Whatever It Takes and Jezzy displayed championship form during their divisional scores in Monday afternoon’s $521,700 Empire Breeders Classic finals for three-year-old trotters at Vernon Downs
Whatever It Takes ($39.60) turned in a 1:54 track record performance for sophomore gelding high-steppers with his fast-closing triumph in the $283,475 male division, while Jezzy ($2.40) earned a fresh speed mark and remained unbeaten after three current outings with her convincing 1:55 tally in the $238,225 filly flight.
It was a memorable Memorial Day matinee for Jeff Gural, who shared in the ownership of both speedy and talented New York-breds.
With Andy Miller steering for trainer Julie Miller, Whatever It Takes left the starting gate somewhat cautiously, followed the surging co-favorites Dejarmbro and I’m The Answer around the final bend and then closed from fifth at the top of the stretch (last quarter in :27.2) to defeat the former competitor by a head. The other half of the Purple Haze Stable entry (Im the Answer) finished third, one length back
“I relaxed him off the gate,” explained driver Miller. “When I saw Trond (Smedshammer behind Dejarmbro) and Brian (Sears behind I’m The Answer) moving up, I just followed them and he finished very well. This horse has turned the corner for us during the past month, and seems to be getting better and better.”
The 1:54 career-best clocking trimmed 3/5ths-of-a-second off the previous track mark for sophomore geldings on the diagonal gait, set by Im The Answer in one of the elimination races here on May 21, became the fastest mile by a representative of the square gait at the meet and tied the quickest trotting mile by a three-year-old in the track’s 58-year history. The bay son of Credit Winner- Caper Caillie now sports a 3-2-1 summary line after seven season’s starts. The career winner of $159,938 is owned by Gural’s Little E LLC stable, along with Brittany Farms, Blue Chip Bloodstock Inc and the Credit Caper Partners.
Jezzy got away third for noted driver Tim Tetrick in the filly flight, but took the lead before the half, reached in :57.1. The homebred brown daughter of Credit Winner-Ladylind caught a breather when Four Damsals shuffled her back into the pocket in the final turn, but the eager youngster responded well in the final furlong (last panel in :28.4) and recorded a solid two-length decision over Four Damsals. Stablemate Epona Blue Chip finished third.
“She’s such a pleasure to drive,” said Tetrick in the winner’s circle. “I just wanted to get her a clear lane (to the finish) when I pulled her in the stretch and she did the rest. She’s a real sweetheart.”
Shared in ownership by Gural, trainer Ray Schnittker, Jerry Silva and Theodore Gewertz, the career winner of more than $400,000 has now chalked up 13 wins and a second-place finish in 14 overall trips to the track. The time dropped her speed mark by one and one-fifth seconds.