Yonkers, NY — With many Sire Stakes programs yet to commence and little on the Grand Circuit schedule for 3-year-old pacers during the month of May, Yonkers Raceway attracted four divisions of the Reynolds series for the age group on the pace. Carded as races four through seven on the Friday (May 7) 10-race program, the Reynolds are split evenly, with two races for fillies and a pair for colts and geldings.
There is no shortage of talent among the 30 entered, but the two splits for the boys came up especially deep. Perhaps at the top of the heap off 2020 performance is American Courage. The Travis Alexander trainee won seven of eight starts in his rookie year of racing and returns to the races off a strong second-place finish in a qualifier at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. He sat third in that mile, before moving into second on the final turn and sprinting home in :27.1.
“Matt (Kakaley) just put him on Bronx Seelster’s back. He had tons of horse left,” said Alexander about the qualifier.
A three-time winner at Yonkers last year, including the $104,250 Springfield stake, American Courage is right at home over the surface, which will serve him well from post six in the $23,750 seventh-race division.
“I’ll leave that to Matt,” said Alexander about how to work out a trip from the outside post. “We are ready and looking forward to getting the year started.”
The inside is typically the best place to be on any half-mile track and that honor belongs to Shakespeare. The altered son of Somebeachsomewhere has done good work thus far in 2021 with a win and a second from two starts and trainer Brett Pelling felt the 3-year-old’s natural speed would serve him well on the smaller track. Todd McCarthy drives Shakespeare.
I’ll Drink To That also brings a 2-1-1-0 current-year record to Yonkers after two solid performances at The Meadowlands. Dexter Dunn will steer from post four for trainer Chris Ryder, who has a horse entered in all four Reynolds divisions.
“I wouldn’t make the statement that he’s as good as American Courage, but he’s not that far away. He’s certainly sounder this year,” said Ryder about the 5-2 morning-line choice. “Last year we sat a two-hole behind American Courage. My horse was no good that night and we only got beat by a half-length.”
What About Bob (post two, Jim Marohn Jr) and Town Gossip (post eight, Joe Bongiorno) both enter the second division of the Reynolds off wins while King James Express (post three, Jason Bartlett) and Bettor Of The West (post seven, Scott Zeron) make their first starts of 2021 on Friday. Carrythetorchman rounds out the field from post five with Marcus Miller in the bike.
The $23,250 fourth race first division of the Reynolds includes a trio of horses coming into the race off wins — Crystal Beach (post one, Miller), Whichwaytothebeach (post three, McCarthy) and Coalition Hanover (post five, Dunn).
Coalition Hanover was the most accomplished of the group in 2021 with three wins and two seconds from six starts. The Ryder trainee’s lone defeat came in the $40,000 Weiss final at Pocono when he made a break late in the mile.
“We always liked him but he didn’t do as much as we thought he should,” said Ryder. “We trained him back free-legged and I always thought we’d put the hobbles back on when he qualified, but he was terrific without them so we qualified and raced him free-legged. I thought he was going to win the Weiss before that break, so it is a lesson learned and we put the hobbles back on.
“I’m pretty sure he can get around the half and he deserves a chance to be in there.”
Whichwaytothebeach only has one start thus far for trainer Brett Pelling this year but is highly regarded after a strong rookie campaign where he hit the board in all eight starts. His résumé has earned him 9-5 morning-line favorite status.
Crystal Beach’s win on May 1 was the first of his career. The son of Art Major was a regular on the New York circuit in 2020 and should be right at home on the half-mile Yonkers surface.
He’s A Snob (post two, Mark MacDonald), third in the Weiss final recently, Mullinax (post four, Zeron), a Massachusetts Sire Stakes champion in 2020, Imaginary Line (post six, George Brennan), second in his last two tries, and Major Makover (post seven, Bartlett), a Weiss consolation runner-up, complete the field of seven.
Races five and six highlight the fillies. Heart Of Mine starts as the 9-5 program favorite with Zeron driving for trainer Linda Toscano in the first $28,500 division while Podium Girl offers the same morning line in the $29,000 second split with Dunn in the bike behind the Ryder trainee.
First-race post time is 7:15 p.m. at Yonkers on Friday and racing continues on a Monday to Friday basis weekly.