11/21/2012 10:12AM

Dover Downs: Mel Mara looks to rebound in Matron Pace Elims

Mel Mara is the 5-1 fourth choice in his Matron elimination on Sunday.

By virtue of his victory in last Sunday’s Progress Pace, Heston Blue Chip appeared one step closer to a possible three-year-old colt title. That said, the son of American Ideal will find himself in a much different setting this Sunday when he faces six others in one of two $29,444 Matron eliminations at Dover Downs. While Heston Blue Chip was dominant as a 1-10 favorite in the Progress, he faces an entirely different cast of characters this week. In that group are recent Messenger Stakes winner Bolt The Duer, Windy City Pace winner Pet Rock, and the speedy Ontario-bred Mel Mara.

Driver Ron Pierce will be in the bike behind Mel Mara. The son of Lis Mara has had his ups and downs this year but seemed to find his form in the fall at Lexington’s Red Mile. In Kentucky, Mel Mara defeated Sweet Lou in the Bluegrass in a game first over mile. Upon leaving Kentucky and heading back to Ontario, Mel Mara defeated the richest three-year-old in North America, Michaels Power, in the $130,000 Ontario Sire Stakes Gold division at Flamboro Downs.

Post position and trip have at times led Mel Mara into off-the-board finishes, but Pierce thinks the colt has a world of talent.

“I think he can go with these horses if he gets the right trip,” said Pierce. “Heston Blue Chip is extremely good right now, but he can be beaten.”

Mel Mara landed post three in the tenth race and second Matron elimination on Dover’s 15-race program, first post is 5:30 p.m.. The colt is coming off a fourth place finish in the $300,000 Ontario Sire Stakes Super final on November 10 at Woodbine. In that race Michaels Power scored in a track record 1:48 1/5 mile with Mel Mara only five lengths behind.

“I was out a third of the way into the first turn,” said Pierce of the race. “I had to use him pretty good to get the lead (:53 4/5) and then I stung Jody (Jamieson driver of Warrawee Needy) pretty good before letting him go.”

Pierce’s strategy produced an incredible pace and eventually winded the usually solid closing Mel Mara.

On Sunday it’s about finishing in the top four and that won’t be assured no matter which horse you’re backing. While Heston Blue Chip is unbeaten since adding Lasix including victories in the Progress and Breeders Crown, Bolt The Duer is also unbeaten since adding the medication. The son of Ponder converted on a pocket trip to outsprint Pet Rock in the $415,820 Messenger Stakes at Yonkers on November 10. Mark MacDonald will guide him from post two on Sunday.

Pet Rock was the pacesetter in the Messenger and finished a solid second in the 1:51 2/5 stakes record mile. He followed that half-mile track effort with a 1:51 4/5 victory in the $215,000 Windy City Pace at Maywood on November 16. Doug McNair picked up the drive for trainer Virgil Morgan Jr. at Maywood and will be behind the colt Sunday from post five.

Heston Blue Chip was tabbed the 6-5 favorite after his 1:49 victory in last week’s $270,000 Progress Pace. He drew post six and Tim Tetrick will once again be in the bike with the colt seeking his sixth straight stakes victory.

Hillbilly Hanover, third as the beaten favorite in the Messenger, enters the Matron off his first victory of the season in an overnight event last Sunday at Harrah’s Philadelphia. The recent addition to the Ron Burke stable will have the services of Yannick Gingras from post four.

The first $29,444 Matron elimination is slated as race four and though six were drawn it appears to be a match-race between North America Cup champion Thinking Out Loud (post 1) with driver John Campbell and Bettors Edge (post 3), a recent winner of the Monument Circle at Indiana Downs. Dave Miller drives Bettors Edge for trainer Linda Toscano.

Last week Thinking Out Loud was a standout, finishing a huge second behind Heston Blue Chip. His trainer Bob McIntosh was lamenting the long season prior to this year’s Breeders Crown, but his colt surprised with a bounce-back effort, finishing a solid fourth in the Crown despite starting from post eight.

Bettors Edge has been one of the most consistent three-year-olds all season while winning sparingly. The son of Bettors Delight has been seen racing without cover on numerous occasions and miraculously has lived to tell about it 23 times in 2012.

The top four finishers in each Matron elimination return for the $250,000 estimated final on December 2.