July 30, 2019
Southwind Ozzi’s ability has never been a question, but the 3-year-old pacer still had to find an answer to an unexpected turn of events leading up to the $400,000 Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids last Saturday at the The Meadows.
He was recovering from hernia surgery, but you wouldn’t have known it the way Hall of Famer Brian Sears drove the 4-to-5 favorite, or the way trainer Bill MacKenzie reacted after Southwind Ozzi ran the second fastest time in the 53-year history of the event to win by 7 lengths in 1:48.
Sears had Southwind Ozzi out and moving behind a torrid pace before the half-mile marker, cleared to the lead near the 3/4-pole and won geared down to miss Bolt The Duer’s 2012 track record by one-fifth of a second.
“That’s what great horses do, and after the way he raced today, I’m beginning to think he’s a great horse,” said MacKenzie.
Prince of Tides (Dave Palone), the 5-to-2 second favorite, blazed along through a :53.3 half and did well to hold second, a quarter length in front of Stag Party. But both were running for minor awards long before the finish.
“I liked the way things were setting up,” said Sears. “They were going so fast that they couldn’t really shut it down that much. I had sent him first up before, and he didn’t seem to mind it. He’s a pleasure to drive. He makes my job easy.”
MELANDER HAS TRIPLE THREAT IN HAMBO
Marcus Melander, recipient of harness racing’s Rising Star Award in 2018, has a galaxy of stars lined up for this Saturday’s 94th running of the $1 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands.
Melander trains three entrants in the world’s most prestigious race and, by post time, the sophomore trotting trio could be the three betting favorites.
Greenshoe is the probable choice after a smashing score in the Stanley Dancer Memorial in a career-best 1:50.1 at the Meadowlands, but New York sire stakes phenom Gimpanzee is undefeated in 12 starts and a major threat to his stablemate. Hall of Famer Brian Sears was named on both runners before the post draw Tuesday afternoon. Green Manilishi S (Tim Tetrick) completes the Melander triple threat and arrives off an easy 1:52.4 victory in the Tompkins Geers after a three-week rest.
Melander will try to follow the footsteps of his uncle, Stefan Melander, who won the 2001 Hambletonian with Scarlet Knight.
The Hambletonian and $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks will be shown live on the CBS Sports Network between 4 and 5:30 p.m.
Gates open at 10 a.m. at the Meadowlands and the first race post is noon.
BURKE FIRST TO 10,000 WINS BY A MILE
Ron Burke had already gone where no trainer had gone before with six consecutive years of $20 million plus in stable earnings.
He ventured into another stratosphere last Friday with the 10,000th win of his unparalleled career. Burke, 49, sent out three winners at his home track, the Meadows in Pennsylvania, on the twilight card, then reached the 10,000-win milestone at night when 2-year-old trotting filly Crucial won in an elimination for the Jim Doherty Memorial Stakes at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
“It’s cool,” Burke told Meadowlands publicist Dave Little. “The next guy is probably 10 years away from doing it. It’s never been done before and I’m very proud of our whole crew, my whole family.”
The Burke Brigade is 300 horses strong these days and has accumulated a record $222 million in purses over time. Virgil Morgan Jr. is second all-time in wins with 6,400.