05/20/2015 3:43PM

Harrah's Philly: Father Patrick to debut in stacked Maxie Lee

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Derick Giwner
Father Patrick makes his 2015 debut on Sunday against 2013 Horse of the Year Bee A Magician.

Jimmy Takter looks at Sunday’s $150,000 Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational for older trotters at Harrah’s Philadelphia and can’t help but be impressed.

“It’s like a mini Elitloppet,” Takter said, referring to the famed invitational in Sweden that brings together an international field of 16 trotters. “This would have been a top field in Elitloppet elimination, anyway. It’s going to be a great race.”

Takter’s Father Patrick – who on Sunday makes his debut as a 4-year-old – is among four trotters entered in the Maxie Lee with Dan Patch Awards on their resumes. The others are Bee A Magician, who was harness racing’s 2013 Horse of the Year, Market Share, and Classic Martine.

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The race is part of a star-studded card that also features the $150,000 Jerry Taylor Invitational for older male pacers and the $150,000 Betsy Ross Invitational for older female pacers.

Father Patrick, who received Dan Patch Awards at both ages 2 and 3 and was the sport’s top money-winner last season, drew post five with driver Yannick Gingras and is 7-2 on the morning line. He has won 22 of 28 career starts and earned $2.43 million for the Father Patrick Stable ownership group.

A son of Cantab Hall out of the mare Gala Dream, Father Patrick prepped for his seasonal bow with three qualifiers. He was second to Melady’s Monet in the first in 1:55, then won in 1:53 3/5 and 1:52.

“Everything is much better than I expected,” Takter said. “The horse had three qualifiers and he was stronger in every one of them. The last one was in (1):52 with the plugs left in; (Gingras) never really asked him anything. The horse is ready.”

In addition to getting ready for the racing campaign, Father Patrick has been doing stud duty.

“It hasn’t hurt him,” Takter said. “He’s going to breed three times this week. He’s got a busy schedule, this guy. He doesn’t seem to mind it. We’ve been fortunate that it hasn’t been that hot. Sometimes when they’ve got to ship back and forth and breed, you just want to make sure their weight stays right.”

Bee A Magician, who on Saturday became the first female trotter to win the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial and is No. 1 in the first Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll, drew post three and is the 2-1 morning line favorite. The 5-year-old mare is 3-for-3 this season, defeating male rivals in all of her starts. She won the Cutler in 1:51 2/5, which is the season’s best time for any trotter.

Her trainer, Nifty Norman, also is impressed with the Maxie Lee lineup.

“I would say that’s the best field she’s met – maybe in her life,” Norman said. “That’s a really, really good field. I think we got probably the best draw out of that crew so we’ll see how it shakes out.

“You couldn’t be more pleased with her,” he added. “She’s been fantastic every start and maybe got better each start. I’m thrilled.”

Classic Martine, who received last year’s Dan Patch Award for best older female trotter, got post seven and is 5-2. She has won two of three races this season, including the Miami Valley Distaff at Miami Valley Raceway in a track-record 1:52.2.

Market Share, a Dan Patch Award honoree in 2012 and 2013, drew post four and is 8-1.

“This is (Father Patrick’s) first time racing against aged horses,” Takter said. “Bee A Magician has really impressed me this year. She’s a horse that’s going to be tough to beat. But I feel optimistic. I think he can give her a run for the money. Classic Martine has been racing really good and you can’t rule out Market Share with the class he has.”

-Courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com