Drivers George Napolitano Jr. and Marcus Miller dominated the Liberty Bell Stakes on Friday afternoon (October 9) at Harrah’s Philadelphia, capturing five of the six $30,000 divisions for two-year-old colts.
Napolitano deputized for trainer Åke Svanstedt (who was in Lexington establishing a new world record for freshman trotters with Southwind Tyrion), guiding two of his babies – which had a total of six lifetime starts between them – to victory.
First up was the Southwind Frank-Culmination colt Capstone, who never let anyone get past him and broke his maiden by three lengths in 1:55.3, just three ticks shy of the track record co-held by Rome Pays Off and Captain Corey, for the ownership of Åke Svanstedt Inc. and Stable Why Not.
Lepanto, the Pennsylvania Stallion Series champion, then raised his record to four-for-five for Team Napolitano-Svanstedt, also using engine tactics, but having to work hard late to resist Pilot Hanover by a nose in 1:56.2. The Bar Hopping–Woman Of Character colt found the finish line just in time for Esa Lahtinen, Jussi Hietalahti, and Arvo Risto Ylitalo.
Lepanto’s only loss came to Sunny Crockett in a Stallion Series contest, and that colt by Father Patrick out of Moonlight In Miami won the third Liberty Bell section for Marcus Miller in 1:56.4, with a back half of :56.4, to take his fifth win in 10 starts. “Aunt” Julie Miller trains the consistent youngster for Willow Oak Ranch and Andy Miller Stable Inc.
Marcus Miller can claim an even closer blood relationship with the trainer of the Liberty Bell Stakes pacing winner he drove, Captain Sleaze, by A Rocknroll Dance out of Da Sleazy One. The gelding finally broke through for his maiden win in 1:53.3 while denying Beach Chief by a neck. Miller's father Erv conditions the freshman for Engel Stable Of IL LLC.
Napolitano put a new mark on the pacing winner he drove, the Sweet Lou-Faster Faster colt Mysweetboymax, rallying from the pocket for a half-length 1:52.1 decision over pacesetter Somewhereinverona (over whom the winner was favoured by $4). Sam De Pinto’s trainee recorded his third victory for owners Robert and Brandon Horowitz.
The third pacing winner was driven by a horseman who had never raced at Harrah’s Philadelphia, but who certainly came with a sterling reputation – two-time national driving champion Ronnie Wrenn Jr. The horse with whom he won, the Captaintreacherous-Calgary Hanover gelding Chase H Hanover, also had recently been in the spotlight with his 1:51.1 tying of his divisional world record at Delaware (Ohio) and earlier second to Southwind Gendry in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championship.
Wrenn and “Chase H” quickly had the top, backed the half off to :56.3, and needed every bit of energy saved to step home in successive :27.1 quarters and keep Whichwaytothebeach, the PASS Consolation winner, at bay by a head in a lifetime best 1:51. Chase H Hanover has now bankrolled $225,797 for trainer Scott Cox, who shares ownership with Jason Ash.
A final note: many races find brothers or half-sisters, or offspring of related sires, finishing 1-2, but it’s an unusual race where the trainers are a son and a father who finished 1-2. Trotter Gran Paraiso, trained by David Wiest, broke his maiden in 1:58.4; finishing second was the freshman filly Divainthereddress, trained by Wiest's father Donald, who had turned 90 years young eight days earlier and must have been pleased that the family took the top two spots.
(With files from PHHA/Harrah’s Philadelphia)