03/22/2012 11:23AM

Yonkers: Ford sends six-pack in first round of George Morton Levy Series


Trainer Mark Ford has made a very good living in the Standardbred business. The primary reason is that Ford’s horses show up every week and perform at a high level. On Saturday, Ford will be at Yonkers Raceway with six of his horses entered in the $300,000 first round of the George Morton Levy Series. The event is split into six $50,000 divisions.

Ford is quick to comment that his best chance for making the final will likely come in the form of River Shark. Though he concedes the son of Four Starzzz Shark is “not at his best” on the half-mile track, he believes the pacer's ruggedness and durability will go a long way towards reaching the final.

“He can’t really come barreling out of there like some others,” said Ford.

But he thinks he can tough it out when the race is on the line.

“I think he’ll be fine coming first over against this type,” said Ford.

River Shark landed post 6 in the fifth division (race 8) on Yonkers's 12-race Saturday night program.

Speaking about the competition, Ford said: “Rock To Glory has been very good. But he’s a 4-year-old.”

River Shark at age 6 has won 4 of 8 starts this year for earnings of $60,790.

Longevity is key to Ford’s stable, and one of his entries in Saturday’s Levy has been as durable as they come. Silent Swing, who drew post 4 in the fourth division (6th race), is still going strong at the age of 10. Ford, who purchased half-interest in the horse last year for a song, has seen the horse earn roughly $300,000 since then.

“I’d have to say Silent Swing is right up there on my list of all-time favorite horses," he said. "I only wish I had him when he was younger."

Ford makes no bones about the number of horses he’ll campaign in the Levy series. “I think this is probably the best opportunity in all of racing," he said. "The nomination money isn’t cheap ($5,000), but you get to race for six straight weeks for a guaranteed $50,000 purse.And you can race in six-horse fields as well.

“There are a lot of fringe players in here. I’d say there’s only a handful of true invitational horses in here, but the rest are solid.”

What the Levy affords to trainers like Ford is a place to race for good money each week, especially when Yonkers is not likely to offer races for many of these high-level conditioned horses during the next six weeks.

“They won’t be carding an open or preferred in the next six weeks, so a lot of these horses wouldn’t have an opportunity to race without the Levy,” said Ford.

Saturday’s sixth and final $50,000 Levy division shapes up as a battle between last year’s Levy final champion Real Nice and the 2009-2010 winner Foiled Again. But it would hardly be a surprise if either had a tough time winning due to the presence of Blatantly Good from the rail. Owned by the Bamond Stable and trained by P. J. Fraley, Blatantly Good will have top driver George Brennan in the bike for the ninth race. The 8-year-old has won 2 of his last 3 races, competing at the top level at the Meadowlands.

The 2011 Pacer of the Year Foiled Again makes his 2012 racing debut from post 6 with Yannick Gingras in the bike. Now 8, Foiled Again looks for his third Levy Series conquest for trainer Ron Burke’s talented stable. He qualified on March 16 in 1:49 2/5 at the Meadowlands, finishing a well-beaten second to stablemate Fred And Ginger. Foiled Again won 14 of 28 starts last year, pushing his career bankroll to more than $3.4 million.

Real Nice, who drew post 5, has gone winless in 2012 after a stellar season last year saw him earn in excess of $500,000. Jason Bartlett has been driving the Rich Banca-trained horse, whoi has been prepping smartly for the Levy. Last week he was nipped on the wire in a 1:51 3/5 mile at Yonkers.

The George Morton Levy Series will have five preliminary legs racing on consecutive Saturdays with the $450,000-estimated final slated for April 28.