Two pacers with ties to Ontario and Alberta helped Sabrina Clevenger and Laurie Poulin win their respective Sweetheart races featuring female drivers on Valentine's night at Pompano Park. For Clevenger, is was her 19th career victory and, for Poulin, her 64th.
Clevenger, who won last year’s Sweetheart with the 1 to 5 shot, Normandy Invasion, upset the applecart with the 86 to 1 outsider Sturgeon Seelster, who scored his first win since April 26 of last year covering 36 starts.
The eight year-old son of Camluck, trained by Professor Mark Liebowitz, who co-owns with Phyllis Liebowitz, got picture perfect handling from Clevenger, who sent her charge alertly from the coveted post five to gain a spot in third early, before pulling into the final turn and wearing down the pace setting Tail R Swift, handled by Stacey McLenaghan, in the final sixteenth to score by 1 ¼ lengths.
Shadys Art, driven by Jamie Macomber, finished a fast closing third while Mustang Sally, with Maria Howard in the bike, fourth. I Saw Red, driven by Kelly Case, finished fifth in the octet.
In a post-race interview, when Sabrina was asked if she felt any pressure going in, she remarked, “Actually, I was more nervous driving the 1 to 5 shot last year because you are expected to win. With a long-shot like this, there is no pressure because nobody expects you to win.
“Mark (trainer Liebowitz) said he thought Sturgeon (Seelster) was feeling good and that I might want to leave a bit with him. I really got a great trip tonight and he paced a real strong final quarter to win it.
“It was a great thrill to win again.”
Sturgeon Seelster, who started out his career in Ontario, won for the 18th time during his career measuring 194 starts, good for earnings of $111,159.
Former Ontario breeder, Laurie Poulin, known primarily as the breeder of some great “Prairie” horses such as Prairie Jaguar, Prairie Sweetheart and Prairie Panther, went to the starting gate as the 3 to 5 favourite with Cabo Real and that seven year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere lead at every pole, carding panels of :27.4, :56.1 and 1:24.3 before a :28.3 sprint home stopped the tele-timer in 1:53.1—a new lifetime mark.
Dabunka, handled by Kelly Case, finished second, 1 ¾ lengths away, while P L Dangerous, with Maria Howard driving, finished third. First race winner Clevenger finished fourth with Hillbilly Kid while Clive Hanover picked up the nickel for Stacey McLenaghan.
Trained by Fred Cohen for owner Brian Calvert, Cabo Real won for the first time in 2017 and 28th time career-wise to send his lifetime earnings to $86,873.
Upon learning of the new lifetime mark, driver Laurie Poulin said, “I guess it takes a woman’s touch to get these horse to go all they can go.”
Ironically, the winner’s share of the purse ($3,000) is his second largest payday in his career measuring six seasons, exceeded only by a $3,239 purse earned in a $20,000 claiming event at Northlands Park in 2015. The horse raced in Alberta from August 0f 2013 to May of last year.
Rockn Stien, with Peter Wrenn in the bike, scored a repeat win in the $12,000 Open Handicap Trot while Sabrina Clevenger and Laurie Poulin took top honors as the South Florida oval presented their annual Sweetheart events featuring the great ladies of our sport.
Rockn Stien, the recently purchased five year-old son of Valley Victor, paid yet another early dividend for Wrenn Racing and the M T Pockets Stables by scoring a sharp win in 1:53.4, his margin three lengths over the mare Diamond Dagger, handled by Jason Dillander.
Kabu rallied to finish third for Tom Jackson while Ruddy Rusty finished fourth. Tater Twister, prominent all the way, picked up the minor award in the classy sextet as Massive Lightning made a miscue early on to complete the order of finish.
It was Tater Twister leaving with his usual alacrity to take the field through an opener of :27.1 with Rockn Stien on the attack and forging into the lead three-eighths into the mile.
From there, Rockn Stien went on to post panels of :55.2 and 1:24.2 before a :29.2 stroll home sealed the issue.
After the race, Wrenn said, “Rock (n Stien) is very versatile and very sharp right now so I wanted to put him on the lead, if I could.
“Once we got there, he was on the bit pretty good and the half kinda scared me a little since the last time we saw that, we were off that hot pace.
“But he just kept on grinding and we had no real situations the rest of the way. It was a good mile for him.”
The Melanie Wrenn trainee now is 3-for-4 in 2017 with $21,000 on his card. Lifetime, Rockn Stien lofted his bankroll to $166,865.
Racing continues on Wednesday night with a well matched septet of mares vying for top honours in the $11,500 Open Handicap.
Godiva Seelster has been installed as the 2 to 1 morning line favourite and will have the driving services of Wally Hennessey.
The grand seven year-old mare has missed only one purse cheque in her last five seasons covering 103 starts.
Wild Wanda, with two wins in her four starts in Open company, is listed as the 3 to 1 second choice and will enjoy the driving services of Ricky Macomber, Jr.
OK Heavenly, the upset winner in last week’s Open for the mares, is the 9 to 2 third choice and will be driven by Kevin Wallis.
Post time is set for 7:20 p.m.