As part of Hawthorne's annual Night of Champions that takes place tomorrow night, we'll feature a pair of Trotting events, The Maxter and the Lil Bit Tuff, for ICF 2-year-olds.
Much of the attention will be focused on Claude Powers' talented colt, Southern Rocketop, the probable favorite in the Maxter Final, for 2-year-old ICF Colt and Gelding Trotters.
In a dominating and track-record shattering performance, Southern Rocketop, with driver Brian Carpenter in the bike, grabbed the immediate lead and never let a rival within three lengths of him, ultimately winning by nine lengths.
He stopped the clock in 1:57.3, lowering the standard of 1:59.1, that was set last year by Maxter himself and equaled the previous week by Definer, another member of this field.
Monique Bernardi, his trainer, was elated after the effort and was still on Cloud Nine when interviewed Tuesday night.
"The horse has been training super this week. I think he really matured since his track-record setting performance. I don't think that he has to be on the lead to win. It's an honor to have a track-record holder competing on the Night of Champions."
His driver, Brian Carpenter, was also very optimistic.
"He's a very special horse. He doesn't need the lead. He'll be fine if he has to trot out of the hole. The breaks in his lines were more because of circumstances, not because of any problem. I think he's just a little bit better than the other 2-year-olds in this race."
Two races after Southern Rocketop crushed the record, R R Reitveld, J Dorn, P A Gibson, & K T Collier's Definer would have broken the old record.
He trotted the mile in 1:59.0, winning by two and a quarter. This Kenny Collier-trained Trotter finished third to Southern Rocketop in his first race but has reeled off three straight victories since.
His driver Tyler Buter, wasn't afraid of ‘Rocketop'.
"I've just been giving him trips so far. I don't think we've seen the best of him yet. I'm looking forward to Saturday. I'm happy to be part of my first Night of Champions."
Lil Bit Tuff too tough to call
Saturday's Lil Bit Tuff Final, for ICF 2-year-old Fillies Trotters, should feature a whole group of competitive young ladies.
Lekka; Tropical Caprice; and Petruccelli all figure prominently in the race. All three have won legs of the Lil Bit Tuff. Tropical Caprice has won two.
The most intriguing member of that troika could be Petruccelli, since she brought racing legend Walter Paisley back to the bike but this race will feature more "live" runners than just these three.
Kevin Dixon & Robert Spencer's Miss Vickie has been favored in both of her starts in this series but she broke at the start in each race.
However, she was talented enough to reach contention in both races.
If Robert Taylor can get her to get away cleanly, she might be able to make amends at a price.
And Princessfancyfeet, driven and trained by Jamaica Patton, won three of her first four races and finished fourth in her Lil Bit Tuff leg despite breaking prior to the start.
Mitch Demick, Hawthorne