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And The Levy Goes To Real Nice; Matchmaker To Tomorrowpan


Published: April 30, 2011 10:12 pm ET

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Real Nice, driven by George Brennan, was all that and more Saturday night, winning Yonkers Raceway's $495,000 final of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series.

The 24th (and richest-ever) Levy for Free-For-Allers--also the richest North American harness race of the season to date--began with Real Nice swooping to the lead from post position No. 5. He was in command well before the :26.4 opening quarter-mile. This Is Wyatt (Eric Goodell) was pocket-protecting, with Gallant Yankee (Tim Tetrick) away third and two-time defending series champ Foiled Again (Yannick Gingras) floating in for a four-hole.

Real Nice gave himself a bit of a breather (:28.4) with a :55.3 intermission before Gallant Yankee moved from third. That one prompted a :27.2 backside (1:23 three-quarters), with Foiled Again--the stronger half of the 3-4 favoured entry--ambling up from second-up.

Real Nice worked from a length-and-a-half lead into the lane. Pocket-sitting "Wyatt" came up barren, Foiled Again kept challenging, and a way-out-wide Giddy Up Lucky (Dan Dube) was showing up late as the 31-1 rank outsider.

In end, it was a real tough Real Nice, gutting it out by a neck in 1:51.2. Giddy Up Lucky snapped second, with Foiled Again, Gallant Yankee and Foiled Again's running mate Southern Allie (Dave Miller) completing the cashers. Foreign Officer (Jim Pantaleano)--stablemate to "Wyatt"--Blatantly Good (Jason Bartlett) and This Is Wyatt rounded out the order of finish.

For Real Nice, a six-year-old Real Artist gelding trained by Rich Banca for co-owners Beverly and Gary Paganelli of Suffield and Anthony Scussel of Enfield, Connecticut, he returned $20.80 (fourth choice) for his sixth win in 10 seasonal efforts (earnings in excess of $341,000). The exacta paid $244, with the triple returning $892.

"His game is speed," said Brennan, whose game is also speed. "He drew poorly in the first two legs and had no shot. He won the next two week (from the inside and the six-hole), and even though he was beaten last week, he raced well.

"Tonight, I knew I'd have to pay a price to get the lead, and when I saw Gallant Yankee moving, I couldn't have him smothering me, so I picked it up again.

"He was just incredibly game tonight," Brennan said. "Rich (Banca) had him on his toes. It's a great race to win. He beat some terrific horses and I'm very pleased."

A $100,000 series consolation was won by Mr Massimo (Brennan, $9) in 1:51.2.

The Ontario-owned and trained Tomorrowpan, driven by Dan Dube, did very good work from the pocket Saturday night, winning Yonkers Raceway's $301,000 final of the Blue Chip Matchmaker going away.

Leaving from post position No. 4, Tomorrowpan made an immediate lead. Ginger and Fred (Yannick Gingras), last season's series champ and this night's pole-sitting, 1-2 favourite (with entrymate Breakheart Pass), wanted no part of a two-hole. The people's choice claimed the lead right at a :27.3 opening quarter-mile.

An unpressured :56.4 intermission and a first-up stablemate seemed to work in favour of Ginger And Fred, who found three-quarters in 1:25.2.

That one owned a length-and-a-quarter lead into the lane, but was about to give up the ghost. Tomorrowpan rolled right by, as did Save My Shark (Jim Patantaleano) from three-hole. The latter whipped the former by a length-and-three-quarters in a season's-best 1:53. Ginger And Fred faded to third, with All Spirit (George Brennan) and Hulas Z Tam (Pat Lachance) completing the cashers.

Breakheart Pass, Giveittoemstaight (Jason Bartlett) and Symphony In Motion (Dave Miller) rounded out the order.

For Tomorrowpan, a five-year-old daughter of No Pan Intended owned by Steve Calhoun and trained by Casie Coleman, she returned $19.80 (fourth choice) for her sixth win in 11 seasonal starts (2011 earnings now over a quarter-million dollars). The exacta paid $301, with the triple returning $511.

"I thought if I could give her a chance, she would race very well," said Dube. "I might the lead right away, then let the other mare (Ginger And Fred) go.

"Once I ducked inside, she was very strong."

For Dube, the Matchmaker was career win No. 6,998.

"I couldn't be happier," said Calhoun. "We originally bought her ($58,000, Meadowlands January sale) to be a broodmare (bred to Sportswriter), but soon after, Casie told me you might want to hold off on that for a while.

“We took a bit of a gamble giving her last week (final prelim leg) off, but a lot of things would have had to go against us for her not to make the final."

As it turned out, in the final, nothing went against Tomorrowpan.

"She's been a great surprise for us (six-for-10 since the purchase), and we're going to let her keep on doing what she loves to do."

A $75,000 series consolation was won by a last-to-first Shacked Up (Eric Goodell, $2.80) as part of the favoured entry in 1:53.2.

(With files from Yonkers Raceway)

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