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Favourites Prevail In Empire Classic

Published: June 18, 2017 4:44 pm ET

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Devious Man ($4.70) and Barn Bella ($3.10) refused to disappoint their backers on Sunday (June 18) at Vernon Downs, as favourites swept both Empire Breeders Classic events on a special Father’s Day afternoon card.

In the $252,000 Classic for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings (race 9), Devious Man floated into position early, tracking from fourth well behind pacesetter Swell Chap (Brett Miller) before Andy Miller angled him off the pegs past a :56.3 first half mile. On the far turn, the Credit Winner colt gained the cover of Stick With Me Kid (Brian Sears), following a :28.1 third-quarter duel before vaulting to the fore above the eighth pole just moments after Stick With Me Kid put away Swell Chap. Devious Man used a three-wide slingshot move to kick away from the field by four lengths, capturing the Classic in 1:52.2.

Bills Man (Corey Callahan) rallied belatedly down the grandstand side from fourth-over to take second narrowly over Stick With Me Kid, who held third after handling much of the heavy lifting through the middle stages.

Devious Man and driver Andy Miller in the Empire Breeders Classic on June 18 at Vernon Downs. (FotoWon)

When asked after the event what the future plans are for the colt, Miller minced no words.

"He did that easy, but the fractions were not real strong, so when he came off cover he just trotted to the wire," he said. "I'm not sure if we are going to Pocono next week (for the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial), but pointing him towards the Hambletonian is the goal and hopefully we have some luck there."

Julie Miller trains Devious Man for Stroy, Inc. and the Andy Miller Stable, Inc.

In the $228,250 Classic for three-year-old trotting fillies (race 8), Barn Bella overcame post 9 and a taxing early pace en route to a 1:51.3 triumph, equaling the track record for sophomore distaffers on the trot.

Jeff Gregory put the daughter of Conway Hall in play from the far outside, travelling uncovered in pursuit of Ostrich Blue Chip (Scott Zeron) through a :26.1 first quarter and clearing the lead upon reaching the backstretch. After slowing the tempo through a :29.1 second split, Barn Bella dug in to protect her ground from a first-over Celebrity Ruth (David Miller) on the far turn, repelling that threat past a 1:24 three-quarter split and edging away off the corner. Barn Bella edged clear from her nine rivals while driven out in upper stretch, ultimately putting 3-1/4 lengths on Celebrity Ruth. Sunshine Delight (Brett Miller) was a farther four lengths back in third after stalking second-over cover through the final three-eighths.

Barn Bella and driver Jeff Gregory in the Empire Breeders Classic on June 18 at Vernon Downs. (FotoWon

"Oh she ranks up there for sure (with the greatest horses Gregory has driven)," said her pilot in the winner's circle. "She is limited to what she is eligible to, but she is pretty much paid up to everything in New York, so she won't be able to go against the big girls, but with what she is doing here, she is sure making us happy."

Trainer Steven Pratt co-owns Barn Bella with Nancy Pratt along with Wanda Polisseni’s Purple Haze Stables, LLC.

A quartet of New York Sire Stakes events for three-year-old pacing colts and geldings preceded the Empire Breeders Classic twinbill, with Heavens Gait ($2.90, David Miller, 1:49), American Wiggle ($74.00, Scott Zeron, 1:51), Funknwaffles ($2.20, Brian Sears, 1:51), and In A Single Bound ($6.00, Billy Dobson, 1:50.2) proving victorious in their respective divisions.

(With quotes from USTA/Vernon Downs)


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