'Grace' & 'Niki' Fill Hill's Void

Published: August 20, 2021 10:38 am EDT

After watching Party Girl Hill enjoy an award-winning campaign at age theee in 2020, owner Tom Hill is looking to continue his success with filly pacers this season with three-year-old Grace Hill and two-year-old Niki Hill.

Grace Hill, trained by Richard “Nifty” Norman, is the 5-2 morning-line favourite in Saturday’s (Aug. 21) $250,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for three-year-old filly pacers at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. She heads to the race following back-to-back wins, including the Shady Daisy on Hambletonian Day at The Meadowlands.

Chris Ryder-trained Niki Hill is unbeaten in two career races. The sister to world champion Cattlewash won her most recent start, a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at Pocono on Aug. 9, in 1:50.3. The time was just two-fifths of a second off the world record for a two-year-old filly pacer on a five-eighths-mile track.

Their performances have helped ease the disappointment of seeing Party Girl Hill retired during the spring because of an injury. Last year, the Hill homebred filly won 15 of 16 races and received the Dan Patch Award for best three-year-old female pacer. Following her retirement, she was bred to Tall Dark Stranger.

“We were looking forward to a big year with Party Girl Hill,” Hill said. “It’s heartbreaking when that happens. But I’ve been blessed to get two really nice fillies to fill the void. I’m very pleased with them.”

Grace Hill, by Always B Miki out of Western Silk, has seven wins in 17 lifetime races and earnings of $369,355. Last year, she finished no worse than second in her first six starts, winning four. She was runner-up to Blue Diamond Eyes in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship after winning three times in preliminary rounds of the series.

Following a fifth-place finish in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes in early October, Norman and Hill decided to halt Grace Hill’s campaign to give her time to mature physically for her three-year-old season.

“She was a very good filly last year, but I think we did the right thing quitting with her when we did because she was growing so much,” Hill said. “Now, she’s matured into a really nice filly. She came back and fulfilled what we thought she could do.”

Grace Hill has two wins and two seconds among her most recent six starts. She won the Shady Daisy by a head over stablemate Fire Start Hanover, who was the 2020 Dan Patch Award winner for best two-year-old female pacer.

In Saturday’s Lynch, Blue Diamond Eyes is the 3-1 second choice, followed by Hot Mess Express at 4-1 and Fire Start Hanover at 5-1. Hot Mess Express is undefeated in seven races this year, but will start from post nine, the least favourable spot at Pocono.

“She’s got an extremely tough race this weekend,” Hill said about Grace Hill. “These are the best of the best. But I think she’s as good as any of them. I’m not going to say she’ll win, but anyone that finishes ahead of her will sleep well that night.”

The Lynch is part of Pocono’s Sun Stakes Saturday, which also includes the $300,000 Earl Beal Jr. for three-year-old trotters, $300,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for three-year-old pacers, $250,000 Delmonica Hanover for three-year-old female trotters, $75,000 Sebastian K Invitational for older trotters, and $75,000 Always B Miki for older pacers.

The live harness racing card begins at 12:30 p.m. (EDT). For more on Sun Stakes Saturday, click here. Free Pocono program pages for Saturday are available here.


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