If ever the phrase 'horses for courses' needed to be assessed, Starznheaven and Plainridge Park would certainly be the ideal case study and it was on display again Monday afternoon (November 5) when the six-year-old son of Rock N Roll Heaven torched his field to win the $17,000 Winners-Over Handicap pacing feature at The Ridge.
The heavily favoured Starznheaven (Shawn Gray) was floated off the gate from post nine and took his time getting to the front and, when he got there past the quarter, he was poised to put on a show. After getting to the half in :56.1 and the three-quarters in 1:24.1, Gray let him out a notch and the race ended there. Starznheaven started pulling away and opened up a three-length lead in the turn that extended to five at the head of the stretch. As Gray sat still with the whip on his shoulder, Starznheaven barreled home in :27.3 with a six-length advantage under the wire in 1:51.4.
The win was the 13th of 2018 and 35th victory of his career. Starznheaven ($2.80) has now amassed $131,875 in purses this year. Privately purchased just four days ago, this was Starznheaven’s first win for new owners Marc Reynolds and Bradford Veilleux.
As for liking this racetrack, in seven starts at Plainridge Park this year, Starznheaven has won five and finished second twice, but by only a head and a neck. He also took a new lifetime mark of 1:49.4 at the Massachusetts mecca of harness racing back on June 18.
A pair of recently imported New Zealand-breds made their first Plainridge starts on Monday in a pair of upper-level condition events with both pacers putting in stellar performances in wire-to-wire wins.
Going off the 3-5 favourite, Bettors Fire N (Ron Cushing) was the easiest of winners in a gate-to-wire hand drive by Cushing. After squelching an early bid for the front by Cruzing Hill (Drew Campbell), Bettors Fire N outpaced Born Of Fire (Jimmy Whittemore) at the three-quarters and then held off a late charge by Betterlatethnnever (Mitchell Cushing) down the stretch to win by a wrapped-up length in 1:53.3.
The win was the third straight since Bettors Fire N ($3.20) arrived stateside on October 21. He is owned by his driver along with Kevin Sywyk and Frank Ranaldi. Heidi Gibbs is the trainer.
Then Kiwi Tintin N (Chris Long) was sent off at 1-9 and after setting fairly easy fractions to the top of the stretch, dug in hard and gamely held off a four-horse cavalry charge at the wire to win in 1:54.1. Kiwi Tintin N's margin of victory was a neck and the top five horses finished within a length of each other.
Kiwi Tintin N ($2.20), who made his North American debut on September 29 at Saratoga Raceway, has now won five out of his six races since arriving from Down Under for owner Kevin Quinn and trainer Paul Zabielski.
Shawn Gray had the hot hand Monday leading all drivers by winning four races on the card. Besides the already mentioned Starznheaven, Gray also got across with Kaylas Blues ($11.20, 1:57.3), Beachchip Hanover ($4.60, 1:53) and My Mind Is Made Up ($6, 1:52.2) to round out the Grand Slam.
Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Tuesday afternoon with post time set for 1 p.m.
(With files from Plainridge)