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Opens Featured At Vernon

Published: April 26, 2009 12:13 am ET

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Bet The Ranch and Proud American took home top honours in pacing features at Vernon Downs on Saturday night, April 25.

Bet The Ranch, owned by Edwin Gold and Conrad Zurich, posted a repeat victory in Saturday’s $9,000 Open test for female pacers, while Rocco Manzi’s Proud American secured his second straight score in the $9,000 Open-1 showdown.

Driver Howard Okusko, Jr. sent Bet The Ranch to the front from the word “go” and urged the four-year-old daughter of Bettors Delight on to a neck triumph in 1:53.4 over newcomer Fox Valley Sage during Saturday’s fifth event. The Jessica Okusko-trainee secured her 11th lifetime tally and raised her career earnings to more than $95,400 with the hard-fought effort.

Chris Lems, the meet’s leading dash-winner after four racing nights, did the teaming for trainer Lonny Hale as Proud American rallied three-wide from fifth in Vernon’s final turn, then closed from fourth in the stretch to nip the pocket-sitting Four One One by a neck at the completion of the sixth race. The six-year-old son of Village Joe paid $11.60 for the 1:53.2 performance, which currently ranks as meet’s fastest clocking. It marked the 17th lifetime tally for the career-winner of $201,176.

Dennis Whittemore’s Outlaw Blues tied for fastest-mile-of-the-meet honours after Jimmy Whittemore guided the six-year-old gelding to a front-ending 1:53.2 score in Saturday’s $6,000 ninth race, the week’s Open-2 pace. North America Cup eligible Allamerican Improv, who is ranked at odds of 55-1 in Trot Magazine’s 2009 Pepsi North America Cup Spring Book, was the runner-up with Howard Okusko Jr. at the reins.

Driver Bill Bailey won three of Saturday’s 12 races, while his brother, Jim, secured two scores. Okusko, Jr. and Lems also logged a pair of first-place finishes and Nicholas Gibides earned a training double.

Dorothy Gibides owns the pacers A And Gs Winner and Eye Of Survival, who combined to capture Saturday’s early double (Races 1 and 2). Eye Of Survival and Outlaw Blues also recorded repeat victories during the program.

(With files from Vernon Downs)

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