08/22/2013 11:27AM

Vernon: Royalty For Life looks to rebound in Zweig Memorial

Derick Giwner
Royalty For Life cools off after winning the Hambletonian.

One would think after winning the $1 million Hambletonian on August 3, Royalty For Life’s trainer George Ducharme would have a hard time wiping the smile off his face. But then the colt landed post eight in last week’s Colonial Trot at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and finished un-placed after getting parked the mile.

Still Ducharme had no reason to be upset.

Well, bad luck once again reared its ugly head on Wednesday with Royalty For Life drawing post nine, the furthest outside draw in Sunday’s $360,000 Dr. Harry Zweig Memorial Trot at Vernon Downs. The Zweig is race 10 on a special evening program that commences at 6:30 p.m.

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For Ducharme and Royalty For Life this was supposed to be somewhat of a homecoming. The son of R C Royalty has made a name for himself this summer with victories in the Dancer and Hambletonian at the Meadowlands, but the colt stables and trains at Vernon and Ducharme has been a regular there.

“I don’t think it gives us much of an edge,” said Ducharme, obviously more concerned with the draw than the home cooking.

“It’s a speed game and they are going to make it difficult for us to get the top,” said Ducharme, with the expectation that the top colts in the field have already figured out a formula on how to deal with his prized pupil.

But it would be safe to say that whatever price was paid by Royalty For Life at Pocono, his chances are somewhat improved with the switch to the seven-eighths mile Vernon Downs oval.

“There’s an eighth of a mile into the first turn so I think that’s better for us,” said Ducharme.

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The positive news for fans of Royalty For Life is that Ducharme believes his colt is still at the top of his game and the early season breaking problems are hopefully a thing of the past.

“He came out of the last race in good shape,” said Ducharme. “Brian (driver Sears) knew there was no chance of getting a check in the stretch and he just eased him home.”

Almost a carbon copy of the line-up in the Colonial last week, race winner Spider Blue Chip again landed post five and Hambletonian runner-up Smilin Eli will start from post three. Beal Memorial champion Corky landed post seven.

With nearly $700,000 in the bank this year Royalty For Life leads the division in earnings, but it has been virtually all or nothing with four wins and one second in eight starts.

Spider Blue Chip, Smilin Eli and Corky have all surpassed the half million dollar mark during their sophomore season with solid form, manners and consistency.

For Ducharme and Royalty For Life the Zweig may be another tall order unless he can somehow manage to do what he did in the Dancer.

“I don’t think we can afford to get parked to the half,” said Ducharme about the potential trip. “He’s going to have to be near the lead early to have a chance. I mean you saw what happened at Pocono last week, almost every race was won by the horses that were first, second or third in the early going.”

Win, lose or draw Ducharme said he plans to send Royalty For Life north of the border to Mohawk for his next start, the $700,000 Canadian Trotting Classic with eliminations expected on September 7 and the final September 14.

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