Pastor Stephen, last year’s champion freshman colt trotter, kicked off his three-year-old campaign in flawless fashion Tuesday at The Meadows when he captured a division of a $207,909 Pennsylvania Sires Stakes
. The event was conducted over three divisions, with Onirique and Washingtonian taking the other $69,303 splits.
Entering the stake off a single qualifier, Pastor Stephen got away second for Dave Palone, moved to the front before the five-eighths and glided through the slop to score in 1:55.3, equaling the fastest mile this year by a three-year-old colt trotter on a five-eighths-mile track. Early leader Buffalino Hanover was 3-1/4 lengths back in second, with Unabating third.
Jimmy Takter, who trains the son of Cantab Hall-Gala Dream for Christina Takter, John Fielding an Brittany Farms, liked what he saw on a cool, rainy day - an almost perfectly rated mile with fractions of :28.4, :28.4, :29 and :28.4.
“It was a helluva mile - he’s class,” Takter said. “David said he was fantastic. It was his first start of the year, and in less-than-perfect weather. You’d like to race a good horse in good conditions, but the Hambletonian and other big races can be on a muddy track, so they have to learn.”
He said he is undecided about where Pastor Stephen will race next, although the next leg of the PASS at Harrah’s Chester is a possibility.
Onirique got away well but found himself shuffled to fifth, 5-1/2 lengths behind, nearing the final turn. Once John Campbell angled him off the pylons, he poured through the lane to triumph in a career-best 1:55.3, a length better than Big Tuna. Opinion Hanover completed the ticket.
“I was worried about whether I could get out in time or not,” Campbell said. “But once he got out and free at the head of the stretch, I was sure he would win. He had a lot of trot.”
Jean Dubois trains Onirique, an Andover Hall gelding, for Reve Avec Moi Dreamwithme.
Unraced at two, Washingtonian notched his initial PASS victory by exploiting a cover trip and pouncing late for Dick Stillings, establishing a lifetime mark of 1:56.1. Opening Night was second while Del Cielo earned show money.
“We quit with him early last year because he was a real big colt,” said Rich Gillock, who trains the homebred Malabar Millennium-P Town Girl gelding and owns with Barbara Richardson. “He was hurt as a baby when he caught his right hind leg in a gate. Fortunately, it was in front of his suspensory. If it was anywhere else, it probably would have ruined him. So I don’t like to over-train him. So far, so good. We kept him eligible to a couple of the bigger races.”
In the $22,500 Filly & Mare Preferred Trot, Action Broadway overcame post eight by vaulting to the lead for Palone and notching a comfortable victory in 1:55. Rose Run Keepsake came first over for second, 1-1/4 lengths in arrears, while Hawaiianphotograph saved show.
Virgil Morgan, Jr. trains Action-Broadway, a four-year-old-daughter of Broadway Hall-Photo With Molly who now boasts $432,210 in career earnings, for Ken Sommer.
Palone and Aaron Merriman each drove four winners on the 16-race card.