East Rutherford, NJ — Catch The Fire and driver Dexter Dunn worked out a perfect pocket trip behind pacesetter Nicholas Beach and catapulted to the front in the homestretch to take down the $278,000 Sam McKee Memorial, for open pacers, at The Meadowlands on Saturday afternoon (Aug. 6).
The field of 11 went postward with many expecting Rockyroad Hanover and driver Todd McCarthy to continue their impressive form, but at the outset, the 4-year-old son of Captaintreacherous was forced to race wide as a host of leavers made traffic an issue on the opening bend.
Nicholas Beach and Joe Bongiorno sped quickly from post two to gain control and seat third choice Catch The Fire (Dexter Dunn). Also leaving hard from the outside was Workin Ona Mystery, who settled in fourth while second-tier starter Whichwaytothebeach wedged between horses early to find a spot in third through the :26.1 opening quarter.
Not appearing happy with a pocket tow, Dunn pulled Catch The Fire briefly up the backstretch, forcing Bongiorno to keep a lively clip. Nicholas Beach was rolling at full power through a :53.1 opening half and kept pacing strongly during the third quarter as Workin Ona Mystery and David Miller began a first-over drive with favored Rockyroad Hanover poised behind their cover.
Dunn didn’t wait to see what the closers had in mind as he popped the Todd Luther-trained Catch The Fire from the pocket at three-quarters in 1:20.1. The stallion exploded with pace, instantly separating himself from the closers and pacing home powerfully to win by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:46.4, equaling the stakes record Holborn Hanover set in 2006.
Rockyroad Hanover had the entire stretch to catch this fire, but was only second best with This Is The Plan and driver Yannick Gingras finding space between horses late and getting the third spot.
A 7-2 proposition, Catch The Fire returned $9.60 to win.
Owned by Black Magic Racing and CT Stables, Catch The Fire became a two-time McKee winner after taking a division of the event last year. He was driven by Scott Zeron in the 2021 score, but with Zeron sidelined, Dunn got the drive and the win.
“Dexter was showing off,” Zeron said with a smile in the winner’s circle. “I only won by a little bit. He won by a lot.”
Catch The Fire bred a full book of mares this year at Sugar Valley Farm. Proprietor Joe McLead was all smiles as well in the winner’s circle.
“He’s a very professional horse. Breeding a full book, it took some time to get him into racing shape. He’s coming around, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”