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Betsy Ross, Maxie Lee, 'Commodore' Set

Published: May 21, 2019 5:14 pm ET

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All three defending champions will be on hand Sunday afternoon at Harrah’s Philadelphia, as the track will host its ‘Super Stakes Sunday’ of $100,000 Invitationals – the Betsy Ross Pace for mares, the Maxie Lee Trot, and the Commodore Barry Pace.

The stakes have been carded as Races 10, 11 and 12, respectively. The program will see its first race head behind the starting gate at 12:40 p.m.

Points earned from the races will also count towards the standings for the summer-long Great Northeast Open Series (GNOS), in which many of these stars have been competing.

The giant will also feature three divisions of the third preliminary leg of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for three-year-old pacing colts.

A brief glance at all four groupings appears below.

$100,000 BETSY ROSS MARES PACE
(12th edition; stakes record 1:48.3, Southwind Tempo, 2009.)

The defending champion in the Betsy Ross is the great New Zealand import Shartin N, last year’s North American mares division winner who has been carrying on in ‘final style’ thus far in 2019 – five wins from six starts, including the ‘Blue Chip’ final, and earnings of $319,500, which is second only to Levy-final winner Western Fame.

It’s hard to imagine Shartin N having more solid connections, especially in this race – trainer Jim King Jr. trained Shartin N to victory last year, and in 2017 wife Jo Ann Looney-King conditioned the victorious Nike Franco N. Their driver (and Shartin N’s co-owner), Tim Tetrick, has won the Betsy Ross six times, which is more than all others drivers combined. He also guided Southwind Tempo to the stakes record.

Two potential liabilities for Shartin N: drawing Post 7 in the eight-horse field and having not raced for 22 days (and only twice in 53 days). However, the mare has seemed to thrive on an intermittent schedule in the past.

Tequila Monday will start just inside Shartin N. Tequila Monday is six-for-six this year and the only double winner in the Great Northeast Open Series so far. Brian Sears will drive Tequila Monday for trainer Hunter Oakes, whose father, Chris, conditioned 2013 ‘Ross’ winner Economy Terror. Add in the likes of hard-hitting veteran Caviart Ally, last year’s top three-year-old filly, Youaremycandygirl, and other speedy distaffers, and the Betsy Ross figures to be an interesting chess match.

$100,000 MAXIE LEE TROT
(12th edition; stakes record 1:50.2, Market Share, 2014.)

The defending champion of the Maxie Lee, a race which honours the superb local trainer, is Will Take Charge, who will be guided from Post 5 by Scott Zeron for trainer Jeff Gillis. Will Take Charge looks to be coming up to peak form right now – and is fresh off of a win at Yonkers Raceway – but it is likely others will draw more mutuel attention than he will.

Take, for instance, the world’s fastest trotter, Homicide Hunter (1:48.4 at the Red Mile last year), who this season is guided by the ‘Burke Brigade’ (who has won this race four times: once by patriarch Mickey, and the last three by the record-setting Ron). Homicide Hunter just won his second start of the year, at Pocono, last week, as he captured a GNOS race in 1:52.3. The early sheet says that Homicide Hunter will be getting a driver change to George Napolitano Jr., with whom Homicide Hunter won the 2018 Breeders Crown (Yannick Gingras will be in Sweden this week, competing in the World Driving Championship).

Guardian Angel AS, who is set to start from Post 2, has also been a GNOS winner this year, and his chances will be helped by the sulky presence of Tim Tetrick, who has won the Maxie Lee five times, including with stakes recordholder Market Share.

$100,000 COMMODORE BARRY PACE
(5th edition; stakes record 1:47.3, Wiggle It Jiggleit, 2016.)

Filibuster Hanover is the highest money-winner in the Commodore Barry with just north of $1.5 million in career earnings, is the defending champion in this stakes. If victorious, Filibuster Hanover would make trainer Ron Burke the first horseman to have two ‘Barry’ titles (no driver or trainer has won twice in the race’s four-year history). In his last start, Filibuster Hanover set the pace in a GNOS race at Harrah’s Philadelphia, but was caught up the inside by the upstart Kiwi Tiger Thompson N. This week, the ‘Tiger’ will start from Post 6 and ‘Filibuster’ from Post 7, which are difficult assignments, given the talented field.

Rodeo Rock won last week’s GNOS race at Pocono by defeating Tiger Thompson N and posting the fastest clocking of the year at Pocono (1:49). Last year’s highly-regarded sophomore Courtly Choice will contest the Barry, as will Donttellmeagain.

PASS THREE-YEAR-OLD PACING COLTS
($57,218 apiece – Race 3, 7, 13)

The defending champion in this group, Proof, is also competing at ‘Philly’ on Sunday. Proof is a winner of $450,000 that has never finished worse than fourth in 13 career starts (he has recorded six wins and four seconds).

Proof is unlikely to be the favourite in Race 13 – that honour will most likely go to Captain Crunch, who was the United States’ 2018 freshman colt pace champion. Captain Crunch made his 2019 debut last Sunday at Pocono, where he won over a ‘sloppy’ surface in 1:49.1. The 1:49.1 clocking is the fastest mile of the season thus far by a three-year-old regardless of size of track.

Race 3 is headed by Southwind Ozzi, who won a PASS race two starts back and then was a close second behind Captain Crunch last week. When it comes to Race 7, you can make a good case for most of the entrants to record their first 2019 PASS win.

(With files from PHHA / Harrah’s Philadelphia)


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