Matt Kakaley will enter Monday’s third round of the MGM Borgata Pacing Series with three horses within nine points of the top eight in the standings — None Bettor A, American Courage, and Backstreet Shadow — and an eye toward enhancing their chances of qualifying for the lucrative April 24 championship.
The annual MGM Yonkers Raceway series for male pacers features five preliminary rounds. The top eight horses at the completion of the Borgata’s prelims are eligible for the $200,000-added final. Horses receive 50 points for winning, 25 for second, 12 for third, eight for fourth, and five for fifth. In addition, all starters in each round receive 25 points.
Idealsomemagic A and Lochinvar Art A sit atop the standings with 150 points apiece after each winning their first two assignments in the series. Hellabalou and Jimmy Freight, both with a first and a second, are next with 125 points each.
Rounding out the top eight, including ties, are Leonidas A (112), Priceless Beach and Tattoo Artist (100 each), and American Dealer and Rockin Withelvis A (83 each).
Kakaley’s three Travis Alexander-trained hopefuls are next: None Bettor A with 80 points followed by American Courage with 75, and Backstreet Shadow with 74. All three will be looking for their first win in the series on Monday.
“If you don’t win one of the first two legs, you have to make sure you win the third or the fourth,” Kakaley said. “A lot of it has to do with the draws. You know how it is when you draw (post) seven or eight over there, you’re behind the 8-ball. If you get good draws early on, it’s kind of key to make sure you do well and get the points.”
None Bettor A races in the third of Monday’s four $50,000 third-round divisions, which features four of the top-seven horses in the standings. None Bettor A, whose two starts this season have both been in the Borgata, will start from post three and is 4-1 on the morning line. Hellabalou is the 2-1 favourite, followed by Tattoo Artist at 5-2.
The 10-year-old None Bettor A finished second by a neck to Lochinvar Art A last week and was fifth, beaten only 1-1/4 lengths, in the first round after getting caught in traffic on the final turn.
“We were in the two-hole behind Tattoo Artist, you think it’s the best spot to be, and off the last turn (Tattoo Artist) was done,” Kakaley said. “Otherwise, I think None Bettor would have been first or second. He was just unlucky.
“Last week, he was really good. He just got mowed down by probably the best horse in the series.”
None Bettor A was no worse than second in his final five races last year, winning four, including the $250,000 MGM Aria Invitational.
“He’s a handy horse,” Kakaley said. “He likes to be on the lead or in the two-hole and he’s quick enough to get there. That’s an advantage on a half-mile track (like Yonkers). He can leave fast.”
American Courage (pictured above) will compete in the fourth division, which includes 3-1 favourite Idealsomemagic A. American Courage, who starts from post two, is the 7-2 co-second choice, along with Jimmy Freight.
Five-year-old American Courage, who won the 2021 MGM Grand Messenger Stakes at Yonkers, finished second to Idealsomemagic A in his seasonal debut in round one of the Borgata and was seventh from post seven last week.
“I couldn’t have been happier with his first race,” Kakaley said. “I moved him twice to make the front, and then in the last turn he still felt like he was going to hang on. The horse that got us is probably the second-best one behind Lochinvar Art. He was a little bit sharper.
“Last week, our fate was kind of sealed when we drew the seven and there was all that speed underneath us. That was a crazy good mile they went in the mud. There was just no way for us to get involved.”
Backstreet Shadow is in the first Borgata division and will start from post five for the third consecutive week. He is the co-second choice with Nandolo N at 3-1. This Is The Plan, the 2021 Borgata champion, is the 5-2 favourite.
Eight-year-old Backstreet Shadow finished third in both his previous starts in the series, missing by a neck in the first round after being nine-lengths back in seventh at the half-mile point.
“He’s been racing phenomenal the last couple weeks,” Kakaley said. “Last week, it was hard for closers to get involved, but he still rallied and was pacing hard on the end of it. The week before, he made a huge rally coming three-wide around the turn. It’s a little bit better when I can just make one run and not use him leaving. It seems like he’s better that way.”
Kakaley, who is the leading driver at Pocono Downs at Mohegan Pennsylvania and tied for fourth at Yonkers, picked up a drive with Hemsworth N in the second division. Kakaley had conflicting drives in the first two weeks, but posted four wins and a second in five previous trips with Hemsworth N.
Hemsworth N, a six-year-old trained by Jared Bako, finished eighth from post eight last week and fifth, beaten only 1-3/4 lengths, from post six in round one. He is 4-1 on Monday’s morning line, starting from post three in a field that includes even-money favourite Lochinvar Art A.
“I like the horse,” said Kakaley, who ranks third among drivers in North America in purses with $1.58 million. “He hasn’t really gotten to show what he’s got in the Borgata yet, but the talent is there. He’s a fast horse.”
Racing begins at 7 p.m. EDT at Yonkers. For free TrackMaster past performances courtesy the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, click here.
The third round of the Blue Chip Matchmaker series for female pacers continues Friday (March 31) with three $40,000 divisions at Yonkers. Majorca N, Amazing Dream N, and Karma Seelster are the morning-line favourites.