Tony Verruso won 23 races this season, but, arguably, none as important as the $15,000 American Harness Drivers Club Final, which he copped Sunday (Dec. 26) with his own Winneress in 1:59 at Harrah's Philadelphia.
After starting from post four, Verruso was content to sit in fourth position with Winneress while Matt Zuccarello and Shared Interest A showed the way through a :28.1 first quarter.
With Zuccarello in command as they trotted by the half in :57.4, Verruso and Winneress were traveling along the pylons and were just 1-1/2 lengths off the lead at the three-quarters while If I Must (Paul Minore) advanced to engage Shared Interest A.
"I was watching the leaders battle and was glad the passing lane was in sight," Verruso said. "And when we headed for home, my horse was strong and we zipped by the leaders on the inside and braced for a late challenge from John Calabrese and Shoemaker Hanover — but they fell short."
Take A Wish (Dawn Anderson) rallied from far back to finish third.
Verruso owns the winner, whom he claimed earlier this year. The seven-year-old Credit Winner gelding, trained by Symon Spicer, paid $5.20 to win.
BONGIORNOS DOMINATE BOXING DAY
J M Mandamin's ($3.00) scintillating 1:49 win in the Sunday afternoon (Dec. 26) feature at Harrah's Philadelphia ignited a banner day for the Bongiorno siblings: it gave trainer Jenn Bongiorno the first of her four training wins on the Boxing Day card, and it was the first of five-consecutive wins for driver Joe Bongiorno.
J M Mandamin, whom the Bongiornos campaign for owner Robert Weinstein, vaulted to the fore from his assigned outer post in the $22,500 Winners-Over Handicap Pace to control a :26.2 first quarter over Mikes Z Tam, who pushed forward at the pegs to secure the pocket. After rating a :55.1 half, J M Mandamin dug in to parry a first-over challenge from Shadow Cat through three-quarters in 1:22 before sprinting 5-1/2-lengths clear in the stretch. Shadow Cat held second over Mikes Z Tam, who gave futile chase from the pocket.
J M Mandamin, a five-year-old Mach Three gelding, recorded his 10th win of the season and the 20th of his career.
The Bongiornos also teamed up to win with Somebaddude ($6.60, 1:51.4), Captains Maid ($9.40, 1:52.2) and Ostro Hanover ($3.20, 1:50.3). Joe Bongiorno's other driving win came with Ron Burke trainee His Beats Hanover ($4.20, 1:52).
The final week of the 2021 meet at Harrah's Philadelphia commences Wednesday (Dec. 29); first post is 12:25 p.m. (EST).
(with files from American Harness Drivers Club and Harrah's Philadelphia)