Washington, PA — In 2013, a young Irishman determined that he would make his living in harness racing and that to do so, he would need to leave his homeland, where the sport is largely a part-time pursuit. Thus, he left County Cork to seek success in North America.
And he found it. On Saturday (July 25), that young man, Robert Cleary, will mark his first appearance in the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids at The Meadows when he sends out Rockin The Aces (Brett Miller), the New Jersey Sires Stakes champion, in race 9, the final of three $25,000 Adios eliminations. The top three finishers in each elim return August 1 for the $375,000 final.
After leaving the Emerald Isle, Cleary landed in Canada, where he worked for trainer Tony O’Sullivan. He soon shifted to the U.S. and launched his own stable, which now includes 15 head, the majority owned by Royal Wire Products of Ohio.
Cleary knows his decision to come to North America was the right one.
“I grew up around horses, and that’s all I really know. That’s where I’m happiest,” he says. “If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it where there’s more money.
Cleary got Rockin The Aces for his sophomore campaign from owner Robert Barry, who’s based in Dublin and follows his horse via the Internet. The Rock N Roll Heaven-Mattaroni gelding has blossomed under Cleary’s tutelage, winning a NJSS leg as well as the $160,000 final at the Meadowlands in a sparkling 1:49.4. And he’s fresh, with only three starts this year. Based on those plusses, he’s been installed as a 9-2 selection in the morning line.
For all that, Cleary is realistic about his horse’s chances.
“It’s a pretty big step up for him,” Cleary says, “but he hasn’t done anything wrong, so we have to give him a shot. I would have preferred post 3 or 4. It would have been easier for him to get away from the middle of the gate.”
Although Rockin The Aces is eligible for the Little Brown Jug, he isn’t heavily staked for the rest of the season, so Adios orchids may be his best chance for glory. If he should win and you’re trackside to greet the victorious trainer, remember: It’s Robert, Rob if you must, never Bob or Bobby.
“My mother doesn’t mind when it’s ‘Rob,’ but she doesn’t like the nicknames that begin with ‘B.” And you have to make your mother happy.”
The action-packed eliminations card, which kicks off at 12:45 PM, also features a pair of stakes for 3-year-old filly pacers — a $188,682 Pennsylvania Sires Stake and a $100,000 PA Stallion Series event — and a $16,582.20 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5.
Adios Elimination, Race 5
1. Later Dudes-Brian Brown-David Miller-5-1
2. Roll With JR-Jeff Cullipher-Corey Callahan-8-1
3. Sandbetweenmytoes-Jim Campbell-Dave Palone-3-1
4. The Greek Freak-Ron Burke-Matt Kakaley-7-2
5. Put To Right-Tony Alagna-Andrew McCarthy-6-1
6. Captain Groovy-Ray Schnittker-Mark MacDonald-9-2
7. Chief Mate-Tony Alagna-Scott Zeron-7-1
Adios Elimination, Race 8
1. Somebodyitreasure-Andrew Harris-Brett Miller-12-1
2. Tru Lou-Ron Burke-Matt Kakaley-12-1
3. Sweet Truth-Ron Burke-Yannick Gingras-8-1
4. Papi Rob Hanover-Brett Pelling-David Miller-3-2
5. Sea Of Life-Tony Alagna-Scott Zeron-4-1
6. Captain Barbossa-Tony Alagna-Andrew McCarthy-4-1
7. No Lou Zing-Nancy Takter-Josert Fonseca-7-1
Adios Elimination, Race 9
1 .Rockin The Aces-Robert Cleary-Brett Miller-9-2
2. No Quarter-Brian Brown-Dave Palone-9-2
3. Mac’s Big Boy-Ron Burke-Matt Kakaley-15-1
4. Elver Hanover-Ron Burke-Chris Page-5-2
5. Capt Midnight-Tony Alagna-Andrew McCarthy-7-2
6. Seriously Hanover-Ron Coyne, Jr.-Scott Zeron-7-1
7. Catch The Fire-John Ackley-Mike Wilder-5-1