Harness racing colts & geldings were spotlighted at Cal Expo on Saturday night (May 13) in two $12,000 California Sires Stakes, on which Ra Ra Steven & Rite After Disbeer scored.
In the pacing event, the first time lasix using Ra Ra Steven got an uncontested lead from post-one in the field of eight, thus pacing a reasonable opening quarter for his pleased pilot.
"I was very happy with the :29.3 first-quarter because it was easy and smooth," said driver Rich Wojcio.
Under a nice grip on the backside, the gelding still paced a quicker 2nd split, but continued to do it easily while looking solid when reaching the half-mile juncture, timed in :58.3.
"He's big and he's strong and pretty much dictates how fast he's going to go. He felt very good and was comfortable going the :29 quarter."
Still under a hold on the final-turn, Wojcio decided to let out some notches midway through the final bend.
"He paces the turns well, so I let him out to get a little real-estate on them."
Opening up by 3-1/2 lengths in the blink of an eye while pacing an effortless :28.1 third-quarter, a statue sitting Wojcio and his charge reached the three-quarter mile station, timed in 1:26.4.
"Like I said he can pace fast and there are times that it doesn't feel like he's going that fast. At the three-quarters he was very strong and I felt very confident at that point."
Opening up by five-lengths in the upper-stretch, then on top by 7-1/2 with an eighth of a mile to go, Wojcio only had to resort to two body urges at mid-stretch, then one urge with less than a sixteenth of a mile to go when his pacer seemed to slow up, but with the issue never in doubt.
"He was comfortable down the lane."
Bred in part by Billie Schwartz in partnership with David Rachford and trainer Jim Wilkinson Jr., the son of Little Steven-Ra Ra Rosa-won ($5.40) by 3-1/2 lengths, in 1:56, a lifetime best. That Space (Luke Plano), the 7-5 favorite, finished in second, and Bee Gee (Steve Wiseman) was placed third from fourth. Looks Don't Count finished in third, a length behind That Space, but was disqualified and placed fourth for a lapped-on-break at the wire.
"I'm glad he won tonight, especially since I got disqualified in his last Sires Stakes when he finished first. I thought he handled himself very well tonight and thought he was very good. Kudos goes out to Junior (Jim Wilkinson) and his staff for doing a great job," finished Wojcio.
Trotters started off the evening in their Stake race in a non-wagering mile prior to the betting card, on which a smart drive got the job done for Rite After Disbeer.
Making the lead 3-16ths of a mile past the start for driver Luke Plano, the duo cut out fractions of :30, 1:01, and 1:31.1, but with the two year-old undefeated champ El Azteca (Marco Rios) getting the perfect trip. Now in the stretch with a first-over Loose Cannon (Steve Wiseman) at his flank, Plano knew what he needed to do to win.
"I have quite a bit of respect for El Azteca," stated Plano. "As a result, I knew I had to keep him locked in off the trip he had gotten on my back."
Holding pylon position for as long as he could, the race was on in deep-stretch when El Azteca squeezed up the inside in tight-quarters, but the wire came up and made Rite After Disbeer and three-peat winner in Sires Stakes action. Bred & owned by Mary Harris, the Kennedy Lindsey trained colt won by a neck, in 2:00.3, a lifetime best.
Loose Cannon finished 1-3/4 lengths back in third, but was placed second. An unlucky El Azteca finished in second, but was disqualified and placed third for violation of the Cal Expo pylon rule while attempting to improve his position.
"I know that El Azteca very well could have won had he gotten through, but it worked out for me. My horse still raced good and is getting better with every start," concluded Plano.
Live racing resumes at Cal Expo on Friday (May 18) & Saturday (May 19) 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