03/14/2016 1:59PM

Bergman: Levy starter could be ‘The Real' deal

Mike Lizzi
Pat Lachance trains and drives Levy hopeful The Real One.

There’s a reason why a horse has to be physically tough to compete in the Levy series at Yonkers Raceway. The annual event that brings together the best aged pacers in training commences on Saturday night with five preliminary legs and a $200,000 added final slated for April 23. That is six consecutive weeks going at full throttle over a half-mile track. To some horses the wear and tear factor leaves them weak and weary the rest of the season. While others, most notably the great Foiled Again, seem to thrive on the battle and only appear stronger down the line.

Trainer-driver Patrick Lachance heads into this year’s Levy with a horse that didn’t bring much money when sold in 2012. The Real One is now a 6-year-old and perhaps at his peak.

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“I think they bought the horse from Ben Baillargeon off the Internet for $10,000,” said Lachance. “When I first got him, we were looking at him as an overnight horse. He’s gotten better and stronger.”

The Real One spent a few years in Quebec first, but arrived in Lachance’s care as a 4-year-old in 2014 and worked his way up the class ladder.

“He was a good horse the first year, but last year he was much more consistent and he ended the year at the top,” said Lachance.

For Lachance, doing right by his horses has always been a top priority and racing at Yonkers primarily, he has managed a solid stable of raceway types through successful campaigns. In The Real One, a son of Mach Three, he could have a sleeper that may awaken with the cream of the current aged crop still undecided heading into the Levy opening round.

“It’s a tough series but he’s coming into it in good shape. I took him over to the Meadowlands to get a good mile in him,” said Lachance of the sharp qualifier The Real One put in last Friday at the Meadowlands. “I could have qualified him again at Yonkers but I would have had to cut the mile. At the Meadowlands he was able to come home strongly and that’s the way he likes it.”

Fortitude is a great attribute, especially at this level of the game, and if The Real One is to achieve success in this year’s Levy he’s going to need it.

“I think his two best qualities are that he tries hard and is very quick,” said Lachance.

When Lachance got the horse in mid-2014, The Real One reeled off three straight wins, moving up the class ladder perhaps a bit faster than he was able to handle. Nevertheless, The Real One earned nearly $140K in his 4-year-old season, more than double his earnings as a 2 and 3-year-old combined.

Then last year as a 5-year-old his presence was felt on a regular basis in Westchester County. He closed out a 32-race campaign winning consecutive Open Handicaps at Yonkers, with the December 12 score coming in 1:51, the fastest of his nine wins throughout the year.

They say you have to have speed to win on the half-mile tracks, but some believe that speed needs to be early speed or controlling speed. The Real One appears to have quick speed but it is best utilized when the horse is racing from off the pace.

In his last two outings of 2015, he showed that style to the competition and was simply overpowering while defying traditional logic.

More than seven lengths off the pace in his Open Handicap triumph on December 5 through a dawdling 57 1/5 opening half, The Real One paced around the field to the front during a 28-second third quarter by putting up a 26 3/5 quarter of his own despite having to navigate the third turn. He flew home to a 1:52 3/5 triumph, cruising his final half in 54 seconds flat.

Even further back in his 1:51 triumph, The Real One sprinted past rivals closing in 27-flat in the season’s finale.

The Real One will most definitely be stepping up in class with the Levy series, but that didn’t seem to bother Lachance much.

Having campaigned Machs Beach Boy in last year’s Levy, the trainer-driver more than understands what’s necessary to achieve success at this level.

“He’s a trippy horse,” said Lachance. “I think that’s good for this type of series.”

What that essentially means is Lachance is not likely to rough his horse up in the early stages and that’s something that could work to his advantage in the long run. With $50,000 riding in each individual leg and horses hotly contesting the early pace looking to earn points to reach the lucrative final, Lachance and The Real One may be able to take advantage when the pace breaks down late.

Though the Burkes and Bamonds will be throwing in multiple horses this year, they may not have the power they have commanded in year’s past. Last year’s winner, P H Supercam, is slated to return, as is Mach It So. The Burke camp has another solid collection that includes Foiled Again and All Bets Off. All of the above have been rock solid and tough as they come over the long run. Whether their advancing age will be a negative factor still remains to be seen. Foiled Again for one has defied all old-age branding.

But The Real One could be a special one. His qualifier at The Meadowlands exhibited the quickness and desire that should only work to his advantage in the next six weeks to come.

Lachance is optimistic but will keep the same approach to the Levy as he does with his entire stable.

“I won’t send him out there if he’s not 100 percent,” said Lachance. “If he needs a week off we will give him the week off.”

With The Real One battle-tested at Yonkers over the last few years, he appears more than ready for combat against the finest in a grueling series.

The war begins this Saturday.