Day At The Track

"Rock" heads Robert Gordon Pace

04:14 AM 03 Jan 2020 NZDT
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California Rock, a winner of five of his seven starts at the harness racing meet, looms the overwhelming favorite in Friday night's featured $9,700 Robert Gordon Pace at Cal Expo Harness.

The main event is named for the noted driver/trainer and track executive who passed away at the age of 65 in 2006.

A 13-race card is on tap under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 5:50 p.m. There will also be an Open Pace featuring a full field and a mile and one-half Open Trot headed by Its a Horse.

California Rock is a now 4-year-old son of Rockin Image who competes for Schwartz, Wilkinson, Axelrod and O'Neill with Junior Wilkinson the conditioner and Luke Plano at the controls.

In last week's Robert Gordon Prep, he proved a punctual 4-5 favorite over the track labelled "good" as he was used to the lead past the quarter and took control of things from that point, reporting to the wire with four lengths to spare.

Taking him on Friday are Rue Hanover with Chip Lackey; Lickcreek Speedway, James Kennedy; Cenalta Dragster, Mooney Svendsen; Explainotcomplain with Nick Roland; and Platinum Time, who leaves from the outside slot with Steve Wiseman at the helm.

There are two wagers offered each night with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate - the 20-cent Pick 5 and the 20-cent Pick 4. The Pick 4 will now feature a $40,000-guaranteed gross pool on Saturdays and a $30,000 guarantee on Fridays.

Part Time turns into overtime

Part Time came from left field both literally and figuratively when he flew home with veteran Gerry Longo to post a $45 upset in last week's Open Pace. He goes about his business for owner Scott Ehrlich and trainer Kathie Plested.

"Back in 2015, I would always watch the races from one of my old stomping grounds, Balmoral Park, and every week, Part Time would be closing fastest of all," Ehrlich noted. "So, I put him in my virtual stable so I could follow him, which included Hawthorne, where he would also close well. Since I love to own closers, I wanted to have him for myself, but he was never in a claiming race.

"When I did check into purchasing him privately, I was told the owner, who was also the breeder, wouldn't sell. As a result, the horse would be forced to move up in class, which resulted in his being overmatched a good amount of the time."

Fast forward to early January of 2019, where Part Time shows up in a $4,000 claimer at Pompano. "Okay, why, after all these years, is he in the lowest claimer he can be?" Scott mused. "He finished third, and the next week he's in for a $5,000 tag, so we didn't claim him. The following week, he's back in for $4,000, and we did."

In May the decision was made to send him from Hoosier Park to Running Aces, into the Kathie Plested/Steve Wiseman stable. After a well-deserved rest and a change of scenery, he became the closer that had caught Ehrlich's eye a few years earlier, included three wins where he dramatically came from last over that five-eighths mile oval with a stretch that isn't that long

"With Cal Expo on the horizon, Steve suggested I not race him the last three weeks of Running Aces, for two reasons," Scott explained. "First, we heard he was going to get claimed and second, Steve wanted me to not only see this horse on the mile track where we all knew he'd excel, but he also wanted me to get to know him, as Part Time is a very sweet animal.

"And now, I'm lucky enough have a horse who has won the Open. I can't be thankful enough to Kathie, Steve, and their solid crew of dedicated hard workers."

By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness


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