04/26/2012 8:58AM

Yonkers: Can Levy entrants eclipse Silver Almahurst's 1:50 4/5 track record?

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Derick Giwner
Yonkers Raceway

Like it or not, time is a universal measurement for success in racing. You can bring other factors into the equation but you cannot measure heart or guts. Speed at the mile is the standard by which we judge our equine stars.

Despite advancements over the previous two decades, with racing bikes and driving styles undergoing drastic alteration, the mark of ultimate excellence at Yonkers Raceway has remained unchanged.

Silver Almahurst stepped onto the Yonkers oval back on April 24, 1993 and driver Jim Morrill, Jr. guided him to an all-age track record of 1:50.4 in the $155,000 George Morton Levy final. The millionaire pacer beat the soon to be fastest pacer ever (1:46.1 - time trial at Springfield) when he finished 2 1/4 lengths in front of Cambest on a 61-degree night in New York.

Although every pacing record at Yonkers has been wiped clear within the last five years, Silver Almahurst still dons a page inside of the track’s program as the fastest to ever step onto the hilltop surface.

Perhaps the key reason for the solidarity of the record is the current configuration of the track. When Silver Almahurst posted his 1:50 4/5 mile, the starting point was midway down the current stretch. This allowed horses from outside post positions to leave strong away from the gate. Now horses drawn in outer posts like 7 and 8 must deal with the turn immediately after the gate is sprung, and thus lose valuable ground at the outset of the race.

A lesser recognized reason is the pace of the race. Back in 1993, horses were forced to move to the rim earlier in the mile because the short 440 foot stretch would not allow for many horses to make up substantial late ground. While logically the current track configuration of a 660 foot stretch would appear to favor closers, it has the opposite effect. Horses do not pull early in the mile because of the longer stretch and that in turn creates slower middle fractions. The result: a slow pace and no track records.

Many have come close. Keep It Real, Special Report, Maltese Artist, Foiled Again, and Valentino have all stopped the timer just one-fifth shy of the elusive mark at 1:51. But most of these miles were the result of one horse having a great night and setting the strong fractions which resulted in the fast time. Not due to a contested pace, which is the most likely way to get a quick final clocking. The final two of the near misses mentioned above actually accomplished the feat in the last few weeks during this year’s George Morton Levy series, which culminates on Saturday (April 28) with a $455,000 final.

Will we see history on Saturday?

One reason to say yes is the presence of Real Nice starting from post seven. The Richard Banca trainee has led at every call in each of his last five races. It is hard to imagine him altering his tactics with $455k on the line. Second is the common ownership on Atochia and Foiled Again. Conspiracy theories aside, one would have to think that Atochia will be forwardly placed. With the likelihood that driver George Brennan will want to secure position with pole-sitter Blatantly Good, the pace is likely to be hot. Finally, there are few stragglers in the field. With the exception of one or two contestants, any of these horses is capable of stepping up with a big mile.

An opening quarter of :26 3/5 seems very likely. But the key to a record mile is constant pressure on the leader. With the razor sharp Art Z and Fitz’s Z Tam likely to come away in mid-pack, the outer flow should be live. Let’s call the half at :55 1/5 and three quarters in 1:23 2/5. All of these fractions are very reasonable for pacers of this caliber. The only thing left is a :27 1/5 final quarter and everyone in this field is capable of that.

The weatherman is calling for reasonable temperatures in the upper 40-degree range; certainly not cold enough to damper a possible record.

Only one horse can be the fastest ever at each track. Perhaps one of the eight combatants below can break the magical 1:50 4/5 barrier.

PN Horse Driver DRF Harness Line
1 Atochia Ron Pierce 2-1
1A Foiled Again Yannick Gingras 2-1
2 Blatantly Good George Brennan 8-1
3 Art Z Brett Miller 4-1
4 Fitz’s Z Tam Brian Sears 5-1
5 Strand Hanover Luc Oullette 8-1
6 Nob Hill High Jordan Stratton 15-1
7 Real Nice Jason Bartlett 3-1