Harness racing three year-olds, on both the trot & pace, were featured at Cal Expo on Saturday night in two $12,000 California Sires Stakes, on which Rite After Disbeer & Ra Ra Steven were the best again.
In the first of the two non-wagering events held prior to the betting card, Rite After Disbeer completed a sweep of the four spring stakes.
Leaving from post-five in the field of six and racing three-wide until the field entered the first-turn, driver Luke Plano had a good reason for bypassing a seat fourth.
"The horses to beat were El Azteca (Rich Wojcio) and Loose Cannon (Steve Wiseman), and if I got away fourth, they were going to sit one-two, which means they may have gotten their own way and would have put me first-over," stated Plano. "So I figured since we weren't going much I would head to the front and see what happened."
Racing with early cover into a :31.1 first-quarter until being left first-over well past the quarter-pole, the colt didn't clear to the front until a good ways past the 5-16ths. Was the lead tough?
"Even though it was a good ways into the second-quarter until I got the lead, I didn't use him that much because we weren't going that much, plus he felt comfortable."
Reaching the half-mile juncture, timed in 1:02.1, Plano knew if he did what was needed, that it would work to his advantage.
"I had El Azteca, who was the horse to beat, on my back - - so I was rating my horse to the best of my ability hoping to turn it into a sprint. I thought I'd be tough from there because I was getting my own way."
Trotting a bit rank to the five-eighths mile station, but with no ill-affect, Plano soon had company when El Azteca pocket pulled past the five-eighths.
"I was a bit surprised that he pulled - - I thought it was a bit early. Having said that, the horse did get locked in two weeks ago in the Sires Stakes and was loaded. So I figured Wojcio wasn't taking that chance."
Reaching the three-quarter mile pole, timed in 1:33.2, Plano knew what his trotter had, but was unsure of his stalker.
"My horse still felt strong, but I thought El Azteca was in good shape where he was and I didn't know how much he had."
Drawing clear with 3-16ths of a mile to go and more so at the seven-eighths mile marker, the sophomore poured it on from there and there'd be no catching him while not urged much.
"When we got in the lane and we straightened up, my trotter took right off and responded well when I showed him the whip and he trotted right away."
Bred & owned by Mary Harris, the Kennedy Lindsey trained charge won by 2-3/4 lengths, in 2:02.1. Loose Cannon finished in second, and El Azteca finished a quarter of one-length farther back, in third.
"He raced well, he's sharp, he has been sharp all along, and if he minds his manners, he'll have a bright future," concluded Plano, who had four winners on the card.
In the division for the pacers, Ra Ra Steven won his second straight Sires Stake.
Coming away third from post-one in the field of five, driver Rich Wojcio moved his gelding to the outside after 3-16ths of a mile into a :29 opening-quarter, then eventually cleared the lead past the three-eighths mile station. Did he use his pacer?
"No I didn't, it was a nice lead."
Reaching the half-mile pole, timed in :58, Wojcio soon opened up his charge at the five-eighths mile juncture, then would reach the three-quarter mile marker 5-1/2 lengths to the good while pacing an effortless :28.1 third-quarter into a 1:26.1 three-quarters.
"At the three-quarter, he felt very strong and I thought he'd be very tough to catch."
Under urging in the stretch, the son of Little Steven-Ra Ra Rosa-wouldn’t be caught despite That Spice (Luke Plano) narrowing the gap late. Bred in part by Billie Schwartz in partnership with Dave Rachford and trainer Jim Wilkinson Jr., Ra Ra Steven scored by 1-3/4 lengths, in 1:56.1.
That Space was clearly second-best, and Looks Don't Count (James Kennedy) finished 11-1/4 lengths farther back, in third.
"He was very strong tonight and Junior (Jim Wilkinson) had him at the top of his game. I'm grateful to drive him and was happy for the connections because they were all here tonight to watch him - - they're good people," finished Wojcio.
Live racing resumes at Cal Expo on Friday (June 1) & Saturday (June 2) 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