Horses that raced at Dover Downs in January won seven of 12 races on opening night, Feb. 6—not a big surprise given almost half the pacers and trotters that competed hadn’t raced since mid-December at the conclusion of the Rosecroft fall meet.
Of the other five winners, one had raced at Freehold in mid-January; two had last raced at Monticello and at Charlottetown in Canada Dec. 31; and the final two races were taken by pacers that last raced Dec. 16 at Rosecroft.
Among the horses to watch from opening night, Blue Fox went a big mile from off the pace in a strong field (Race 1) off of a Jan. 30 qualifier and an almost two-month layoff; and Winter Games, who also qualified Jan. 30 after a long rest, went off stride early, ended up parked the mile and still finished an excellent second to a Dover invader in the featured pace for fillies and mares (Race 8). Finally, Breadcrumb Income, who had last raced Dec. 12 at Rosecroft, sat a perfect pocket trip in a condition event for fillies and mares but looked like she hadn’t missed any time; she was second in 1:54 3/5 with a solid closing kicker.
Here’s a look at several races on the Sunday, Feb. 10, program:
Rock N’ Roll Jet, Rosecroft’s Horse of the Year for 2018, looks to pick up where he left off in the first Open Handicap pace of 2019. In his final start here last fall, the now 10-year-old gelding held his own in the $100,000 Potomac Pace versus some of the top older pacers in the country, and the next week popped at 20-1 in a $25,000 Open pace at Dover Downs, where he has been racing this winter. He drew the 9-hole here but catches a field in which many have missed time; short price looms but strong first-up effort on a difficult night in a “winner’s over” at Dover Jan. 31 stands out.
Delaware invader Maggnifispin had a useful first start at Dover Downs less than a week ago when she pulled from seventh before the half-mile mark, never got cover and stalled on the final turn but still paced a last quarter-mile in :29 in a “NW 1 lifetime” pace. Here’s guessing that effort is good enough here, though Whiskey N Coke drops from the “NW 2 life” level at Dover and in his most recent start in a “NW 1 life” pace was competitive in fast time; in-and-outer tough to gauge.
Diamondkeeper paced his final half-mile in about :56 off of live cover on opening night and finished a decent third in this class, but the key may be that “non-winners of $4,000 in the last 5 starts” pace seemed much tougher than this one does on paper. Eight-year-old gelding has had his ups and downs but when he is on his game he’s too much for these.
The average age of the pacers in this top-level non-winners of money earned in the last five starts event is 9, and they’re still going strong. Four of them appear to have a class edge: Rocktavius, who returns off of a nice qualifying win at Rosecroft; Abelard Hanover, who was hindered by post position in several serious miles in a higher class at Dover; and Cousin Brucie, who was competitive versus similar at Dover and draws well here. Major Marcus, who could be the highest price of the four, got off to a good start this year in New Jersey and his versatility could be a big advantage here.