08/24/2012 12:14PM

Vernon Downs: Morrill will need a smooth trip with Archangel in the Zweig Memorial

Mike Lizzi
Archangel wins the Yonkers Trot. He will start from post 8 in Sunday's Zweig Memorial at Vernon Downs.

There are no do-overs in harness racing.

Archangel won’t be able to go back in time and capture the $1.5 million Hambletonian. Driver Jim Morrill Jr. has played the race over and over in his mind since then and the results still say Market Share was the winner and Archangel finished fourth. On Sunday Morrill hopes that Archangel can get a measure of revenge in the $350,000 Dr. Harry Zweig Memorial at Vernon Downs.

Archangel has been dominant in New York all season on the Sire Stakes circuit and captured the Yonkers Trot in record-setting fashion. He’s going to need to be on his game Sunday after landing post 8 in the field of nine with Hambo winner Market Share starting from post 2.

For Morrill, who has guided mounts to nearly $5 million in earnings in 2012, there are only good words for his charge. “When the posts came out for the Hambletonian I thought we had a great chance to win,” Morrill said. “I think I got him a little charged up and I had trouble getting him to calm down.”

Archangel made two moves before the quarter and then stung race favorite Uncle Peter before yielding.

“I don’t want to make excuses but he didn’t have anything left in the stretch and I think I took too much out of him giving up the lead,” Morrill said.

Archangel came out of the sport’s premier trotting race in good shape and followed it up with a Sire Stakes triumph on Aug. 14 at Saratoga.

“I spoke with Peter [trainer Arrigenna] on Tuesday and he said the horse is doing well,” said Morrill.

The driver believes the son of Credit Winner can go on any sized track and any surface. “I know he’s a better horse coming from off the pace,” said Morrill. “But with the eight hole it’s not like I can take back to last and hope to win the race.”

Hambletonian winner Market Share comes off a second-place finish to Googoo Gaagaa in last Sunday’s Colonial at Harrah’s Philadelphia and hopes to regain winning form. Morrill is not overwhelmed by the competition. He believes Archangel is as good as any horse in the division.

Market Share sat on Archangel’s back in the Hambletonian eliminations and defeated him coming home.

“He’s a quick little horse,” said Morrill of the Hambo champ, “But Archangel needed to be stretched out in that race.”

The Zweig, one of the premier events for 3-year-old trotters, was once a fixture at the Syracuse State Fair and now resides at Vernon. It will give many of the Hambletonian horses another chance at retribution. Third-place finisher My MVP (post 6), fifth-place finisher Beer Summit (post 4) and beaten favorite Uncle Peter (post 3) are all in the hunt hoping to bounce back.

The 13-race Vernon program is highlighted by the $25,000 Drivers’ Challenge of which Jim Morrill Jr. is one of nine top drivers in action.

“I think it’s great what Jeff [track owner Gural] does putting up that kind of money,” said Morrill.

As for winning the competition, Morrill is realistic.

“It’s very tough. There’s a lot of luck involved. I would say that there are at most three horses in each race with a chance of winning. You have to draw the good ones,” he  said.

As for beating the best drivers in the world, Morrill wasn’t about to have his head swell with the thought. “Even if I win I’m not going to come away thinking that I’m better than those other guys,” said Morrill.

The Drivers’ Challenge will comprise five events races 2, 3, 4, 7, and 9. Morrill does expect things to be a bit different than the norm.

“Look what Jody [Jamieson] did in the races at the Meadowlands,” Morrill said. “He left out of there with a pair of 90-1 shots.”

Morrill thinks drivers could mix it up a little differently after the first few races. Essentially with nothing to lose you have to pull all stops out if you’re going to win the top prize.

“If it’s a regular $4,000 claimer I may give up the lead to another horse. But if I’m in a battle with another one of the drivers and he comes up to challenge, I may leave him out there,” said Morrill.

For Morrill, who has based in Pocono through much of the year but currently goes Sire Stakes hopping in New York, it’s been a big comeback season. He’s been put up on some good horses and has made the most of opportunities given to him. He looks back favorably on the Hambletonian experience and although Archangel finished fourth he was grateful to have a chance to win the $1.5 million contest. More recently he savored the upset victory of Bettor B Lucky in the Empire Breeders Classic at Tioga Downs in upset fashion over American Jewel.