When he last raced at Yonkers on May 27, Downbytheseaside won the $300,000 Art Rooney Pace. The victory was his fourth in a row after capturing the Governor’s Cup at Woodbine to end his two-year-old season, taking his 2017 debut in aPennsylvania Sire Stakes event, and winning the Rooney Elimination May 20.
Although he won as a heavy favoruite in both his starts at Yonkers, Downbytheseaside had to earn it both times. In his elimination, Downbytheseaside made an early move after starting from post nine. Driver David Miller guided Downbytheseaside to the outside and tracked Funknwaffles in the second quarter. After Funknwaffles cleared the lead before the half, Downbytheseaside drove on the front past a :55.4 half before winning by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:52.2. In the final the following week, Downbytheseaside won by 3-1/4 in 1:52.
“I expected the way they usually race at Yonkers where they line up and don’t race much till the end,” trainer Brian Brown said. “The two races I was in, they raced pretty hard the whole way. There was nothing given to him. He had to really earn it both weeks.
“To win a race that’s named after the founder of the track, that’s always nice,” Brown continued. “Everybody does a great job making those races special. They were special to us to just be in them, let alone have a chance to win them.”
Since his Rooney victory, Downbytheseaside has traded blows with Huntsville and stablemate Fear The Dragon in a host of Grand Circuit stakes. Downbytheseaside finished third in the North America Cup after setting fractions of :25.2, :52.1, and 1:19.3, was fifth in the Max Hempt Final, second in the Meadowlands Pace, and third in the Cane Pace. In all those cases, Huntsville or Fear The Dragon took top honours.
Downbytheseaside finally upended his stablemate last time out in the $300,000 Carl Milstein Memorial at Northfield Park on August 12. In a change of tactics, Brian Sears rated Downbytheseaside in fourth early as Fear The Dragon dictated the speed. Fear The Dragon paced a quarter in :27.1 and a half in :56.
As the field raced into the second lap, Sears guided Downtheseaside first-over and quickly drew within a half-length of Fear The Dragon. David Miller pulled the plugs on Fear The Dragon, who kept Downbytheseaside at bay through three-quarters in 1:22.4. Entering the final turn, Miller had the whip on Fear The Dragon’s tail while Sears edged Downbytheseaside’s nose in front under a hand drive. In the stretch, Downbytheseaside glided away from his competition to win by a length in 1:49.3.
“He was really good that day,” Brown commented. “He’s had some feet trouble and that week leading up to that race, that horse was as good as he’s been all year. Never did he get lame in his feet, but his feet are always bothering him a little. He was really good that week. I don’t know what we did to him that much different. He was on the vibrating plate maybe more. He was extra good that night.”
For Brown, seeing Downbytheseaside get the upper hand meant seeing his other horse, Fear The Dragon, suffer a loss. Although he wants both horses to do well, he was happy to see Downbytheseaside’s connections, Country Club Acres, Joe Sbrocco, Richard Lombardo, and Diamond Creek Racing, get a win.
“I’m glad for that horse that he finally got to win a race like that. He was getting some pretty tough trips. Post position was killing him at times,” Brown said. “It’s hard to have both of those; you don’t want either one to lose. But he was just really good that night and it was good for him, good for the owners to finally win a race without being the one making all the speed and getting passed late. It was nice for him to race from behind and be able to win a race like that.”
Downbytheseaside’s Milstein victory extended the son of Somebeachsomewhere’s perfect half-mile track record to four. He won a division of the Standardbred at the Delaware County Fair in a world record 1:50 at two before winning the Rooney elimination and final and the Milstein. Downbytheseaside also went his first two qualifying trips at Delaware as a two-year-old, winning both. In his career, Downbytheseaside is 14-for-23 with $1,263,322 earned.
“It’s hard explain because he’s a big, strong horse, but for some reason, he loves a half,” Brown said. “He has great speed. To be honest, he is as good on a half as he is on a big track. He’s always been good on a half.”
Downbytheseaside drew post three in the nine-horse Messenger elimination Saturday night. Brian Sears will drive again in the $40,000 prep for next week’s $500,000 jewel of the Pacing Triple Crown. The last-place finisher will not return for the final. Brown is confident in Downbytheseaside’s chances to return to Yonkers a winner.
“He drew a good spot, he’s coming in pretty good. He should be in pretty good shape come Saturday. I think we’re OK,” Brown said. “I think everything will be good.”
The Saturday night card at Yonkers also features two eliminations of the Yonkers Trot for three-year-old trotters in races six and seven and a $50,000 Open Handicap Pace in race eight. First post time is 7:10 p.m. Eastern.
(SOA of New York)