've got the age advantage and we're definitely going to take advantage of it for a while.

"She couldn't be any better. She's really relaxed and sound. All systems go. If she was on her game I didn't think they could catch her."

Lady Shadow, a daughter of Shadow Play out of the mare Lady Camella, is 2-for-2 this year and has won 30 of 57 career races. Her lifetime earnings are $1.71 million.

Lady Shadow

The Undercard

While all eyes were focused on three big Invitationals on Sunday afternoon at Harrah's Philadelphia (Maxie Lee, Betsy Ross, Ben Stafford Jr), the undercard supplied fireworks of it's own. The races leading up to the 'big 3' showcased two winner's over $25,000 events on the pace (one for horses and geldings, the other for mares), and numerous upper-conditioned level races. They did not disappoint. Four straight races were timed under 1:50, including a 1:48.3 performance by Rockeyed Optimist, and a 1:49.1 display by Mel Mara, who was making his seasonal debut.

After a stellar 1:50.3 qualifier at The Meadowlands, Robert Cooper and the Silva Stable's Mel Mara (Corey Callahan) made his seasonal debut in Race 5 at Harrah's Philly on Sunday. It was a Winner's Over event for pacers with a purse of $25,000. Starting from post 6, the 8-year-old son of Lis Mara went right to the front, setting deliberate fractions of :26.1, :54.4, and 1:21.4. He had to hold off the pocket-sitter Major Uptrend in the final strides to secure the victory. The Dylan Davis trainee opened many eyes last season, with a jaw-dropping 1:47 performance at The Meadowlands, which at the time, missed the all-time race-mile record by just a fifth of a second.

The very next race, Steve Elliott trainee Rockeyed Optimist (Andy Miller) paced the fastest mile of the afternoon (1:48.3) in an event for non-winners of $20,000 in their last 5 starts. The 6-year-old gelded son of Rocknroll Hanover also took fate into his own hands, going right to the lead setting fractions of :26.2, :53.4, and 1:21.1. He faced a challenge from 2015 Pepsi North American Cup Winner Wakizashi Hanover (Tim Tetrick),  but was up to the challenge winning by a length and a quarter. He is owned by the team of Perretti, Berkner, Battaglia, and A&B Stables.

Race 9 was a Fillies and Mares Winners Over $25,000 Lifetime event, which featured Blue Chip Matchmaker participants Mach It A Par (Jason Bartlett) and Lispatty (George Napolitano Jr). The former was coming off of an upset win against Champion mare Pure Country. But this day belonged to Tom Fanning trainee Frost Damage Blues (Tim Tetrick). The lightly-raced daughter of Western Ideal dueled hard with race-favorite Lispatty, completing her grind to win by a head in 1:50.2. It was her second start of the season after winning 5 races in 14 starts as a 4-year-old. She is owned by Bill Augustine.

Harrah's Philadelphia would like to thank all owners, trainers, and drivers that competed in all of the races on Sunday. The race office would also like to thank everyone that participated in the Winner's Circle presentations as well.


by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications


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