08/18/2010 4:15PM

Catlaunch tops loaded lineup for Honey Jay Stakes


In what shapes up as an extremely strong race, five of the 11 Ohio-breds in Friday’s $50,000 Honey Jay Stakes at Thistledown are either current or past statebred champions.
The rugged 9-year-old multiple stakes winner Catlaunch was the top Ohio handicap male last year and Ohio horse of the year in 2008. He has won 32 of 78 starts and $792,054. Catlaunch, trained by Ivan Vasquez, is a double stakes winner this year. He has won 17 of his 39 starts going the Honey Jay distance of six furlongs.
That’s a Heckofacat, a 3-year-old gelding who has won 5 of 6 career starts, including four stakes, will be competing with older horses for the first time. He was the Ohio juvenile champion last year and is a double stakes winner this season from three starts. That’s a Heckofacat is 2 for 2 at Friday’s distance and comes into the race off four bullet works since a stakes win at River Downs on July 3.
The other champions in the race are Tri Umet, voted Ohio’s top sprinter last year; Ben’s Reflection, a three-time Ohio sprint champion; and Acts Like a King, the state’s champ in 2005.
Two others have a good chance of winning. Royal Nemesis beat Catlaunch in the six-furlong Babst Memorial at Beulah Park on May 1. Perfectly Played has won his last two starts, both at Presque Isle Downs against open company.
◗ Longtime owner-trainer Gerald L. Pace, 83, died Aug. 12.
Pace was a nightclub owner in Cleveland who became involved in racing at Thistledown in 1977 when he was offered part ownership of three racehorses to settle a customer’s debt. Shortly thereafter, he took out a trainer’s license and raced horses at Thistledown, Tampa Bay Downs, and Calder.
On Jan. 30, 1981, Pace, who was stabled at Tampa for the winter, gave Julie Krone her first-ever mount. She finished second aboard 22-1 Tiny Star in a $3,500 maiden claiming race.
Pace is survived by his wife, Denise, sons Jerry Jr. and Bobby, who has been the racing secretary at Fairmount Park for the last 25 years, and daughter Cindy. He also has six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
– additional reporting by Tim Scaravilli