St Elmo Hero, Lucky Bettor prevail in Chester late closer finals
from Harrah's Chester publicity department
Facing his toughest foe yet in Meirs Hanover, John Barnard's St Elmo Hero ($2.20) capped a perfect 19-for-19 season with a 1:50.1 triumph in the $50,000 final of the Blue Route Late Closing series, which culminated Monday (December 20) afternoon at Harrah's Chester Casino and Racetrack.
After winning his three preliminary legs by a combined 12 lengths, St Elmo Hero used the same tactics which brought him those victories, floating to the front and controlling the pace, but he wouldn't have it as easy this week as he did in the preliminaries. The four-year-old Western Hero gelding was stretched out a good bit on the first turn by Meirs Hanover (Yannick Gingras), forced to a :26.2 first quarter before being allowed to rate a mid-race breather.
Tim Tetrick did just that aboard St Elmo Hero, backing the half down just a bit to :55.0 before facing a strong first-over challenge from Diablo Seelster (George Napolitano) on the backstretch. Turning aside that foe past three-quarters in 1:22.3, St Elmo Hero was faced with an even tougher threat--Meirs Hanover loomed in the pocket after an ideal trip, and he edged two-wide just outside the eighth pole. Now forced to dig in through the stretch, St Elmo Hero rose to the occasion, barely holding on at the winning post, fending off Meirs Hanover for a neck victory in a lifetime best 1:50.1. Lockloadnexplode (Matt Kakaley) was an even third.
While the Ron Burke/Yannick Gingras pairing could only muster place honors in the Blue Route final, they struck gold in the $60,000 I-95 Late Closing series final, as Lucky Bettor ($6.60) made a three-wide move at head-stretch and won by a widening 1-1/4 lengths in 1:51.4.
The six-year-old Bettor's Delight gelding settled in midfield off an excruciating :54.4 half mile, floating second-over to track odds-on favorite Vertical Horizon (Tim Tetrick). As Vertical Horizon drew level with his stablemate Schoolkids (Jim Pantaleano) on the far turn, Gingras fanned three-wide with the eventual winner, picking up momentum at head-stretch and drawing clear. Vertical Horizon salvaged second, while Riggins (David Miller) stayed on in the open stretch to hold third.
A trio of Road to Riches Late Closing series finals are slated for the Tuesday (December 21) card, with first post scheduled for 12:45 p.m. eastern time.
(Photos credit World Wide Racing Photos)