06/18/2017 3:46PM

Vernon Downs: Barn Bella, Devious Man best in Empire Breeders Classic finals

This was the fourth straight race that Barn Bella has broken or tied a track record - three times at Tioga and once at Vernon

Barn Bella and Devious Man were the winners of the six-figure Empire Breeders Classic finals for sophomore trotters that were held on Sunday afternoon at Vernon Downs.

In the $228,250 event for the ladies, Barn Bella (Jeff Gregory) drew post nine, but she was able to wrestle the lead away from Ostrich Blue Chip (Scott Zeron) past the 26 1/5 opening quarter.  Gregory was then able to get the 1-2 favorite a nice breather in the second quarter, getting to the half in just 55 2/5. On the final bend 5-2 second choice Celebrity Ruth (David Miller) rolled the dice first-over out of the third spot, and she was able to get to within half a length of Barn Bella as they zipped through three-quarters in 1:24.

That half-length was as close as Celebrity Ruth would get, though, as Barn Bella suddenly began to open up turning into the stretch, and she would continue widening the margin to the wire.  In the end Barn Bella reported home 3 1/4 lengths on top and stopped the clock in 1:51 3/5, matching Check Me Out's track record for the division.  Celebrity Ruth wound up second, followed by Sunshine Delight (Brett Miller), Amber Ella (John Campbell), and Chapter Too (Corey Callahan).

"I was able to just move around up the front and able to get a little breather up the backside with her," said Gregory.  "In the last turn (Celebrity Ruth) was actually giving me a real run for our money.  I pulled her plugs and she actually found another gear, but in the middle of the last turn it felt like it was going to be a really tight race.

"She's limited as to what she's eligible to.  She's just pretty much paid up into New York, so she won't get a chance to go against the better girls, but what she's doing here she's really making us happy."

Barn Bella, who has won all six of her starts this season, is a daughter of Conway Hall.  She is trained by Steven Pratt, who also co-owns her with Nancy Pratt and Purple Haze Stables LLC.  This was Barn Bella's 12th career victory, and she has now earned $355,711.  The defending New York Sire Stakes champion for the division, Barn Bella paid $3.10 to win.

The colts would take to the track for their $252,000 final in the next race, and it would be Swell Chap (Brett Miller) leading the way through opening-half stations of 26 3/5 and 56 3/5.  Devious Man (Andy Miller), the slight 6-5 choice, began a first-over move out of fourth at the half, and then he would pick up cover on the far turn when Stick With Me Kid (Brian Sears) popped out of the pocket.

Stick With Me Kid overhauled Swell Chap beyond the 1:24 4/5 three-quarters, but Miller fanned Devious Man to the outside in the stretch, and he would gain the lead.  Devious Man would draw away from there, winning by four lengths in 1:52 2/5, just a fifth of a second shy of Market Share's track record for a sophomore trotting colt.  Bill's Man (Corey Callahan), the 7-5 second choice, would brush from eighth to second in the final quarter, with Stick With Me Kid back in third.  Top Flight Angel (Marcus Miller) and Swell Chap finished fourth and fifth.

"He did that real easy, but the fractions weren't real strong," said Andy Miller, who also co-owns Devious Man with Stroy Inc.  "When he came off of cover there he just trotted right to the wire.

"I'm not sure yet if we're going to go to Pocono next week (Earl Beal eliminations), but the main goal is to point him to the Hambletonian.  Hopefully we have some luck there."

Julie Miller trains Devious Man, a Credit Winner colt.  Devious Man is now an ten-time winner from 15 lifetime starts and an earner of $460,433.  Devious Man returned $4.70 to win.

There were also four New York Sire Stakes splits for 3-year-old pacing colts contested on the card, and Heaven's Gait (David Miller) won the first of them in 1:49 to set a new track record.  A Rock N Roll Heaven colt, Heaven's Gait is trained by Nicholas Devita for owner/breeder John Cummins.

Also winning in those events were:

--American Wiggle (American Ideal) in 1:51 for driver Scott Zeron, co-owner/trainer Eve Bergeron and co-owners Geoff and Mary Howles
--Funknwaffles (American Ideal) in 1:51 for driver Brian Sears, trainer John Butenschoen, and owner Crawford Farms Racing
--In A Single Bound (Roll With Joe) in 1:50 2/5 for driver Billy Dobson, trainer Monica Krist, and owners Dennis and Simone Noud