Friday night at Northville Downs in the fall is always the night for a nice feature trot, an old trotting tradition in the sport, and was combined with a half-mile track, fall colors, and a fresh chill in the air. The racing isn't rich, but the ambience is all there.
The Fillies and Mares Open Handicap trot was the sixth race on the program, and offered a field of seven and a purse of $8,800.
The first featured trot at the meet left the bettors without a lot of clues, so they went heavily for Rompaway Stacey, a winner of over one-half million dollars.
“Moneybags horses” such as these are usually good choices when there's not much to go on, and Rompaway Stacey had posted nothing but good finishes in her recent starts.
The second choice was Songandaprayer, who had been racing in Preferred company at Hazel Park, and everyone else was “long money.”
As the gate left and the field angled into the first turn, Don Harmon guided Rompaway Stacey to the front from the number six post position. SS Rockette and Vince Copeland got second and Songandaprayer, driven by Carl Putnam, Jr., raced third. The quarter pole came and went in :29.1 on a fast track.
Around the second turn and heading to the half-mile pole, Rompaway Stacey pulled away from the field by a few lengths after SS Rockette broke stride and then settled back to sixth. Songandaprayer was now racing second with Todd Buter aboard, and She's A Tuffy raced third.
Passing the half-mile pole in a solid :59.4, the Michigan-bred Rompaway Stacey was two lengths clear of the field, and driver Jeff Sweeney came first-over with Mo Jo Ann. The tough six-year-old was looking for her fourth win in a row.
At this point the field started to get scattered. Songandaprayer was a couple lengths behind Rompaway Stacey, and the third mare, She's A Tuffy, was another four lengths back, and after that everybody was pretty much out of it.
Heading down the backside it started to look more and more as if it would be a two horse race between Rompaway Stacey and Songandaprayer. “Stacey” hit the three-quarter pole in a quick 1:28.4 and came around the final turn with a look of victory in her stride.
In her most recent start at Hazel Park she entered the stretch on the front and finished second, and the race before that she entered the stretch sixth and finished third. There was no telling what was going to happen tonight.
Trotting in the lane, Songandaprayer started to gain ground, and although the 4-year-old had been finishing a couple seconds slower than Rompaway Stacey at Hazel Park she had plenty of kick on Friday. Also, Buter had She's A Tuffy in gear and they were ready to sprint to the wire.
The three distaff trotters came to the wire as a team, and Songandaprayer won by three-quarters lengths over She's A Tuffy, and Rompaway Stacey finished third, one and one-quarter lengths back.
The time of the mile was 1:59.2.
Songandaprayer is a homebred by Perfect Spiral and out of Art's Angel, and is owned by her breeders, Ron Cole and Judy Ekstrand.
Now a winner of six out of 18 and $43,075 this year, she is trained by Wayne Carter, and she now has won $123,654, lifetime.
by Daniel Conway, USTA Web Newsroom correspondent
ourtesy of The USTA