It was an unusual Friday afternoon at Harrah’s Philadelphia, as most of the feature races, including the two divisions of the $93,200 John Simpson Sr. Memorial Stakes for two-year-old pacing fillies, sponsored by Razzle Hanover, were taken by horses coming from well off the pace on the normally speed-favouring track.
The Always B Miki-Emily Car filly Extreme Z Tam was reserved along the inside in the first Simpson division by trainer/driver Pat Lachance then came closing strongly up the open stretch, pacing her own last quarter in :27 to catch the pacesetter favourite Ginger Tree Coco by a neck. The winning time of 1:53.3 was perforce a lifetime race mark since it was the first purse victory for Extreme Z Tam, who is owned by Lachance, M & M Harness Racing LLC and Royal Flush Stable LLC.
Also winning a purse race for the first time in her career was the Sweet Lou-Luvthebeachlife miss Iluvloucy, who was still last at headstretch but made up four lengths in the stretch for driver Corey Callahan to catch the first-over favourite, Falana Hanover, by half a length in 1:54.1. Travis Alexander conditions the filly for M Spacc Stables, Fiddler’s Creek Stables LLC, D’Elegance Stable IX and T L P Stable.
The closer theme also held up in the $22,500 handicap pace for fast-class distaffs as the McArdle mare McMarkle Sparkle, winner of three of her last four at the difficult-to-rally Yonkers venue, sat last to the stretch call after being assigned the outermost slot. Troy Beyer got the tough mare rolling late and came on to catch the pacesetting West Beach by a length in 1:52.3, pacing her own back fractions in :54.2 - :27. McMarkle Sparkle now has 10 victories and $221,390 on the year, with lifetime earnings climbing to $549,307, for trainer Scott Di Domenico and owner Laura Baker.
The one feature winner who took his event on the engine is the one you could have predicted beforehand – the well-named early flyer Ruthless Hanover. George Napolitano Jr. had the gelded son of Somebeachsomewhere buzzing away quickly, but met early resistance from Ilikemebettor A, impressive in his first two stateside starts, and needed to unleash a :25.4 opener to clear. Nobody wanted to challenge 'Ruthless' in quarter two, thus the half in :54.4, and the pacesetter tacked on a further fractional of 1:21.4 before holding off the late surge of Ilikemebettor A by a half-length in 1:49. (Excluding the second quarter, that’s 1:20 for the other three quarters.) Ruthless Hanover has now won four in a row for Team Cancelliere, trainer Tom and owner John.
After a day away from the top of the standings at Philly, Simon Allard joined George Napolitano Jr. with four wins on Friday – making it 10 times in the last 11 local cards that Allard has been top or co-top driver. During the 11-card stretch, Allard has won 36 times.
The Simpson Stakes continues on Sunday at Philly with two divisions of the $106,200 event sponsored by Davidia Hanover for two-year-old trotting fillies. Program pages will be available on the PHHA website.
(With files from PHHA/Harrah's Philadelphia)