George Napolitano Jr. floored the accelerator on Ruthless Hanover from race’s outset in the $100,000 Joseph Auger Memorial Invitational Pace, held on Super Sunday (May 28) at Harrah’s Philadelphia, and the six-year-old gelding responded with a 1:46.3 mile — the fastest ever on a five-eighths-mile track.
Ruthless Hanover, who now has won four of his five starts this season and 20 of his 45 career outings, erased the previous three-turn world record of 1:46.4, set by Allywag Hanover in November 2022 at Rosecroft Raceway.
After wiring his competition in his previous two wins over Open company this season at Harrah’s Philadelphia, the son of Somebeachsomewhere predictably employed familiar tactics, gunned to the fore by Napolitano to clear Hellabalou through a :25.2 first quarter before scorching middle splits of :53 and 1:19.2 and widening his uncontested lead to 2-1/2 lengths. And, despite the fast fractions, Napolitano had no doubt his pacer was up to completing the task.
“He’s that horse,” said Napolitano. “It was definitely a speed track and that’s where he likes to be. I was just hoping he would keep pacing to the wire and he did.”
Ruthless Hanover continued to edge away from his seven rivals off the turn for home, using a :27.1 closing quarter to evade runner-up South Beach Star and driver David Miller by 3-3/4 lengths. Lochinvar Art A and Lauren Tritton saved third over a tired Hellabalou.
“When I saw the three-quarter pole, I thought if he kept pacing like he has been, he’d [break the world record],” said Napolitano. “He was up on the bit going around the turn and hitting gears, and I knew it would be possible. He’s an amazing animal to do that.”
Tom Cancelliere, who trains Ruthless Hanover for his brother, owner John Cancelliere, indicated the pacer came back a more mature animal compared to his five-year-old season:
“He came back a little bigger and a little stronger, and his mindset’s different — he’s calmer. He used to get more fired up,” said Cancelliere. “Now he’s more focused; he knows what’s going on. He’s been kind of lightly raced, but hopefully he’s in the right spot now.”
And as far as the toll a 1:46.3 mile took on his star pacer?
“He came back super [immediately after the race],” said Cancelliere. “He drank a lot of water; he’s acting normal.
“I’m one of those people who wants to go as slow as I can go and get the money, but the world record is nice — it’s the icing on the cake.”
As the even-money favourite, Ruthless Hanover paid $4 to win.
Hillexotic Sets World Record In Maxie Lee
Yannick Gingras hoped to have Hillexotic add a little extra spice to Super Sunday's $100,000 Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational for older trotters at Harrah’s Philadelphia, but settled for a world-record win.
Six-year-old Hillexotic captured the Maxie Lee Memorial in 1:50.2, establishing the world record on a five-eighths-mile track for a gelding trotter older than age four. Hillexotic, the 1-2 favourite, won by one length over Inaminute Hanover. Ahundreddollarbill finished third.
The previous world record of 1:50.3 was shared by three horses: Sevruga (2013), Homicide Hunter (2018) and Will Take Charge (2018).
In addition, Hillexotic’s time Sunday equalled the fastest mile ever at Harrah’s Philadelphia, which was set by Market Share in the 2014 Maxie Lee Memorial.
“I tried to smash it, honestly,” Gingras said about the track record. “I tried to go :49. Around the last turn, I’m like, let’s go. I had a shot at it. Try to make it a little exciting.”
Hillexotic went to the front from post four, briefly yielded the lead to Inaminute Hanover on the first turn and then reclaimed the top spot just after reaching the opening quarter in :26.4. From there, the son of Muscle Hill-Exotic Destination hit the half in :54.4 and three-quarters in 1:22.3 on his way to his fourth victory in 10 starts this season for trainer Ron Burke.
“It kind of worked out the way we expected,” said Gingras. “Ronnie and I talked a little bit before the race and 99 per cent of the time it doesn’t work out the way you think, but today it did.”
Gingras said reaching the half-mile point in :54.4 “felt like I was walking.”
“With the conditions the way the track is, I think [the :28 second quarter] was a pretty good breather,” he said. “Usually, it’s not. But today it is.”
Hillexotic is owned by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Phil Collura. He was bred by Hanover Shoe Farms. For his career, he has won 20 of 57 races and earned $744,291.
Hillexotic paid $3 to win.
Max Contract Cascades To Betsy Ross Upset
Finding herself shuffled to a joint last with a quarter-mile to go in a stacked field, it was a surprise that Max Contract shook free and rallied to a 19-1 upset in the $100,000 Betsy Ross Mares Pace to most everyone.
Except for trainer Julie Miller.
“I had a lot of confidence in my mare,” said Miller. “I’m glad [driver] Andy [Miller] drove her how he did. You’ve got to have a lot of luck in these big races and we had that today.”
Andy Miller was patient early with the four-year-old daughter of Huntsville, electing to stalk from fourth while Racine Bell, Niki Hill and Amazing Dream N tussled through a torrid :25.4 first quarter. Todd McCarthy pushed to the fore with 9-5 favourite Niki Hill with just over a circuit to go, clearing Racine Bell and leaving Velocity Lady uncovered into a :53.1 half. Meanwhile, Max Contract was buried at the pegs in midfield and shuffled deeper off the pace as Niki Hill reached three-quarters in 1:21.
As Velocity Lady faded on the far turn — she gained to within a neck of second midway up the backstretch at the peak of her bid — Scott Zeron tipped Treacherous Dragon three-wide off cover and Andy Miller aimed Max Contract for an opening in the four-path off the turn for home. In the final eighth, the pace collapsed and Niki Hill gave way to Treacherous Dragon, but Max Contract cascaded down the grandstand side to nab Treacherous Dragon by a scant nose in a seasonal best 1:49 for her ninth career win. Dougs Babe A rallied to finish third, missing by just a neck. Niki Hill faded to finish seventh in the eight-horse field.
All told, Max Contract has amassed $356,739 for Andy Miller Stable Inc. and Jean Goehlen. She paid $40.80 to win.
Having made just three starts as a four-year-old, Max Contract has maintained continued praise from her conditioner.
“She’s built like a brick house,” concluded Miller. “She’s a strong, smart mare.”
A Super Sunday Undercard
On a day which saw two world records, the all-age track record on the pace shattered twice (the faster the quickest mile ever on a five-eighths-mile track) and equalled on the trot, and six divisional track records, the undercard to the three $100,000 Invitational events contributed more than its share to the magic of this Super Sunday at Harrah’s Philadelphia.
A $40,000 Invitational Pace was carded to make Super Sunday even more super and to kick off a $10,000 guaranteed Pick-4 wager that had the three Invites at the end of the bet.
And this Invitational proved unprecedented in the annals of Harrah’s Philadelphia, as the five-year-old Always B Miki gelding Southwind Gendry paced the fastest mile ever at the southeast Philadelphia oval, 1:47.2, knocking a fifth off the standard previously notched by Wiggle It Jiggleit in 2016 and equalled by Allywag Hanover last year. (Yes, this record would only last 79 minutes, until Ruthless Hanover went 1:46.3 in the Auger Invitational.)
Tattoo Artist, sent off at even-money to Southwind Gendry’s 8-5, went to the lead in a :25.4 quarter. Yannick Gingras decided to bypass a possible hole before the quarter and go up to challenge for the lead with 'Gendry,' making the lead just before a fantastic half in :52.4 and passing the three-quarters in 1:20. Tattoo Artist wheeled out of the hole headstretch and gained on the leader with every step, but Southwind Gendry held off his fellow millionaire by the smallest possible margin in the epic mile.
This was the third collaboration on the day between Gingras and trainer Ron Burke, and that count was before the Invitationals started; both also had a win without the other.
Southwind Gendry, who raised his bankroll to $1,170,847, is owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Phil Collura, Knox Services and J&T Silva- Purnel & Libby.
The three divisions of the $155,149 third preliminary leg of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for three-year-old pacing males were an excellent part of the Super Sunday excitement.
The Stay Hungry colt Seven Colors got a “patented” second-over trip from the track’s top driver, Tim Tetrick, swept wide on the far turn and (atypically for Philly) closed for victory in 1:48.1, which equalled the track record for his division, equalling the mark first established by A Rocknroll Dance. Sizzling fractions of :25.3, :52.4 and 1:19.4 helped set up the stretch kick of Seven Colors, who took a lifetime mark for trainer Brian Brown and the partnership of Country Club Acres, Joe Sbrocco, Bill Elliott and Milton Leeman.
Its My Show, winless at two, is now four-for-four as a sophomore, including two Sire Stakes wins, lowering his speed record to 1:49.1. The Sweet Lou gelding out of champion Put On A Show was the last horse to the top well past a :26.1 opener, setting the pace through middle fractions of :54.2 and 1:22.1, drifting out slightly early in the lane, but righting quickly and defeating Breeders Crown winner and pocket-sitter Ammo by three parts of a length. A brief inquiry in the stretch action gave the judges no reason to place the winner, who was driven by Scott Zeron for trainer Linda Toscano and Richard and Joanne Young.
The Captaintreacherous colt Ervin Hanover took the lead past a :26.3 opener in his division, yielded to favoured Bamboozler after keeping him out almost to the half in :54.1, stayed in to the 1:21.3 three-quarters, then was moved outside in the lane by driver Yannick Gingras and worked past the leader by a length in 1:49.2, a lifetime best. Ron Burke conditions the winner of more than $255,000 for Burke Racing Stable LLC, J&T Silva Stables LLC, Jim Simpson and Weaver Bruscemi LLC.
Five $20,000 divisions of the complementary Stallion Series were part of the “big card” as well.
Super Sunday started off in spectacular fashion with a 1:48.1 mile from Save America, a Captaintreacherous gelding who lowered the divisional track record of Boogie Shuffle by a tick and missed his divisional world record, co-held by Lucan Hanover and Wiggle It Jiggleit, by a fifth. Yannick Gingras pointed the winner of more than $450,000 down the road and went giant fractions of :26.1, :54 and 1:20.2 en route to altering a line in the record tables and reducing his own mark for 3 Brothers Stables and Caviart Farms.
Captaintreacherous picked up a second Stallion Series credit with the gelding Command, who paced in 1:50.1 for trainer Brett Pelling and Diamond Creek Racing. Todd McCarthy moved first-up with the winner after scalding early fractions, got a brief pocket respite on the far turn, then came out again and paced away to victory.
Stay Hungry sired two other Stallion Series winners who put up lifetime bests. Hungry Man went to the front before the quarter for driver Todd McCarthy and stayed in front to the wire, coming home in :27 for a 1:49 victory for trainer Tony Alagna and owner Brad Grant. And Binge On Yankee was a pocket rocket as the longest shot on the board at 17-1, defeating late-clearing Flash Move by a neck (all five horses were within two lengths at the wire) while taking a new mark of 1:50.4. Driver Joe Bongiorno drove for trainer Ron Burke. Brad Grant also owns a piece of this winner, along with Burke Racing LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Lawrence Karr.
Cannibal is perfect in two seasonal starts, both in Stallion Series action, after winning the other division in 1:48.3. The Sweet Lou colt gained a second Stallion Series credit for Diamond Creek Farms, who owns the winner of half his 10 lifetime starts. Scott Zeron drove him here for trainer Nancy Takter.
(With files from USTA, PHHA and Harrah’s Philadelphia)