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Levy Series Sweep Would Be Real Nice

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Published: April 27, 2012 7:36 pm ET

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Real Nice has found racing in the George Morton Levy Pacing Series at Yonkers Raceway to be real nice.

A seven-year-old gelding pacer, Real Nice is the defending Levy champion and was five-for-five in this season’s preliminary rounds. He has won eight of his last nine starts in the Levy and has hit the board in 18 of his 22 lifetime Levy trips. His only off-the-board finishes came when starting from post eight (three times) and post seven.

In Saturday’s $455,000 Levy final, Real Nice will start from post seven in the eight-horse field. To his inside, from the rail, are Blatantly Good, Art Z, Atochia, Fitzs Z Tam, Strand Hanover, and Nob Hill High while to his outside is two-time Levy champion Foiled Again.

Foiled Again, the sport’s defending Pacer of the Year and Levy winner in 2009 and 2010 for trainer Ron Burke, as well as stablemate Atochia both won three preliminary rounds. So, too, did Art Z.

“We drew inside Foiled Again, so that kind of puts him in a tougher spot than us,” said Jason Bartlett, who has driven Real Nice throughout the series. “There are a lot of nice horses in there; they didn’t make the final because they weren’t racing good.

“Every horse in there has a good shot at winning. For us, it’s going to be a little bit harder.”

Real Nice, trained by Richard Banca, has won five of eight races this year and earned $139,850 for owners Beverly Paganelli, Gary Paganelli and Anthony Scussel. For his career, the son of Real Artist-Dreamland’s Jo Jo has won 37 of 111 starts and $1.16 million. He is fond of Yonkers Raceway, having won 26 of 73 career races at the half-mile oval.

“Yonkers has been good to him,” Bartlett said. “Coming into [the Levy series], he was sharp, he was tight. Richie did a good job setting him up for the series. You can’t ask for anything else. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do, and then some.”

All of Real Nice’s wins in the Levy this year came in gate-to-wire fashion, with three by more than one and a half lengths. In the first round, when he handed Foiled Again his only loss in four starts this season, he led to the first quarter in :27 and came home with a :27.1 final quarter-mile. In his next start, he hit the opening quarter in :26.3 and cruised home in :27.3.

“You’re going to win a lot of races when you can do that,” Bartlett said. “He’s been having the front, but he’s won over a million dollars and I’ll guarantee not all of it has been on the front end. I’ve raced him off a helmet before and he’s fine.

“He’s just a really good horse. You can start him up and send him out of there and then he’ll come right back to you and you can put him in a hole. He’ll do whatever you want him to do. He’s really good that way.”

He also is determined.

“He’s a gritty horse,” Bartlett said. “Right around the top of the lane he’ll start pinning his ears back a little bit and he’ll dig right in. You’ve got to have a little personality, be a little cocky. He digs in, that’s for sure, when it’s time to dig in. He fights.”


This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.

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