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Proud American Back To Winning Form

Published: May 10, 2009 12:03 am ET

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Proud American got back on the winning track with a 1:55.2 triumph in Saturday night’s $9,000 Open Pace at Vernon Downs.

With Chris Lems at the controls, Proud American was content to lay back early in the sixth race as Most Happy Keene took the select field to the quarter in :29.4. Outlaw Blues rallied to lead the six-horse cast to the half in :58.4 and three-quarters in 1:25.5. Proud American entered the fray from fourth at the top of the stretch and out-scrapped Smoky Bonz and Outlaw Blues in the final strides to earn a half-length decision. He paid $7.90.

A winner in the first two Open events at the Downs this season, Proud American battled back from a third place finish last Saturday to record his third victory in four current outings. Lonny Hale conditions the career winner of $206,756 for owner Rocco Manzi of Oneida, New York.

Manzi’s pacer Kingsandqueens, also trained by Manzi, recorded the fastest mile of the windy evening, a 1:54.3 score in Saturday’s $5,500 eighth event. The four-year-old gelding drew off in the lane for driver Jimmy Whittemore to win by nearly two lengths and pay $41.80, $12.60 and $5.50 across the board.

Whittemore added four more first-place finishes during the 11-race program to become the initial five-time winning driver at the meet. Hale ended the evening with a training triple.

Howard Okusko, Jr. raised his meeting leading win total to 15 with a driving double, while Whittemore and Lems, who also won two races during the program, are tied with 13 tallies each after nine racing nights.

Trainer Dennis Whittemore was also credited with a pair of first-place finishes during Saturday’s card.

Ken Schultz, Jr., who won Saturday’s second race with his pacer Works For Me, is tied at two with Leon Bailey for most provisional driving victories through May 9.

(Vernon Downs)

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