The Blue Chip Matchmaker Series for open pacing mares picked up exactly where it left off in 2022, as defending champion Drama Act made a triumphant return, capturing the first of three $40,000 divisions in the first leg of the series at MGM Yonkers Raceway on Friday night (March 17).
George Brennan guided the Ron Burke-trained mare, who was sent off at odds of 1-5, to an imposing 1:51.3 victory.
The action was hot and heavy at the outset as second choice Racine Bell and driver Jason Bartlett blitzed the gate from post seven to secure the front on the opening bend. Wahs Fire Bug N tucked in behind her while Brennan took his time with the favoured Drama Act, assuming control before the opening panel, which was posted in 27 seconds flat.
From there, the leaders went in single file through fractions of :56.1 and 1:24.1 before Brennan called on the Well Said-sired mare and she sprinted home in-hand. Racine Bell easily held the place spot while Wahs Fire Bug N and Alta Madeira N finished third and fourth.
Owned by The OK Corral, Drama Act, who now has 33 career victories and earnings of $858,972, was a winner for the fourth time in five 2023 starts and returned $2.60 to win. The chalk exacta paid $6.20, with the triple a solid $33.
Amazing Dream N showed the way for Yannick Gingras in the second $40,000 division as the 4-5 favourite.
The Bettors Delight-sired import set fractions of :27.2 and :57.1 for the opening half as pocket-sitter Easy To Please and Jordan Stratton stalked her in second and second favourite Lit De Rose sat third. Amazing Dream N accelerated off the easy half, hitting three-quarters in 1:25 as Lit De Rose edged off the pylons to challenge from a distance.
Gingras let the Linda Toscano-trained mare pace in the homestretch, and she kicked home in :27.3, completing the mile in 1:52.3 in her 2023 and Yonkers debut. Easy To Please held off Lit De Rose for the place spot, with Annerie N following in fourth.
Owned by Enviro Stable, Richard Gutnick, Tom Pontone and Joseph Lozito Jr., Amazing Dream N made her 27th appearance in the winner's circle and she has now pocketed $1,286,861. She returned $3.90, $3 and $2.20 across the board. The exacta returned $14.60 and the trifecta came back at $36.60.
In the third division of the Blue Chip Matchmaker, the competition was hot from start to finish and 7-1 shot Karma Seelster rallied off a third-over trip to post the upset for Matt Kakaley following a thrilling stretch drive.
Sweet Treasure and driver Andrew McCarthy blasted from post eight and secured the front late on the opening turn, looping favourite Gias Surreal and Jason Bartlett and forcing another leaver, Lucky Artist A and Braxten Boyd, to tuck in fourth.
Bartlett eventually seized control, but Gias Surreal needed a :26.4 first quarter to do so. Bartlett slowed the pace slightly, but the half was still a solid :55.3 when Delitfulcatherin N and Jordan Stratton began their offensive, followed by Lucky Artist A and Karma Seelster in the outer tier.
A spirited third quarter saw the top two on even-terms through three-quarters in 1:23.4, and heading into the final turn, Kakaley surprised Boyd, sending Karma Seelster three-wide early and briefly blindswitching their rival. That move gave Karma Seelster the momentum, and she carried it to the finish line while Boyd found clearance early enough to make a race of it to the wire. In the end, Karma Seelster prevailed in 1:52.4, winning for the third time in seven starts this year for trainer Andrew Adamczyk. Lucky Artist A finished second, with Delitfulcatherin N holding third gamely after the overland journey. Gotthegreenlight was a solid fourth after clearing late in the mile.
Karma Seelster is owned by Karen Hauver and Shady Hill Racing Stable of Durham, Ont. The six-year-old daughter of Sportswriter has a lifetime record of 18-15-14 from 70 tries and pushed her bankroll to $920,206. She returned $16.60 to win. The exacta paid $70.50 and there was a $185.50 trifecta.
Preliminary round action in the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series will continue through Friday, April 14 and will conclude with a $125,000 added final that should go for at least $250,000 on April 24. The final of the MGM Borgata Pacing Series and companion consolation races for both events will also occur that night.
The 2023 edition of the MGM Borgata Pacing Series for free-for-allers will begin on Monday night (March 20) at MGM Yonkers Raceway with four $50,000 divisions on the 12-race program. To complement the MGM Borgata Pacing Series, the Empire Terrace dining room will be open 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays from March 20 to April 24. Owners and fans are invited to attend the races and enjoy food from an ala carte menu. No reservations are required.
MGM Yonkers Raceway is currently operating on a Monday through Friday live racing schedule with post time at 7 p.m. (EST).
(With files from Yonkers Raceway)