03/25/2012 1:07PM

Yonkers: Real Nice finishes first In Levy opener


There’s an edge that comes with age in the sport of harness racing and Real Nice seems to have it. Last year’s George Morton Levy series champion put in a stunning performance in the opening leg on Saturday night at Yonkers Raceway and definitely stamped himself as the horse to beat in the coming weeks. The Levy is as much about durability as any series in this sport. With age comes toughness for many and Saturday’s 1:51 1/5 fastest clocking of the season at Yonkers proved both Real Nice’s speed and toughness.

With the 2011 Pacer of the Year Foiled Again at his flank on the final turn, Real Nice showed determination holding at bay that $3.4 million winner by a half-length in his wire-to-wire victory.

Sent off as the 4-1 third choice, Real Nice, trained by Rich Banca and driven by Jason Bartlett, posted the fastest mile of his racing career while edging closer to the $1 million mark in career earnings.

Brian Sears copped two of the six $50,000 preliminary legs,  scoring first with 4-5 favorite Strand Hanover from off the pace in a 1:52 4/5 mile. He came back a race later at odds of 15-1, scoring easily with Reibercrombie in a 1:53 1/5 mile. The 5-year-old pacer was given a 90-day suspension in Ontario following a positive test on Feb.  25 at Woodbine. The New York Racing and Wagering Board ordered him scratched from the Levy but the owner was granted a “stay” by the courts.

Yannick Gingras took advantage of his solid Levy stock, scoring a double with two Ron Burke-trained horses. Clear Vision completed a 3-5 proposition with his first score in two 2012 starts. A son of Western Hanover, Clear Vision held Dancin Yankee at bay by a half-length. Atochia took on some serious pressure by half-mile track specialist Flipper J down the backstretch but shook that foe off and held Nob Hill High easily at bay in his division. Gingras guided Atochia virtually wire-to-wire in 1:52 1/5.

Art Z proved last week’s 15-1 score in the Four Leaf Clover was no fluke as the Brett Miller-guided gelding moved inside through the passing lane to outkicked Summer Camp by a neck in the second fastest leg. The lone 4-year-old to win in opening round action, Art Z prevailed by a neck at 5-1 in the 1:52 mile.

See You At Peelers scores in comeback

With three straight losses following 22 consecutive wins, See You At Peelers had some doubting her future on the racetrack. Thankfully, the sport and those watching it at Yonkers in the coming weeks saw the old girl come back with a vengeance this past Friday. A 4-year-old by Bettors Delight, making her first start since October in a $40,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker division, See You At Peelers appeared to be languishing off cover as the veteran speedster Chancey Lady carved out a hot pace. But driver Brian Sears energized her on the final turn and managed to get her straightened out in time for a breathtaking finish. At the wire See You At Peelers finished in a dead heat with the pacesetter in a solid 1:52 4/5 clocking.

The Blue Chip Matchmaker had some stars show up this past Friday and others prove MIA. Confirmed half-mile track specialist Western Silk arrived from her winter vacation in Florida and was sparkling for driver George Brennan and trainer Andrew Harris (replacing the suspended Casie Coleman). The 5-year-old Western Silk made a huge move past the half-mile mark and scored decisively in 1:52 3/5.

Overbid winner Anndrovette, sent off as the 1-10 favorite, and the oft-winning JK Owhatanite, dominated the tote board in another Blue Chip division but neither figured in the exacta. Those two battled through somewhat modest fractions but proved powerless to hold off Brennan behind Rocklamation in the stretch. Third choice in the wagering, she paid a generous $23.40 for a $2 win ticket.

Harris scored a double with P Note Hanover in another Matchmaker division with Sears on board. Sears notched three of the five divisions using the passing lane to win with Mystical Diva in a 1:52 3/5 mile.

The Matchmaker returns for its second leg this Friday at Yonkers with the Levy going heating up on Saturday night.