In The Arsenal and driver Eric Goodell never had an anxious moment, Saturday night, winning Yonkers Raceway’s $125,000 final of Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace.
The Sheppard -- named for the man who helped make Hanover Shoe Farms the sport’s leading breeding operation -- is the Raceway’s premier event for “open” two-year-old colts and geldings (though none of the latter were in this season’s final).
In The Arsenal, who broke his maiden with last weekend’s 1:56.2 elimination win, was in play early here from post position No. 2. He left, as did pole-sitting Rock N Roll World (Eric Carlson), Perfect Bet (Jeff Dauplaise) and a wide 2-5 favourite Cartoon Daddy (George Brennan). However, the first turn did not cooperate with last week’s other elim winner, as Cartoon Daddy broke.
In The Arsenal found a :27.4 opening quarter-mile, then cruised through a 1:01 middle half (:58.3, 1:28.4). Parklane Eagle (Jordan Stratton), the 83-1 rank outside, hung around first-up, while Lone Survivor (Brian Sears) went three-deep.
In The Arsenal, with the field at his feet, opened two and three-quarter lengths in and out of the final turn. A pocketed Rock N Roll World cosmetically cut the final margin down to three-quarters of a length in 1:56.4. Third went to a stubborn Parklane Eagle, with Lone Survivor and Byby Landon (Jason Bartlett) settling for the final two pay envelopes.
Mystical Pacer (Brent Holland), Perfect Bet and Cartoon Daddy rounded out the order.
Second choice In the Arsenal, a White Birch Farm homebred son of American Ideal trained by Kelvin Harrison, returned $6.30 for his second (consecutive) win in three seasonal/career starts. The exacta paid $101.50, with the triple returning $983.
The $62,500 payday increased his earnings to $75,000 -- not bad for a colt who came back to White Birch after his reserve price was not met at sale.
“[In The Arsenal] dragged me out of there really good,” Goodell said. “I went faster than I wanted to go early, but he was able to relax after that.
“I had no idea the other horse [Cartoon Daddy] made a break. I was just worried about mine and things worked out.”
Goodell also won the $44,000 Open Handicap Pace with Dream Out Loud N ($9.70) in 1:51.4, with a :54.4 back half.
This season’s edition was the richest final since 1995 (note the race went on hiatus from 2004-2011, inclusive).
An historical note: it was a half-century ago that the great Bret Hanover and Frank Ervin won the very first Sheppard. The purse was $57,622 and the time was 2:02.1.