Returning MGM Borgata Pacing Series champion Funatthebeach N will begin defense of his crown on Monday, March 20 by facing an accomplished group of foes in the opening round of the six-week event for older male pacers at MGM Yonkers Raceway.
Last year, Funatthebeach N won two preliminary rounds of the Borgata before capturing the $549,000 final by a length over Leonidas A in 1:50.1. The time was the fastest ever in a final of the event, which until 2020 was known as the George Morton Levy Memorial Series.
On Monday, Funatthebeach N competes in the third of four $50,000 first-round divisions in the series. His rivals include the aforementioned Leonidas A, as well as 2021 Borgata champion This Is The Plan, past O’Brien Award winner Tattoo Artist, and millionaire None Bettor A.
Tattoo Artist, who is making his seasonal debut after hitting the board in 22 of 25 races last year and earning $1,009,492, is the 5-2 morning-line favourite from post four with Dexter Dunn driving for trainer Chris Ryder. None Bettor A, who won the MGM Aria Invitational last year at Yonkers, is 3-1 from post three with Matt Kakaley at the lines for Travis Alexander.
Leonidas A and This Is The Plan drew posts seven and eight, respectively, and are 7-1 and 12-1. Funatthebeach N, who has won four of seven starts this season, all at Yonkers, will leave from post five with regular driver Jordan Stratton in the sulky for Jeff Gillis. He is 6-1.
“I think he’s coming in just as good as ever,” Stratton said about the nine-year-old Funatthebeach N. “He’s been really good the last four or five weeks. [Even when he lost] he was pacing strong to the wire in those starts.”
Funatthebeach N, a son of Somebeachsomewhere-Minnie Moose owned by Mark Ford, won 10 of 36 races last year and earned $596,995. In addition to his Borgata victory, the gelding captured the Battle of Lake Erie.
For his career, Funatthebeach N has won 37 of 130 races and banked $994,004.
“He’s pretty consistent,” said Stratton. “He had a lot of starts last year and it doesn’t seem to affect him. He’s kind of built for this series — the five weeks and the final. Last year, he raced every week and he was as strong as ever in the final.”
Stratton has two other drives in the Borgata’s opening round — Idealsomemagic A in the fourth division and Dean B Hanover in the first division.
Idealsomemagic A, who made his U.S. debut in December, has five wins and a second in seven races this year. The nine-year-old gelding went gate-to-wire in five consecutive triumphs in conditioned classes before a second-place finish behind Leonidas A in the Open Handicap at Yonkers on Feb. 27. He will start from post five and is 5-1 on the morning line.
“He’s really coming into form right now, peaking at the perfect time,” said Stratton. “He’s won a bunch on the front, but in his last start George Brennan drove him from off the pace and he was very strong to the wire. He’s been in at some lower conditions, but he was so good they decided to put up the money and take a shot with him. I think it was the right decision.
“He really hasn’t done anything wrong yet. He’s well-built, has gate speed and gets around Yonkers perfect.”
Cory Stratton, Jordan’s brother, trains Idealsomemagic A for owners VIP Internet Stable and Bukers Stable. For his career, the son of American Ideal-Lifes Just Magic has won 18 of 90 races and earned $192,566.
Nandolo N, trained by Shane Tritton and driven by Jason Bartlett, is the 5-2 favourite in the Borgata’s fourth division.
In the first division, Dean B Hanover faces a field that includes Lochinvar Art A, who is unbeaten in three U.S. starts since arriving from Down Under. Lochinvar Art A, trained by Tritton and driven by his wife, Lauren, is the 9-5 favourite.
Dean B Hanover finished third in last year’s $100,000 Borgata consolation final. The five-year-old son of Betting Line-Deli Beach has won 11 of 54 races and earned $322,955. Gillis trains the gelding for owners Blue Chip Bloodstock and Mac Nichol. He will start from post six and is 20-1 on the morning line.
“He’s been good lately,” said Stratton. “He’s probably a notch below the top ones, but if the races set up for him, he can be competitive.”
A past winner of the Hunter and Victoria Cup in his native Australia, Lochinvar Art A has earned two of his three U.S. victories over Yonkers, including a 1:51 score on March 6, and is ready for his first Grand Circuit test in the Borgata Series.
"It's an exciting next step with ‘Arty.' He's been so good so far, but you don't know until he meets the better horse just how he's going to measure up," Shane Tritton told the Racenet.com.au. "All the signs are great. He's had the best possible four months or so over here.
"We've been able to bring him up slowly and Lauren [Tritton, driver] hasn't had to fully extend him in any of the wins so far while he's been building fitness."
Team Tritton will also send out the aforementioned Nandolo N, favoured in the fourth division, and Anothrmastrpiece N, who is 9-1 from post seven in the second division where Hellabalou is the 2-1 favourite over Jimmy Freight at 5-2. Hellabalou, who last raced on Jan. 6, brings a four-race win streak to his start. Yannick Gingras will drive the five-year-old stallion from post one for trainer Ron Burke.
"Both of them are racing well and have the class, but we know the best version of Lochinvar Art will be our best hope," said Tritton of his trainees.
The MGM Borgata Pacing Series continues for five consecutive weeks before a $200,000-added final on April 24. MGM Yonkers Raceway will offer the MGM Borgata Pacing Series champion a “win-and-you’re-in” opportunity to both the $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie at MGM Northfield Park on June 10 and the $200,000 MGM Aria Pace at Yonkers on MGM Yonkers International Trot Day, Sept. 23.
Racing begins at 7 p.m. at Yonkers. For free program pages, click here.
(With files from USTA & Racenet.com.au)