Hightstown, NJ — Dan Dube is hoping for business as usual when Western Fame competes in Saturday’s (April 20) $662,800 George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series championship at Yonkers Raceway, where the 6-year-old stallion has won four of five starts in the event and led nearly every step of the way.
He knows it might not be that easy.
“I’d like to think I’m going to go around the track like I usually do but for big money somebody is going to take a shot,” Dube said.
Dube and Western Fame will start the Levy championship from post five. Western Fame has seven wins and two second-places finishes in his past 11 races at Yonkers. He finished seventh in last year’s Levy final.
For his career, Western Fame has won 20 of 73 starts and earned $1.15 million. He was trained by Jimmy Takter before heading to the stable of Rene Allard at the end of last year. Dube and Allard have teamed to win three of the past four Levy championships.
“(Post) five is really good, it’s a perfect spot for my horse. I’m happy with that,” Dube said, adding about Western Fame’s work in the series, “He’s been doing it nice and easy.
“He’s got a lot of good qualities; he’s quick off the gate and he’s quick turning for home. He’s just a nice horse. He’s strong. I hope he keeps going that way. If he doesn’t get sick or something he should be good.”
Western Fame finished the Levy’s five preliminary rounds with a series-best 350 points. Ideal Jimmy was second with 325 points thanks to three wins and two seconds. But the 6-year-old gelding did not fare well in the draw and will start Saturday from post eight, which has produced only 14 winners in 508 tries (2.8 percent).
Last week, Ideal Jimmy and driver Brent Holland started from post six in their preliminary division and led from start to finish.
“He’s razor sharp, but from (post) eight you’ve got to have a lot of luck,” said Ideal Jimmy’s trainer, Erv Miller. “It’s pretty hard to get out of there on the lead from the eight hole, but you never know. We’ll see what happens.
“He’s a very handy horse, which he showed the last start. He can do what he needs to do. He’s been real good racing from behind too. We’ll just have to see how it works out. He’s really come into his own. He’s really good now. He’s real sharp for the final, but the eight hole makes it tough.”
Of the eight Levy finalists, all but two competed in all five of the prelims. JJ Flynn skipped last week’s round and Rodeo Rock sat out April 6. Rodeo Rock, who starts Saturday from post six, returned last week with a second-place finish behind Western Fame.
“I would have liked to draw a little bit closer (inside) but it’s not a horrible position,” said Andy McCarthy, who drives Rodeo Rock. “Hopefully things get mixed up pretty good the first half. I think that’s a possibility. I don’t know what (Holland) will do with Ideal Jimmy. He leaves the gate so fast, he might take a chance.
“It could be a bit of a rush into that first turn. A lot of horses can leave fast and I think they’re all going to try to push for a good position there early. I just hope they don’t line up. I’ve got to hope they mix it up pretty good the first three-eighths of a mile and see what happens after that.”
Rodeo Rock won his first two rounds in the series before a third-place finish on March 30.
“He was very good the first two weeks,” McCarthy said. “I probably drove him bad that third week. I should have pushed off harder and tried to trip him out a little more, but I came first over. He got just a little tired at the end of the mile.
“I thought he raced terrific last week. I had to come first up out of the third turn into a very fast back half and he didn’t lose ground. He kept pacing.”
Racing at Yonkers begins at 6:50 p.m. (EDT). The Levy championship is race 11 on the card. The card also includes the $401,600 Blue Chip Matchmaker championship for older female pacers (race nine). For complete Saturday night entries, click here.
Following is the field for the $662,800 George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing championship.
1-Anythingforlove A-Joe Bongiorno-Jennifer Bongiorno-6/1
2-More The Better N-Scott Zeron-Ross Croghan-7/1
3-JJ Flynn-Tim Tetrick-Josh Green-7/2
4-The Downtown Bus-Brian Sears-Jeff Gillis-7/1
5-Western Fame-Dan Dube-Rene Allard-2/1
6-Rodeo Rock-Andrew McCarthy-Robert Cleary-9/2
7-The Wall-Andy Miller-Nick Surick-20/1
8-Ideal Jimmy-Brent Holland-Erv Miller-15/1