Champions look to defend titles on Sunday at Harrah’s Philadelphia

Chester, PA — All three defending champions will be on hand Sunday afternoon (May 26) at Harrah’s Philadelphia, as the southeast Pennsylvania track hosts its trio of $100,000 invitationals, the Betsy Ross Pace for mares, the Maxie Lee Trot, and the Commodore Barry Pace, going as races 10 through 12, respectively, on the 12:40 p.m. card.

Each of these races will also count towards the point standings for the summer-long Great Northeast Open Series, in which many of these stars have been competing.

The giant card also has three divisions of the third preliminary leg of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings.

Here is a look at all four groups:

$100,000 Betsy Ross Mares Pace
(12th edition; stakes record 1:48.3, Southwind Tempo, 2009)
Combined earnings of field: $7,202,760. Average lifetime mark: 1:49.3 (five in 1:50 or less).

The defending champion in the Betsy Ross is the great New Zealand import Shartin N, last year’s North American mares Dan Patch Award division winner who is carrying on in final style so far in 2019 — five wins in six starts, including the Blue Chip Matchmaker final, and earnings of $319,500, second only to Levy final winner Western Fame.

The defending champion in the Betsy Ross is the great New Zealand import Shartin N, last year’s North American mares Dan Patch Award division winner. USTA/Ken Weingartner photo.

And it’s hard to imagine Shartin N having more solid connections, especially in this race. Trainer Jim King Jr. trained Shartin N to victory last year, and in 2017 wife Jo Ann Looney-King conditioned the victorious Nike Franco N. And their driver (and Shartin N’s co-owner) Tim Tetrick has won the Betsy Ross six times, more than all others drivers combined. He also guided Southwind Tempo to the stakes record.

Two potential liabilities for Shartin N: drawing post seven in the eight-horse field, and not having raced for 20 days, and only twice in 37 days. The mare has seemed to thrive on an intermittent schedule in the past, however.

Starting just inside Shartin N will be Tequila Monday, who is merely six-for-six this year and the only double winner in the Great Northeast Open Series so far, with Brian Sears driving for trainer Hunter Oakes, whose father Chris conditioned 2013 Ross winner Economy Terror.

Add in the likes of hard-hitting veteran Caviart Ally, one of last year’s top 3-year-old fillies, Youaremycandygirl, and other fast distaffs, and the Betsy Ross figures to be an interesting chess match.

$100,000 Maxie Lee Trot
(12th edition; stakes record 1:50.2, Market Share, 2014)
Combined earnings of field: $9,424,706. Average lifetime mark: 1:51.1 (three sub-1:51, one sub-1:49).

The defending champion of the Maxie Lee is Will Take Charge. USTA/Ken Weingartner photo.

The defending champion of the Maxie Lee, a race honoring the superb area trainer for many years, is Will Take Charge, who will be guided from post five by Scott Zeron for trainer Jeff Gillis. Will Take Charge looks to be coming up to peak form right now, fresh off a win at Yonkers, but it is likely others will draw more mutuel attention than he will.

Take, for instance, the world’s fastest trotter, Homicide Hunter (1:48.4 at Lexington last year), who this season is guided by the Burke Brigade (who has won this race four times, once by patriarch Mickey, and the last three by the record setting Ron). Homicide Hunter just won his second start of the year, at Pocono last week, taking a Great Northeast contest in 1:52.4, and the early sheet says he will be getting a driver change to George Napolitano Jr., with whom Homicide Hunter won the 2018 Breeders Crown (regular driver Yannick Gingras will be in Sweden this week, competing in the World Driving Championship).

Guardian Angel AS, starting from post two, has also been a Great Northeast winner this year, and his chances will be helped by the sulky presence of Tim Tetrick, who has won the Maxie Lee five times, including with stakes record holder Market Share.

$100,000 Commodore Barry Pace
(Fifth edition; stakes record 1:47.3, Wiggle It Jiggleit, 2016)
Combined earnings of field: $5,318,913. Average lifetime mark: 1:49.1 (three sub-1:48).

Filibuster Hanover, the highest money winner in the Commodore Barry with just north of $1.5 million in career earnings, is the defending champion in this event. USTA/Ken Weingartner photo.

Filibuster Hanover, the highest money winner in the Commodore Barry with just north of $1.5 million in career earnings, is the defending champion in this event, and if victorious would make trainer Ron Burke the first horseman to have two Barry titles — no driver or trainer has won twice in the race’s four-year history. In his last start Filibuster Hanover set the pace in a Great Northeast event here, but was caught up the inside by the upstart Kiwi Tiger Thompson N. This week Tiger Thompson N has post six and Filibuster Hanover post seven, difficult assignments in a talented field.

Rodeo Rock won last week’s Great Northeast race at Pocono, defeating Tiger Thompson N and posting the fastest clocking of the year at Pocono, 1:49. Last year’s highly-regarded sophomore Courtly Choice is in the Barry, and on this Harrah’s day you can’t ignore a Tim Tetrick-driven horse (though he has yet to win this race); Tetrick will drive the hard-hitting Donttellmeagain.

Pennsylvania Sire Stakes 3-year-old pacing colts
($57,218 each in races three, seven, and 13)

The defending champion in this group is also competing here Sunday: Proof, a winner of $450,000 and never worse than fourth in 13 career starts, with six wins and four seconds.

But Proof is unlikely to be the favorite in his 13th race cut as that honor will go to Captain Crunch, who was the 2018 Dan Patch Award freshman colt pace champion, and who made his 2019 debut last Sunday at Pocono, winning over a sloppy surface in 1:49.1, fastest mile of the year by a 3-year-old regardless of size of track, and with a stinging last quarter of :26, with driver Scott Zeron mostly an interested passenger late.

The third race division is topped by Southwind Ozzi, who won a Sire Stake two starts back and then was second behind Captain Crunch last week, only 1-3/4 lengths back, and Wild Wild Western, a PaSS winner last week. In the seventh race division, you can make a good case for most of the entrants to record their first 2019 Sire Stakes win.

With 27 horses who have won in 1:50 or less on the card, plus 30 winners of more than $500,000 lifetime, including eight millionaires, the entire Sunday card at Harrah’s Philadelphia is an outstanding one.

Complete entries for the program are available at this link.

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