Plainville, MA — Heavy downpours, steady wind, a sloppy track and seven formidable foes could not prevent Starznheaven from capturing the $16,000 Open Handicap Pace at Plainridge Park on Monday afternoon (April 22).
Avatartist (Mark Eaton) was the fastest off the wings and skimmed through the water to the quarter in :26.2. But despite the torrid pace for any condition, Shawn Gray was not content to sit and pulled Starznheaven, took the lead, and then dared everyone to catch him.
Starznheaven got to the half in :54.2 and the three-quarters in 1:23. From there, Tisadream N (Mitchell Cushing) pulled from third and paced evenly with Avatartist, but the pair were still two lengths behind the leader heading into the stretch. Starznheaven motored strongly under a hand-drive from Gray while his pursuers tried to catch him, but that was not the case as Starznheaven held off their bid to win by two lengths in 1:51.4, good for a new seasonal mark.
It was the third win of the year and 40th of the career for Starznheaven ($3.60), who is owned by Marc Reynolds, Scott Dillon and Bradford Veilleux and trained by Jimmy Nickerson.
In the $15,000 Winners-Over pacing sub-feature, Gibbs (Mitchell Cushing) got away a distant seventh at the quarter before pulling third-over in a lively outer flow, and then tipped three-wide off the far turn to circle the field and pull away to a two-length win in 1:53.1.
It was the second straight win at Plainridge Park for Gibbs ($17.20), who is owned by Rick Howles and conditioned by Eric Beach.
Mitchell Cushing and Shawn Gray both had driving triples on the card while Jimmy Nickerson scored a hat trick on the training side.
The oppressive racing conditions provided some premium payouts on Monday: Rockin Cougar (Nick Graffam) paid $58.40 in the ninth race, and All Artist (Drew Campbell) returned $61.20 in the tenth.
Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Thursday afternoon (April 25) with post time at 4 p.m.