05/25/2017 3:53PM

Harrah's Philly: Tuonoblu Rex one of many imports in Sunday Invitationals

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Ken Weingartner/USTA
Tuonoblu Rex has won all three of his starts since arriving in the United States.

After beginning his career in Europe, trotter Tuonoblu Rex has made himself at home in North America. The 5-year-old stallion is 3-for-3 since his arrival in the U.S. and will try to extend his win streak in Sunday’s $150,000 Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational at Harrah’s Philadelphia.

The Maxie Lee is one of three stakes-level invitational events at Harrah’s Philadelphia on Sunday, along with the $150,000 Betsy Ross for older female pacers and the $150,000 Ben Stafford Jr. for older male pacers. The day’s first race is 12:40 p.m. and the invites are races 10 through 12 on the 14-race card.

Tuonoblu Rex leads a strong contingent of foreign-born newcomers in the featured races. New Zealand-bred Nike Franco is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line behind favorite Lady Shadow in the Betsy Ross and New Zealand-bred stablemate Christen Me is the 7-2 second choice behind Somewhere In LA in the Stafford. The third choice in the Stafford is another New Zealand-bred newcomer, Mossdale Conner, who is unbeaten in three U.S. starts.

The Betsy Ross also features the first meeting between Dan Patch Award winners Lady Shadow and Pure Country.

Tuonoblu Rex, owned by Holland’s Cees Faber under Stable Why Not, was a Group 3 winner in Europe at age 3 and came to the States with six wins in 14 races and $189,918 in purses. He joined the stable of trainer Julie Miller and driver Andy Miller at the end of November and won his North American debut by a half-length over Crazy Wow in 1:52 1/5 on April 21 in the Preferred at the Meadowlands.

After failing to make the field for the Cutler Memorial because of earnings, Tuonoblu Rex won two conditioned races by a total of nine lengths. His most recent victory was a 1:53 score at Harrah’s Philadelphia on May 18.

He will start the Maxie Lee from post seven and is 7-2 on the morning line. Crazy Wow, from post five, is the 2-1 favorite and JL Cruze, from post one, is the 3-1 second choice.

“I’m excited that they think enough of the horse to invite him,” Julie Miller said. “It’s a little disappointing with the seven hole, but it is what it is. Andy says the horse is versatile, so I just hope he can figure out a nice trip with him and do some good.

“I’d hate to see where the race unfolds and we’re locked in or we’re too far back; those scenarios can happen easily on a five-eighths-mile track (such as Harrah’s Philadelphia). I just would like to see him get a chance to race. Hopefully he’s as good as he’s shown us in his first few starts.”

Tuonoblu Rex, born in Italy, is a son of stallion Cantab Hall out of the Lindy Lane mare Eternity Rex. His second dam, CR Kay Suzie, was 1995 Horse of the Year and is in the Hall of Fame as a racehorse. His third dam, Country Kay Sue, is in the Hall of Fame as a broodmare.

His connections have staked Tuonoblu Rex to a number of top events including the Breeders Crown, Maple Leaf Trot, John Cashman Memorial, and TVG Series.

“The whole purpose of sending him to the USA was to see what he is, so we put him in everything,” Miller said. “He’s going to decide his fate. The worst scenario is that he’s an open (level) trotter. That’s not a bad gig. But if he can step up and go with the top horses in the U.S., that would be fantastic.”

While races in the U.S. are normally a mile in distance and speed oriented, races in Europe are often at distances greater than a mile with the focus more on endurance. So while Team Miller has learned a lot about Tuonoblu Rex, there is still more to discover about his potential in racing in North America.

“That’s the biggest thing; not knowing what you have because of the difference in racing,” Miller said. “He’s used to grinding it out, but slower quarters. This is a different ballgame. But he’s flashed 27 quarters so I’m hoping he can do that a couple times in a mile, not just once.

“When Andy and I train him here, you’re dictating what happens; you’re taking a lot of variables out. But I’m impressed with his manners. He keeps a professional demeanor about himself. He knows the difference between jogging, training, and racing. He’s manageable. He’s really mature mentally. He definitely knows he’s a stud and he likes to nicker and be vocal, but when it’s business time he puts on his game face.”

Regardless of Sunday’s outcome, Miller is looking forward to watching Tuonoblu Rex’s attempt to make his mark in North America.

“The owners are flying over here from Holland. It’s an exciting time,” Miller said. “I’m just appreciative that they thought enough of Andy and I to give us a chance to race the horse this summer.”

Following is the Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational field in post order with drivers, trainers and morning line.

PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML

1-JL Cruze-David Miller-Eric Ell-3/1

2-Taco Tuesday-Jason Bartlett-Andrew Harris-6/1

3-Charmed Life-Simon Allard-Rene Allard-12/1

4-Springbank Sam N-Jordan Stratton-Peter Tritton-15/1

5-Crazy Wow-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-2/1

6-Odds On Amethyst-Patrick Hudon-Patrick Hudon-20/1

7-Tuonoblu Rex-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-7/2

8-Melady’s Monet-Brett Miller-Kevin McDermott-12/1

Following is the Betsy Ross Mares Invitational field in post order with drivers, trainers and morning line.

PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML

1-Sassa Hanover-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-15/1

2-Pure Country-Brett Miller-Jimmy Takter-7/2

3-Nike Franco N-Tim Tetrick-Jo Ann Looney-King-3/1

4-Mackenzie A-Jordan Stratton-Peter Tritton-6/1

5-Medusa-Tony Hall-Randy Bendis-20/1

6-Lady Shadow-Yannick Gingras-Ronald Adams-2/1

7-Blue Moon Stride-Andy McCarthy-Mark Harder-20/1

8-Cousin Mary-David Miller-Andrew Harris-7/1

Following is the Ben Stafford Jr. Invitational field in post order with drivers, trainers and morning line.

PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML

1-Missile J-Jonathan Roberts-Scott DiDomenico-6/1

2-Rock N’ Roll World-John DeLong-Jeff Cullipher-7/1

3-Christen Me N-Tim Tetrick-Jo Ann Looney-King-7/2

4-Mossdale Conner N-Jordan Stratton-Peter Tritton-9/2

5-Jins Shark-Brett Miller-Isaac Waxman-15/1

6-All Bets Off-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-7/1

7-Somewhere In LA-Jason Bartlett-Richard Banca-5/2

8-Great Vintage-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-12/1

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