Gulf Shores and Pleaseletmeknow will lead the field into next Friday night's (July 1) MGM Grand Messenger Stakes final for three-year-old colt and gelding pacers after taking tonight's (June 24) $40,000 eliminations at Yonkers Raceway.
Driven by Yannick Gingras in the opening elimination, Gulf Shores left from post three and worked his way past Captain Cowboy (Dexter Dunn) to take over the lead before the 27.1 opening quarter. Gingras then hit the brakes in the second quarter and got to the half in just 57 seconds before having to pick up the tempo to 1:25 at three-quarters in order to deal with a bit of first-over pressure from Layton Hanover (Matt Kakaley).
Layton Hanover's bid ended on the final turn, and he dropped back, giving Captain Cowboy space to tip out in an attempt to chase down Gulf Shores. Captain Cowboy was able to gain, but it wasn't enough as Gulf Shores held on to prevail by a head in 1:52.4. Nautical Hanover (Todd McCarthy) sat on the cones in the three-hole and wound up third, and PJ Lou (Jason Bartlett) was able to close from last to fourth in the final quarter to secure a position in the final.
"I was very happy with him. Even with the margin, Yannick said he had plenty left," said winning trainer Brian Brown.
A Downbytheseaside colt bred by Joe Sbrocco, Joe McLead and William Walters and owned by Country Club Acres Inc., Diamond Creek Racing and Wingfield Brothers LLC., Gulf Shores has a record of 8-3-1 from 13 starts and has earned $543,867.
He paid $3.60 to win as the 4-5 favourite and led an $8.90 exacta and a $19.60 trifecta.
In the other elimination, Pleaseletmeknow (Kakaley) made every call a winning one in a 1:52 performance. He blasted out from post four and made an uncontested lead after Market Based (Andy McCarthy) broke stride on the first turn. After stepping off fractions of 28.1, 57 and 1:24.2, Pleaseletmeknow remained clear in a :27.3 last quarter, tallying by 2-3/4 lengths over Hammering Hank (Dunn), who saved ground on the inside, angled out on the last turn and out-kicked pocket-sitter Atlas Hanover (T. McCarthy) for second. Huntanover (Tyler Buter) was fourth.
Travis Alexander trains Pleaseletmeknow, an American Ideal gelding, for owner/breeder Fiddler's Creek Stables LLC. These are the same connections that campaigned last year's MGM Grand Messenger Stakes champion American Courage. Pleaseletmeknow is now a seven-time winner from 12 trips behind the gate and has pocketed $231,459.
He was dispatched at 5-1 and he returned $13. The exacta was worth $37 and the trifecta kicked back $143.
The open draw for the $259,230 MGM Grand Messenger Stakes final will take place on Monday.