Hail the Taxi and harness racing driver Jordan Stratton upset the apple cart--provided an apple cart can actually be upset about anything--Saturday night, winning Yonkers Raceway's $119,000 final of the Lawrence B.Sheppard Pace for 2-year-old colts and geldings in a stakes-record performance.
The Sheppard, a Yonkers staple for decades, returned to the stakes schedule for the first time in nine seasons.
Leaving from penultimate post position No. 7 as a 35-1 outsider, Hail the Taxi was content to let other pick up the early fares.
Dealmaker (Larry Stalbaum) left hard from the pylons, refusing the advances of Scalped (Cat Manzi) before yielding to Doctor Butch (Jason Bartlett). "Butch," the 6-5 choice from the eight-hole after winning the fastest of last week's trio of eliminations, was double-parked here.
Doctor Butch made the lead after a :27.1 opening quarter-mile (Scalped found himself wrangled back to fourth), then rated a 29-second next interval (:56.1 half).
Dealmaker was pocketed, with second choice Rocnrolwilneverdie (George Brennan) away third. That one on the move going toward the 1:24.4 three-quarters, with Scalped trying to stay close behind. However, there was no outer tier to speak of--“Rocnrol” died on the rim--which played well for Hail the Taxi.
He managed to improve several position alone the cones, then found room to extricate. Hail the Taxi went behind, then around, Rocnrolwilneverdie, as Doctor Butch widened to three lengths in and out of the final turn. As it turned out, for the first time ever in New York, there was a "Taxi" around when needed.
Hail the Taxi () closed stoutly, picking off Doctor Butch ( ) by a length-and-three-quarters in 1:54.1. That wiped two-ticks off the ’s 1992 previous stakes record.
Third went to Ameriscasgottalent (Eric Goodell), with OK Fame (Brent Holland) and Dealmaker completing the cashers. The remainder consisted of Rocnrolwilneverdie, A Bettor World (Jim Pantaleano) and Scalped.
It was a maiden-breaker (in three starts) for Hail the Taxi, a $65,000 yearling (as Taxicab Hanover) trained by Jim Campbell for Fashion Farms. Hail the Taxi returned $72 as the seventh choice. The exacta paid $257.50, with the triple returning $2,098.
Appropriately, in a race named for the man who helped make Hanover Shoe Farms a giant in the breeding business, this was the only Hanover-bred in the field. Mr. and Mrs. Larry DeVan--he a grandson of Lawrence B. Sheppard--made the winner's circle presentation.
"I spoke to Jim (Campbell) and watched the first two races on-line," Stratton said. "I was impressed the way he closed last week (second to Doctor Butch). I wasn't sure I could get to (Doctor Butch) tonight, but I knew Jason had used his horse hard to get the lead and my colt felt good."
Stratton, with four victories on the card, also won Saturday night's $44,000 Open Handicap Pace with a down-the-road Rock 'Em ($12.40) in 1:52. Trainer PJ Fraley also won four races.
The Raceway continues its normal five-night-per-week live schedule, with first post every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:10 PM. Evening simulcasting accompanies all live programs, with afternoon simulcasting available around the NYRA schedule.
by Frank DRUCKER