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Morrill, Rice Sweep Batavia Features

Published: July 24, 2021 10:30 pm ET

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It was the first Saturday night (July 24) card of the meet at Batavia Downs and driver Jim Morrill Jr. and trainer Maria Rice put on a clinic on the track for the fans in the stands.

Morrill had a natural Grand Slam in Races 6, 7, 8 and 9 and Rice had a natural Hat Trick in Races 7, 8 and 9. Between the pair, they swept the top three feature races of the night.

In the $11,200 Open I Handicap Pace, Morrill sent Art Scene to the front and never looked back. Cutting fractions of :27.4, :56 and 1:24.1 with as much as a three-length lead, Art Scene turned for home looking solid. But Endeavors Pride had been tracking the leader from the pocket and left that spot for the stretch drive. Endeavors Pride cut into the 1-1/2-length deficit as Kevin Cummings drove him down the lane, but Art Scene had enough in the tank and hit the beam in front by a neck in 1:53.4.

Art Scene ($2.80) got his first win for his new owners Team Rice Racing, who claimed the gelding at Yonkers in June for $25,000.

In the $10,000 Open II Pace, Morrill sent Surfer Beach down the road from post 1 and led a field that stayed single-file for most of the mile. With Stratosphere on his back, Surfer Beach got to three-quarters in 1:26.3 and his lead never looked in doubt. Stratosphere took a shot at him down the lane but couldn’t get closer than his bike in the :28 last quarter while Surfer Beach won by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:54.3.

Surfer Beach ($3.90) is another new acquisition for the Rice stable, as he was privately purchased on July 16 by his new owners Vogel and Wags Nags Stable, Team Rice Racing and Adelphi Bloodstock.

The sweep was finalized with the $9,000 Open III victory by JMs Delight. Morrill was parked over a quarter mile to get the lead before opting to yield it back to Reggiano, who parked him originally. Reggiano backed the half but hastened the pace to three-quarters, getting there in 1:26.3. The whole time, JMs Delight was raging with pace in the two-hole just begging to get out. Morrill gave him that chance off the last turn and JM’s Delight went right on by to win by a half length in 1:55.1.

It was the second win in a row for JMs Delight ($4.30), who is owned by Greg Merton.

Morrill rounded his four-win night with Lucky King (1:57.1, $6.50).

There was another dynamic trio making hay at the Downs on Saturday. Driver Kevin Cummings, trainer Gerry Sarama and owner Mike Torcello teamed up to send three horses to the Purple Haze winner’s circle, Their Hat Trick consisted of Percy’s Z Tam (1:54.1, $5.60), Dondoubtthelakers (1:57.2, $10.40) and B’sYankee (1:54.4, $8.70).

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Sunday (July 25) with a matinee card that starts at 1:15 p.m. (EDT).

(Batavia Downs)

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