05/21/2015 9:58PM

Harrah's Philly: Maxie Lee could be the race of the year

Lisa Photo
DW's NY Yank will look for the upset in Sunday's Maxie Lee.

“I think we have a puncher’s chance.”

Those were the words of co-owner Howard Taylor when asked his opinion of D W’s NY Yank, a 9-1 outsider in Sunday’s $150,000 Maxie Lee Memorial at Harrah’s Philadelphia. The afternoon program is loaded with talent including two other major invites, but the Maxie Lee could be the most interesting race of 2015. That’s because it features 2013 Horse of the Year Bee A Magician and last year’s top three-year-old Father Patrick meeting for the first time.

So why does Taylor, someone that the USTA lists as owning part or all of more than 200 horses (“I think the number is about 130,” said Taylor) think his horse has a chance? “The smaller the racetrack, the better he is,” said Taylor of DW’s NY Yank. The veteran has been lethal over the half-mile track this year for trainer Ron Burke, but was disappointing in the Cutler Memorial at the Meadowlands last week. Harrah’s Philadelphia is a five-eighths mile track and what DW’s NY Yank has in his favor is speed and an inside draw (post 2). He’ll also have Matt Kakaley in the sulky in race 12 of 14 on the afternoon program that begins at 12:40 p.m.

[HARRAH'S PHILADELPHIA: Watch Father Patrick battle Bee A Magician on Sunday--Live on DRF!]

“Bee A Magician surprised me with how good she was last week,” said Taylor. “But I don’t think people will be afraid to enter against her.”

Bee A Magician has been brilliant in three trips to post this year winning all impressively. She enters the Maxie Lee versus male competition again as the 2-1 morning line choice with Brian Sears in the bike for trainer Nifty Norman. The five-year-old by Kadabra made a huge move to the front in the Cutler and never looked back.

They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place, but don’t tell that to the connections of Market Share. The 2012 Hambletonian winner made a break last week in the Cutler final and lost all chance. A year ago Market Share also made a break in the Cutler, but then came back in his next start to capture the 2014 Maxie Lee. Trainer Linda Toscano looks for consecutive Maxie Lee victories with hopes that pilot Tim Tetrick can duplicate the drive that put Market Share in the winner’s circle last year at in a 1:50 2/5 clocking.

All eyes will be focused firmly on Father Patrick. Now four and racing against aged company, the son of Cantab Hall hopes to elevate his stature. The Jimmy Takter-trained stallion spent the winter both training and breeding, but the last of his three qualifying miles suggests he’s no worse for wear. Yannick Gingras guided him through an effortless 1:52 qualifying win on May 16 at the Meadowlands in final preparation for the Maxie Lee. The pair will open their 2015 racing season from post five.

There may be plenty of question marks from the males in the Maxie Lee this year, but solid performances have been the norm from the mares invited to participate. In addition to Bee A Magician, the field includes the impressive five-year-old Classic Martine. Trainer Chris Oakes has brought Classic Martine back razor sharp this year and she appears right at home over the five-eighths mile track. After losing her first start in 2015, Classic Martine has won back-to-back races including a powerhouse 1:53 1/5 effort at the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono last Saturday. Classic Martine landed post seven with George Napolitano Jr.

Melady’s Monet (post 6), Lindys Tru Grit (post 1) and Bourbon Bay (post 8) round out a stellar field.

No matter what happens in the Maxie Lee, owner Taylor will go to Harrah’s on Sunday with a great feeling. That’s because the racetrack named a $150,000 Invitational Pace in honor of his late father, Jerry. The Jerry Taylor Invitational honors a prominent Philadelphia attorney with a love of harness racing.

“He never missed a race,” said Howard Taylor, who indicated that his dad usually owned about five or six horses at one time.

“He got into the game in 1972 when he bought Leander Lobell at auction,” said Taylor. “The first race Leander Lobell was in after my dad purchased him he raced against Albatross.” The younger Taylor recalled it wasn’t a great experience and Leander Lobell’s racing career had already peaked a few years before Mr. Taylor became an owner.

Nevertheless Jerry Taylor remained a vibrant part of the Delaware Valley circuit that included Brandywine and Liberty Bell Park in the 70’s and features Harrah’s Philadelphia today.