Conditions just right for Jessie Hall at Cal-Expo

by Scott Ehrlich, publicity director, Sacramento Harness Association

Sacramento, CA — She likes things a certain way if she’s to race at her best, and on a hot night in Sacramento, conditions suited Jessie Hall perfectly.

A field of mostly conditioned trotters, combined with two claimers, were featured at Cal-Expo in a $4,900 event on Thursday night (July 5), in which Jessie Hall was strong in victory.

Prior to starting from post position one, owner/trainer/driver John McKeon finally got what he knew was best for his 6-year-old mare.

“She had been training well, but she needs a very thin track condition cushion, and in her last couple of races the track has been heavy — which is not to her advantage at all,” said McKeon. “Tonight, it was a very warm night (108 degrees at first post) — which she relishes, plus the track surface was to her liking. So, going into the race, I thought I had a very good chance.

“I thought that Stormy Hall (Rick Plano) and Easter Call (Jim Lackey) would leave, plus when the horses assembled behind the gate, I could see that Tim Maier had put I’m Dam Goog’s nose right on the gate. I knew then that he would be leaving, so I wanted to take advantage of the fact that I had post one and was going to send my horse out just enough to make Stormy Hall work to get the lead. This would in turn park-out Easter Call and I’m Dam Goog and force them to use their horses very strongly.”

Accelerating into the first turn with four others foes leaving for front-end position, Jessie Hall would push the pace until yielding after 3-16ths of a mile into a :28.3 first quarter that saw her sitting a nose up for third with three-quarters of a mile to go.

“I’m Dam Goog was next to me at the quarter and I could see how strongly Tim Maier had to use him. I felt I would wait as long as I could, then attack I’m Dam Goog when he was most vulnerable and least expecting a challenge.”

Pulling first-over at the 7-16th-mile pole and brushing up, McKeon felt confident.

“I thought, when I pulled, that I could get by I’m Dam Goog because of how hard he had been used.”

Gaining quickly and up to second while 1-3/4 lengths back at the half-mile marker, timed in :57.4, McKeon was no longer as positive as he had been a sixteenth of a mile earlier.

“At the half, I wasn’t as certain that I was going to clear I’m Dam Goog because he was stronger than I thought he was going to be. So, I pulled the earplugs of my mare and that would be the difference as she would respond well and would eventually take the lead. Having said that, as I said at the half, I wasn’t sure I could clear and I took a peek inside with 7-16ths of a mile to go as I thought for a second that I might try to get in the pocket, but there wasn’t room so I kept on going with her.”

Urged and powering into a parked-out lead to the three-quarter-mile marker, then clearing to the inside past the three-quarter pole, timed in 1:27.1, McKeon was once again confident.

“She felt very strong and was trotting resolutely and I felt I had an excellent chance, all while I continued to drive on her.”

Urged late in the final turn and into the stretch, Jessie Hall would open up a three length lead with less than 3-16ths of a mile to go before adding a little more to that margin at mid-stretch.

“She just kept going in the stretch and halfway down the stretch I felt I was going to win.”

Winning by a non-threatening 1-1/2 lengths, Jessie Hall would stop the timer at 1:56.2, a lifetime best. Stormy Hall rallied nicely to finish in second, and Final Choice (Gilbert Herrera) finished another 1-1/2 lengths farther back in third.

“It was a new record for her and I thought she had the ability to trot that type of mile. I was very gratified that she finally did it,” McKeon finished.

Live racing will resume at Cal-Expo on Friday (July 6) and continue through Saturday. Post time on Friday and Saturday is now at 6:15 p.m. (PDT). On Friday, Cal-Expo offers Happy Hour between 6:00-8:00 p.m., where $1 beer, $2 wine and 25-cent buffalo wings are offered.

Cal-Expo offers guaranteed $10,000 pools on all Pick-4’s!

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