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Balmoral Park

Balmoral Park (6/16/07)

Contact: Tom Kelley

2007 HANOVER STAKES STARTS IN A BIG WAY

The 2007 Hanover Stakes season kicked off on Saturday night with five big stakes for two and three-year-olds sharing top billing.

Freshman pacing fillies were the first to get things started with a total of 17 youngsters slugging it out in a pair of $25,000 splits.

The first division provided an eye-catching performance as Joe Seekman Racing & Hal Hewitt’s Beachy Girl cruised to a 1 ½ length victory in 1:54.4.

Confidently handled by Ryan Anderson, who notched his 2000th career win the night before, this daughter of Real Desire swept from fourth to first as the field settled after an opening quarter in 29.1.

“I figured that if I had control of the race they weren’t going to be able to beat us,” said Anderson.

In command the rest of the way the Joe Seekman trainee effortless rolled through splits of 58.1 & 1:28.

Through the lane Beachy Girl put away a first over bid from Incredible Kiss (Jeff Cullipher). The issue remained in doubt though as the highly regarded Kelly’s Keepsake (Brent Holland) was still right on the favorite's back.

“I knew that Kelly’s Keepsake was the one to beat and that she had been sitting on our back the entire way,” explained Anderson. “But I drove this filly in both of her qualifiers and I knew she still had plenty left for me.”

Drawing away from her main rival, Beach Girl was well in her hand to her pilot as she rolled under the wire with a new national season’s mark. Kelly’s Keepsake held on for second while Zoom Past You (Charlie Conrad) was third.

In the second division the hometown favorite prevailed as Al Johnson’s Ali Cat gamely held off the late bid of another Illinois bred Mokey to win by a nose in 1:56.1.

Employing the same tactics as the first division winner, driver Dave Magee pulled from the pocket on the backside after allowing Mokey (Ryan Anderson) to lead the field through an opening split of 29.0.

The tepid pace continued on the backstretch and around the final turn with the two state breds strolling through middle fractions of 59.0 & 1:28.2.

Fit and fresh after the slow pace, Ali Cat began to draw away from her main rival. “I wanted to try and get the jump on Mokey because I knew she had been getting a perfect trip behind us,” explained the Hall of Fame reinsman.

Despite facing a two-length deficit with a sixteenth of a mile to go Mokey was not about to give up. With Anderson moving her into the passing lane Mokey quickly began to cut into the margin. A determined Ali Cat was not finished though as she gamely held sway despite drifting out a bit in the final yards.

“I really thought we were going to get passed by the horse on the inside,” said a relieved Magee. “My filly really showed me something by digging in with all she had and holding the other filly off.”

Mokey settled for the bridesmaid role while 28-1 longshot Kim’s Intended (Brandon Simpson) turned a nice ground-saving journey into a third place finish.

Next up were two-year-old colt and gelding pacers. With a total of 15 youngsters dropped into the box this stake was split into a pair of $26,000 tussles.

Taking advantage of breaks by the two favorites in the betting, Joe Seekman Racing and Roger & Dawn Samson’s homebred Martiniwith Olives scored in wire-to-wire fashion while stopping the clock in 1:56.2.

Using the pole position to his utmost advantage, rising star Brandon Simpson zipped the son of Three Olives around the first turn after watching the even-money favorite Ascot Cognac (Dale Hiteman) make a nasty break leaving the gate.

“I really didn’t want to be on the lead,” explained Simpson. “I was looking to get a trip but when that horse made a break in the turn I figured I had better take advantage of it.”

Uncontested on the front end, Martiniwith Olives easily rolled through opening fractions of 28.4 & 59.1.

Around the final bend Homer Hochstetler had Parklane Art quickly rolling up on the outside of horses, but disaster struck midway around the turn as that youngster went off stride. Despite getting rid of that foe, Simpson still had to ward off a hard charging Sweet As Rain (Dave Magee) as he hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:28.1.

The Seekman trainee quickly disposed of that challenge and headed for home. Looking strong while under no urging from his pilot, Martiniwith Olives made it look easy as he pulled away to win by 2 ¼ lengths. Art Official (Ryan Anderson) gave Seekman another check finishing second with a strong closing kick. Snow Storm Sam (John Duke Sugg) was third.

In the winner’s circle Seekman seemed a little surprised as to how things shook out. “I was really surprised to see him on the front since we’ve raced him from behind in his qualifiers,” the Michigan-based trained explained. “He’s got a wicked closing kick though and he kind of showed that again tonight even though he was on the lead.” Seekman also stated that both of his Hanover winners would now get some time off before resuming their stakes schedules.

In the second division Angie Nessa, Bart Seales, Dennis Beccue & Brent Bierman’s Littlebitoflife continued to turn heads with a front-stepping win in a national season's best of 1:53.3.

Used hard to get to the front from post position seven, Littlebitoflife and Youth Uprising (Brent Holland) battled tooth and nail through an opening quarter of 28.1.

“We got stung pretty hard by Holland going to the quarter,” said winning driver Ryan Anderson.

After gaining command on the backside the Tom Harmer trainee continued to roll, pacing through splits of 56.1 & 1:23 while his main rival sat right on his back.

In the lane Littlebitoflife seemed to find another gear as he quickly sprinted away from the field to win by a widening 3 ½ lengths. The Voice of Truth (Dave Magee) turned a pylon skimming trip into a second place check, while a tired Youth Uprising held on for third.

Asked if he was worried at any point in the stretch, Anderson seemed quite sure that the issue was never in doubt. “We still had more in the tank at the wire,” he said. “This is a big strong colt that was well prepared and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.”

The only trot of the night came next as an overflow field of 11 three-year-old colts and geldings slugged it out for $38,700.

Despite having to start from the second tier, Doug Ackerman Stables' Superior Judge ruled this field, trotting to a 1 ¾ length triumph in a lifetime best of 1:56.1.

Ackerman did a magnificent job of handling his colt, maneuvering around some early traffic. The son of SJ’S Caviar was all the way up to second and was on a mission for the lead as Orphan Victor (Charlie Norris) led the field through an opening quarter in 29.3.

“I really wasn’t worried about the second tier,” said Ackerman. “I just wanted to keep him settled down back there because he can get a little wound up at times.”

In command as the field moved down the backstretch Superior Judge seemed to relax on the lead, taking the field through splits of 58.0 & 1:27.1.

After fighting off a first over challenge from Bertorico (Homer Hochstetler), Superior Judge was well within himself as he trotted to his third win in four starts this season.

“I’m really pleased with the way he raced tonight,” said a happy Ackerman. “He was well in hand throughout the stretch, so I never had anything to worry about.”

Another big field went postward in the three-year-old colt and gelding pace as 12 sophomores competed for a purse of $53,300.

In a thrilling finish it was trainer Ken Rucker who wound up with the top two checks as Exterminator nosed out Johnny Charisma in 1:51.1.

No less than seven of the 12 starters charged away from the gate in this affair, and when the smoke cleared it was The Steelman (Brandon Simpson) who grabbed command as the field blazed by an opening quarter in 26.2.

Things settled down just a bit on the backside as Travis Lou (Dave Magee) took over the top spot, but the pace was still hot with the field hitting the half in 53.2.

Around the turn a live outer flow quickly developed with just five lengths separating the top seven pacers as they flew by the three quarter pole in 1:22.1.

The tough early splits began to take a toll on the leaders in the final eighth of a mile. At this point the Rucker trained entry of Johnny Charisma (Mike Oosting) and Exterminator (Jeff Cullipher) were taking dead aim on the leaders. Picking off horses as they raced on the far outside, these two battled gamely to the wire with Exterminator just getting a nostril in front of his stablemate in the final stride. One Park Place (Sam Widger) came from far back to finish third.

In the winner’s circle, winning driver Jeff Cullipher explained his strategy. “With a 12-horse field I didn’t care if I was parked the entire time,” he said. “I just wanted to be sure I had cover and Mike’s horse (Johnny Charisma) led me up perfectly and we nipped him in the last stride.

The win was the 7th in 10 starts this year for the son of Arturo, who will be headed to Hawthorne for the Chicago Stake next week.

The final two events of the night featured sophomore pacing fillies with 14 ladies battling in a pair of $29,800 splits.

Another Illinois bred proved best in the opening split, as Ronald Phillips and John Carver’s Faith Leigh upset the highly regarded Cabana Fever in a career best 1:51.1.

Taking advantage of a textbook steer from driver Brent Holland, the state-bred daughter of Incredible sat chilly in the pocket as Fox Valley Sarong ripped through splits of 27.4, 55.4 & 1:24.0.

“This horse was perfect sitting in the hole tonight,” said Holland. “I know Erv’s (trainer Erv Miller) been making some changes on her and they paid off tonight.”

Fresh as a daisy after pulling from the garden spot Faith Leigh quickly opened up an insurmountable advantage over her rivals. Cabana Fever (Ryan Anderson), the 2-5 favorite in the race, was trying to gain ground after having to get around stalled cover and that obstacle would prove to be too much as Faith Leigh held firm for a 2 ¾ length decision over Cabana Fever. Prime Suspect (John Duke Sugg) was third.

“Once I blew by the horse I had been following we opened up a big lead,” said a very happy Holland. “I was pretty confident with the way she was going that nobody was going to catch her tonight. This was the best she’s ever been.”

The final event on this busy night went as expected as HBH Standardbred’s Sportsfancy posted her sixth straight win, knocking off six rivals in 1:53.1.

Employing her usual front-end tactics, driver Ryan Anderson put the daughter of Sportsmaster on the front from her inside starting spot. After pacing an opening quarter in a leisurely 28.0, Anderson then got away with a 30.0 second quarter making the rest of the race a moot point.

“With a short field and as strong as she is I kind of figured nobody would take a run at us in the early going,” said Anderson. “But I never thought we’d be able to steal a second quarter as slow as that one was.”

Heading around the final turn a first over Real Velocity (Brent Holland) took a shot at the pace setter, racing neck and neck with the 1-9 favorite as they moved by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.3.

With a challenger finally looking her in the eye, the Homer Hochstetler-trained miss seemed to find another gear as she drew away from Real Velocity with very little urging.

“I was just holding on to her when that horse came up alongside us,” said Anderson. “I had her wrapped up the entire way. I just hope she stays like this all the way to Super Night.”

Sprinting home in a blistering 1:26.3, this Hanover Stake wound up being a walk in the park for Sportsfancy as she cruised under the wire with a 1 ½ length verdict. Real Velocity was second while Perdido finished third.

Hanover stakes action continues on Sunday night at Balmoral Park. Post time for Sunday’s card is 6:30 p.m.

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