While many local sports enthusiasts were still savoring the Washington Nationals victory over the Houston Astros in the World Series, novice and serious horse racing fans convened at Rosecroft Raceway on Saturday to witness the simulcasts of the Breeders Cup Championship races from Santa Anita Park in California and the coinciding live harness racing card at the five-eighths mile oval.
Saturday night’s feature was the $12,500 Maryland Open for older pacers, many of which will return this Sunday for the $25,000 Maryland Invitational on the undercard of the $100,000 Potomac Pace Invitational for older horses. Slick Tony, winner of two straight Maryland Open events before bypassing the latest one, should be on hand Sunday to defend his title in the Maryland Invitational.
In last Saturday night’s $12,500 Maryland Open, Rollin Ring Afire (Allan Davis) rallied from far back and widest of all in the lane to overhaul 2-1 favorite Rollinlikethunder (Eddie Davis Jr.) for a length victory in 1:52.3. A 7-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding trained by Willard Reynolds for owner Twin Pond Stable, Rollin Ring Afire notched his fifth win in 25 starts this year and 19th victory in 91 career outings.
Many of the same horses that clashed in the Maryland Open will likely return next Sunday for the $25,000 Maryland Invitational to face defending champion Slick Tony, who had won the two previous Maryland Opens here before getting the week off.
One race earlier in the non-winners of $6,000 last four starts class for older pacers, Rocktavius (Jonathan Roberts) delivered a genuinely gritty effort to score as the 3-1 third choice. Parked to the half to get command, Rocktavius met serious pressure from J W Renegade (John Mackinnon) down the backside and battled back inside to prevail by a head in 1:51.4.
“He was really good tonight,” said Roberts, a 1999 St. Mary’s Ryken High School graduate who is approaching 4,000 driving wins in his career. “He was parked a long way against some really tough horses and he just dug in when JW Renegade come to me down the backside. He just refused to let him go by.”
A 6-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding trained by Megan Roberts for owner William “Bib” Roberts, Rocktavius notched his third win at the fall meet and now owns nine wins and $47,000 banked from 32 starts this year. Rocktavius now sports 31 wins and over $192,000 banked from 127 career outings and now looms a prime candidate for the Maryland Invitational.
Two races earlier in a non-winners of $1,250 last four starts class, Spinout (Eddie Davis Jr.) displayed ample back class when he gained command soon after the start, rolled by the half in 56.3 and sprinted clear from his foes to a three-length score in 1:53.1 as the 2-5 favorite.
A former Maryland Sire Stakes star at age 2 and 3 when he won numerous elims and finals in walkovers, Spinout notched his sixth win in 32 starts this year and now owns 34 wins and over $355,000 banked from 164 career outings and appears capable of stepping up into the non-winners of $2,500 last four class and prevailing again.
This coming Sunday evening Rosecroft will host the fourth edition of the $100,000 Potomac Pace and the race is slated to attract a stellar group that includes reigning harness horse of the year, McWicked (Brian Sears) who boasts lifetime earnings of over $5 million and American History (Joe Bongiorno), hero of the recent $500,000 Breeders Crown Final at Mohawk Park.
“I’ve always thought my horse was better with a week off between starts,” Bongiorno said of American History. “I think once they replaced the bike on him he’s handled the turns a lot better. He’s really good right now. He’s just as good on the big tracks and he is on the small ones.”
In addition to McWicked and American History, None Bettor A (Jason Bartlett), Courtly Choice (James Macdonald), Dorsodoro Hanover (Matt Kakaley), Endeavor (Trace Tetrick), Jimmy Freight (Scott Zeron) and Dealt A Winner (David Miller) are also expected. The post position draw for the Potomac and entire Sunday card is set for this morning.
Reigning harness horse of the year McWicked had won the two previous editions of the Breeders Crown for trainer Casie Coleman before American History, hero of the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington Raceway in September, prevailed in the most recent edition of the Breeders Crown for trainer Tony Alagna.
Trainer Ron Burke won the first edition of the Potomac Pace with All Bets Off (Kakaley) in 1:48.2 and he will seek his second victory in the fall meet feature with Dorsodoro Hanover, runner-up in the Breeders Crown and last year’s champion 3-year-old colt pacer. Speaking of All Bets Off, he was No. 2 in the second Potomac Pace when Keystone Velocity scored in 1:47.3 to establish the all-age track record that still stands.
Courtly Choice, the reigning Maryland-bred harness horse of the year, won two of the sport’s premier events last season at age 3 when he scored in both the Meadowlands Pace and the Little Brown Jug. Courtly Choice has shown flashes os his sophomore form this season but the Blake Macintosh trainee can only boast the Canadian Pacing Derby to his credit at age 4.
In addition to competing for the $50,000 winner’s share in the Potomac, if the winning pacer eclipses the all-age track record of 1:47.3 the owner will get a $10,000 bonus. Conditions may not not ideal for a track mark on Sunday with day-time high’s in the mid-50s and post time temperatures around 40, but the quality of pacers on hand may be able to lower the track standard nevertheless.