Crete, IL --- The 2012 stakes season kicked off on Saturday (March 31) at Balmoral Park as a field of nine Illinois conceived and foaled 3-year-old pacing colts squared off in the $12,000 Taurus Bomber Stake.
|Balmoral Park photo|
|Al's Hammered was a 1:52.3 winner in the Taurus Bomber Stake.|
Getting off to a quick start just like he did as a 2-year-old, Robert Phillip’s prize pupil Al’s Hammered had no trouble finding the winner’s circle as he rolled to a 1-1/4 length victory in 1:52.3, equaling his career best that he set in his victory here last week.
Given a confident steer by driver Robert Smolin, the Phillips trained son of Droppin’thehammer-Alberts Magic got away fourth as longshot NJ’s Big Deal (Kyle Husted) led the field through an opening quarter in :28.3. Heading up the backstretch Smolin’s plan to follow King’s Legend (Marcus Miller) went up in smoke as the Meadowlands shipper made a break nearing the half-mile mark. That left Smolin to rough it first over as the pacers reached the midway point in :57.
“I really didn’t want to race him first up and I figured Marcus’ horse would be good to follow but he started putting in some steps and then made a break so I got out of there,” explained Smolin. “I was still pretty confident that he wouldn’t have any trouble so I just took my time easing him to the front.”
Taking dead aim on the pacesetting NJ’s Big Deal, Al’s Hammered pulled alongside as the state-breds reached the three-quarter mark in 1:24.1.
“Once we hit the top of the lane I popped the plugs on him and tapped the wheel disk once and he just took off,” said Smolin.
Blowing right by the pacesetter, Al’s Hammered was on cruise control the rest of the way as the battle for minor spoils continued behind him. NJ’s Big Deal wound up holding on gamely to finish second while Likeathunderbolt (John Roberts) rallied to finish third in a tight photo over College Boy (Eric Carlson).
After the race Smolin was quick to thank the makers of the Spyder X bike who managed to get his new race bike here just before the race and Phillips for his conditioning job.
“Having that new bike on him was pretty sweet,” said a smiling Smolin. “R Bob also does such a good job of having this horse ready to go as well and he was very sharp tonight. That track was a little deep and tiring tonight but he just paced right through it all the way to the wire.”
The win was the seventh in 18 career starts for Al’s Hammered, who also boasts four second-place finishes and three third-place checks with earnings of $67,334.
Sent off as the even money choice, Al’s Hammered returned $4.00, $2.60 and $2.20 to his legion of backers.
In the co-featured $17,000 Invitational Pace, George Procopi’s Firstclassalltheway, a $6,000 claim for this barn, continued his amazing rise to glory as he scored for the third straight week in 1:50.1 for driver Mike Oosting.
The 5-year-old gelding was also victorious in 1:49.3 last week and he now boasts 10 on the board finishes in 13 starts this season.
The Filly & Mare Open Handicap also went to the heavy favorite as Odds On Racing’s Odds On Moinet scored for the fifth time in six starts, knocking off five rivals in 1:53 for driver Marcus Miller.