Favorites score in Messenger eliminations

Yonkers, NY — American Courage just missed the track record by a fifth of a second and Abuckabett Hanover overcame troubles on the turns to win their respective $40,000 MGM Grand Messenger Stakes eliminations for 3-year-old colt and gelding pacers on Friday night (June 25) at Yonkers Raceway.

American Courage rolled to a 1:50.4 win in his elimination of the MGM Grand Messenger Stakes.

Driver Matt Kakaley had American Courage on the engine at the :27.4 opening quarter in the first elimination, and after taking command, he went on to the half in :56. It was at that point that Heart Of Chewbacca (Dan Noble) made a first-over move out of last, and that bid carried him into second before the 1:23.4 three-quarters. However, his bid stalled on the final turn as American Courage kicked on and came home in :27 to win by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:50.4. Charlie May (Brett Miller) tucked into third from post seven, rode the rail and rallied to finish a good second, with Chase H Hanover (Brian Sears) third and Simon Says Hanover (Scott Zeron) getting the last spot in the final.

Sired by American Ideal, American Courage is trained by Travis Alexander for owner-breeder Fiddler’s Creek Stables LLC. American Courage made his 10th stop in the winner’s circle from 11 trips behind the gate, and he has pocketed $218,633. The even money favorite, American Courage paid $4.00 to win and keyed a $13.50 exacta and an $87.75 trifecta.

Abuckabett Hanover (Andy McCarthy) was the headliner of a 1-9 entry in the second elimination, but his chances didn’t look very good on the first turn as he veered to the right and lugged out several paths. Fortunately, there was nobody alongside him and McCarthy was able to bring him down to the rail in fourth as I’ll Drink To That (Dexter Dunn) led the group to the :28.1 opening quarter.

I’ll Drink To That stayed in charge to the :56.2 half and the 1:24.1 three-quarters, but Abuckabett Hanover made steady first-over gains. Abuckabett Hanover did try to get out on the final bend again, but McCarthy managed to keep his charge fairly straight, and then in the lane the others were no match, as Abuckabett Hanover sailed by I’ll Drink To That while in hand, tallying by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:51.3. I’ll Drink To That held second over Highlandbeachsbest (Zeron), with Mysweetboymax (Jason Bartlett) fourth.

Tony Alagna trains Abuckabett Hanover, a Hanover Shoe Farms-bred Betting Line colt, for the partnership of Crawford Farms Racing, Alagna Racing LLC., Jablonsky Held Stable and Barbara N. Wienick Stable. Now four-for-four as a sophomore, Abuckabett Hanover is an eight-time winner overall, and he has put away $255,021. He returned $2.20 to win and led a $2.10 exacta and an $8.10 trifecta.

There were no surprises in the companion $25,000 Park MGM Pace eliminations for fillies either, as Heart Of Mine and Test Of Faith came in undefeated in 2021 and left with that status intact.

Heart Of Mine, piloted by Scott Zeron, looped Darby Hanover (Andy Miller) to take the lead past the :28.2 opening quarter in the first elimination, then backed down the middle half fractions to :58.2 and 1:27.1 with no outside pressure. Zeron let Heart Of Mine sprint in the final quarter, and she responded with a :27.1 kicker to prevail by a length over Darby Hanover in 1:54.2. Shania Blue Chip (Andy McCarthy) and Lyons Softasssilk (Tim Tetrick) stuck to the cones and got the other spots in next Friday’s final.

Trained by Linda Toscano, Heart Of Mine is a Roll With Joe filly owned by The Bay’s Stable LLC, Radio Racing Stable, Fred Wallace, and Camelot Stable Inc. Heart Of Mine, who was bred by Brittany Farms and is six-for-six in the win column this year, has a record of 7-5-1 from 17 career starts, and she has banked $217,131. Heart Of Mine paid $2.90 to win as the heavy favorite and was atop a $3.10 exacta and an $8.10 trifecta.

Test Of Faith lifted to a measured win in her Park MGM Pace elimination Friday at Yonkers Raceway. Georgia Panagi photos.

As for Test Of Faith, she bided her time in the fourth position while first Marsala Hanover (Zeron) and then Classicist (Todd McCarthy) showed the way through a :27.3 opening quarter and a :56 second half in the other elimination. David Miller brought Test Of Faith to the outside on the way to the 1:24 three-quarters, moved up into second to the outside of Classicist on the far turn, and then went by in the lane while in hand, prevailing by a measured three-quarters of a length in 1:52.1. Classicist was a good second at 21-1, with Marsala Hanover third and So Irresistible (Andy McCarthy) fourth.

A daughter of Art Major, Test Of Faith is trained by Brett Pelling for owners Mel Segal, Kentuckiana Racing Stable, and Eddie Gran. Test Of Faith has 11 wins and a second from 12 lifetime tries, and she has now earned $562,700. She was the 1-9 choice and returned $2.10 across the board. The exacta was worth $9.20 and the trifecta kicked back $29.50.

The draws for the finals of these two events, along with the MGM Yonkers Trot and New York New York Mile, will take place on Monday (June 28).

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