Day At The Track

Pastor Stephen draws eight for $500G Beal

07:48 PM 22 Jun 2011 NZST
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Pastor Stephen, last season's harness racing Dan Patch Award winner as best 2-year-old male trotter and a perfect 3-for-3 in 2011, will start from post No. 8 in Saturday's $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for 3-year-old trotters at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

Three elimination races were held last weekend at Pocono Downs, with Pastor Stephen, I'm The Answer, and Dejarmbro winning their respective divisions. I'm The Answer and Dejarmbro (see story here), both from the stable of trainer Trond Smedshammer, drew posts one and two, respectively, for the Beal final.

Unlike some stakes races that permit the connections of elimination winners to select their posts for the final, the Beal has an open draw. Statistically at Pocono Downs this year, posts three, four and five produce the highest percentage of winners. Post eight has the lowest win rate, at 5.1 percent from 648 starters.

"You shouldn't get handicapped like that if you win your elimination while a horse that finished second gets a better post," said Jimmy Takter, the trainer of Pastor Stephen. "It's not fair to the guy winning the (elimination) race.

"We've got to beat them the hard way, then. It's going to make it tougher, of course. He could be outside around three turns. How are you going to make up that? If they go in (1):52.4, he's got to go in (1):51.4. You have to get lucky, or it's very tough. But what are you going to do? Post position is just where you start. Hopefully he can overcome it."

Pastor Stephen, driven by Ron Pierce, won his elimination by three lengths over Broad Bahn in 1:53.1. Big Rigs was third.

Last year, Pastor Stephen won the William Wellwood Memorial and was second in both the Breeders Crown and Valley Victory en route to $653,748 in purses. He started this season with a win in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at The Meadows before defeating older horses in an overnight at Pocono Downs.

"He's just a fantastic horse," Takter said. "The way he's been racing has been unbelievable."

Takter's Leader Of The Gang, who was last year's New Jersey Sire Stakes champion at the Meadowlands and finished third in both the Peter Haughton Memorial and Wellwood, reached the Beal final with a third-place finish in his elimination. He will start from post five with driver David Miller.

Broad Bahn last year was a two-time winner on the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and won an elimination race for the Breeders Crown before being sidelined by injury. He has a win and two second-place finishes this season.

Big Rigs won a Bluegrass Stakes division last year and also an elim for the Breeders Crown. He went off stride and finished ninth in the Breeders Crown final. He opened this season with a win in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes before finishing third in his Beal elim. He is one of two Beal finalists for trainer Kelly O'Donnell; Bambino Hall is the other.

Following is the field in post position order for Saturday's $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, with listed drivers and trainers:

1. I'm The Answer, Brian Sears, Trond Smedshammer;

2. Dejarmbro, Smedshammer, Smedshammer;

3. Big Rigs, Tim Tetrick, Kelly O'Donnell;

4. Opening Night, Tyler Buter, Jim Campbell;

5. Leader Of The Gang, David Miller, Jimmy Takter;

6. Broad Bahn, George Brennan, Noel Daley;

7. Bambino Hall, George Napolitano Jr., O'Donnell;

8. Pastor Stephen, Ron Pierce, Takter;

9. Buffalino Hanover, Todd Schadel, Schadel.

by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

Courtesy of the US Trotting Association's Web Newsroom

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