Eight excellent veterans in $532,000 pace
by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
The Levy Memorial is not just another race and this year’s $532,000 final could be epic. There are eight horses entered and truth be told, you can make a case for all eight of them winning. We all know that the eight post (Rockin Ron) is almost impossible and he may be the only horse to throw out, but the others….all have a chance.
Jordan Stratton has already said that the seven post for Bit of a Legend, “sucks,” but if any horse can win from there, it’s The Legend. If there is such a thing as a stone-cold closer in harness racing, Legend comes the closet. We have seen him rally from the back in the Levy legs and finish second to score the needed points. The question is, can he overcome the seven post and win the race? I think he can and if the pace is fast, he is the one that can idle and surge at the end. He did that in last summer’s Gerrity at Saratoga. The field dashed and darted through blistering fractions and Legend stayed third or fourth and then surged home to win in 1:50.3 on the Spa’s half-mile track. From the seven post, he will likely have to tuck in and move wide down the backstretch of lap two and then try to win from the outside, something he can do.
The mercurial one is Somewhere in LA. He has a decent five post, but if you’ve seen LA run, he usually is engaged or disinterested. When engaged, he is good as anybody, but it seems that for every good race, there’s a flat one. Had he gotten the seven or eight post, odds are he would have finished last, so coming from the five, he should be interested and that could spell trouble for the rest of the competitors.
Western Fame drew the rail and that took him from having a good chance to having a really good chance. Most expect him to set the pace and he is more than capable of wiring the field, but he can also idle and sit in the box and win that way, too. And, with no passing lane, he won’t have to worry if he has the rail and the lead in the homestretch. He keeps maturing, too; he was better at four than three and it looks like he’s better at five than four and this could be his time to shine.
Keystone Velocity is the defending champ and will be formidable coming from the three post. All of these horses have performed in the clutch and the defending champion should and likely will have something to say on Saturday. He hasn’t been great thus far, but he could be sitting on one.
Dr. J Hanover has looked the best in the prelims. He has dominated and last week rested in preparation for the final. He has the two post and is one that could get the lead and never give it up. Last year, he paced 1:46.4 at Mohawk then regressed, but he looks like he has his top form again.
Two weeks ago, Evenin of Pleasure was dismissed at odds of 99-1. All he did that day was run a game second to secure his spot in the final. I don’t think he can win it, but he has a chance to get into the money. Remember; fifth place nets $26,600. His best chance is to get to the lead and try and hang on. He almost did that in his last start where he finished second and come Saturday, there would be no shame in a runner-up finish.
Mach it So is much respected with morning line odds of 4-1, but I just don’t get any vibe from him, which means he’ll probably win. I will be intrigued to see what the bettors do as post time nears. I can’t see him being that low on Saturday; I expect his odds to be closer to 20-1 than 4-1, but at Yonkers stranger things have happened.
I’m not much on handicapping, but since I know all these horses and know them well, I’m going with this scenario:
Bit of a Legend
Somewhere in LA
I think Legend is the ultimate gamer and will rise to the challenge like he did at the Gerrity and the Molson Cup at Western Fair in 2017. I love the rail for Western Fame and that should only help an already super horse and I think Somewhere in LA will be engaged enough to be secure a top-three finish, but if they finished sixth through eighth, it would shock no one; the field is that good.
The Levy is race 10 on a spectacular card with $1.3 million in purses. In addition to the Levy, the $373,000 Matchmaker will be run as well as consolations for both the Matchmaker and Levy. There is also a $30,000 Preferred Handicap pace, a $40,000 Open Handicap pace, as well as a $30,000 Open trot and a $40,000 Blue Chip free-for-all for mare pacers.
It should be a good night for Yonkers; which has seen a dramatic increase in handle this year. Despite the excellent card, they will be up against the Mighty Meadowlands which continues to handle $2 and sometimes $3 million on weekends. That said the best races of the night are at Old Hilltop in Westchester County.