Johnny Z wires field in Max Hempt Memorial

by John Zimich, publicity director, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs

Wilkes-Barre, PA — Johnny Z, driven by Brian Sears, scored a front end victory on Saturday afternoon (May 23) over a sloppy track in the $300,140 Max C. Hempt Memorial Pace at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Time of the mile was 1:51.4. photo

Johnny Z gave driver Brian Sears and trainer George Teague, Jr. back-to-back Hempt titles.

Trained by George Teague, Jr., Johnny Z was taken right to the front from the six post and battled Yannick Gingras and Gallant Yankee for the top spot as the opening split was clicked off in :27. The race more than likely was won when Sears got away with a :29 second split, taking the nine-horse field to the half in :56 before speeding it up down the backside.

It was still Johnny Z on the front end at the three-quarter pole followed by Gallant Yankee and Rusty’s All In (Tim Tetrick). The Hempt field got to the three-quarters in 1:23.4. Johnny Z went on to win by 1-3/4 lengths over Rusty’s All In with Gallant Yankee finishing third.

Sears said his horse left with ease to make it to the top with a decent opening quarter, noting he felt that was in his favor. He also noted that the :29 second quarter played a big role in the victory.

“The track was in great shape,” said Sears, despite the rain that had fallen earlier but had stopped prior to the race.

Did Sears have any anxious moments in the race?

“I was glad to see the wire in the race,” he offered in the winner’s circle.

Teague stated Johnny Z was as good as any of the 3-year-old colts in his barn.

“He was sick in the Matt’s Scooter but we got the bleeding cleared up and the mucus out of his throat,” said Teague, who won his second straight Hempt. Last year, it was Sears and Badlands Nitro in a stakes record of 1:50.

Johnny Z was named by Pennsylvania breeder Earl Beal, Jr. after John Zimich, the director of publicity at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs who was in the winner’s circle with his namesake to interview Sears and Teague.

Zimich asked Teague kiddingly if he was going to get some of the purse and Teague replied, “You’re getting enough action with the name.”

The Hoosier Cup, North America Cup and Meadowlands Pace are now some of the races Teague is pointing Johnny Z toward.

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