Yonkers, NY --- Pet Rock, already with a Yonkers Raceway stakes-record performance on the resume, was made the early favorite for his return to Westchester for Saturday night's $415,820 Messenger Stakes.
The final jewel of the Pacing Triple Crown goes as the eighth race on the 13-race wagering card (first post 7:10 p.m., approximate stakes post time 9:35 p.m.).
Eight 3-year-old olds -- seven colts and one gelding -- are set to contest the Messenger Stakes, with that early 3-1 endorsement going to Pet Rock. The son of 2005 Harness Horse of the Year Rocknroll Hanover was done no favors by the draw, which landed him in penultimate post position No. 7.
|Mike Lizzi photo|
|Pet Rock is the morning line favorite in the Messenger on Saturday.|
George Brennan, Yonkers' runaway driving leader for the second consecutive season, takes a first-time seat behind Pet Rock for owner Frank Bellino of nearby Bronxville, N.Y., and trainer Virgil Morgan, Jr. Owner Bellino won this event two seasons ago with eventual 2010 Horse of the Year Rock N Roll Heaven.
Pet Rock enters the Messenger with seven wins, four seconds and four thirds in 18 seasonal starts ($690,563). He sandwiched a pair of Woodbine Preferred wins -- the former in a life-best 1:50 -- around a seventh-place effort in his elim for the Breeders Crown.
However, it was his affection for this oval which made him the morning line favorite. Pet Rock won -- with Brian Sears driving -- June's $306,204 Art Rooney Pace in 1:51, a stakes record as well as a new track standard for his age group.
While the draw deities did Pet Rock no favors, they did wonders for the winless Hillbilly Hanover. The lone (Dragon Again) gelding in the group may be 0-for-19 in 2012, but figures to get his share of pari-mutuel pals who appreciate his pole position and Lexington line (missing a head to Sweet Lou in the Tattersalls).
Jim Morrill, Jr. does the honors for trainer Ron Burke, who co-owns with Weaver Bruscemi, Frank Baldachino and Lawrence Karr. Hillbilly Hanover, the 4-1 early second choice, has earned more money this season ($236,503) than any winless horse.
Meadowlands Pace winner A Rocknroll Dance (David Miller, post three) and Adios world-record champ (as well as Rooney runner-up) Bolt The Duer (Mark MacDonald, post five) are both listed at 5-1. The field also includes a quartet of New York-breds, led by sire stakes champ Major Bombay (Brian Sears, post six).
The draw, with drivers (after changes) and morning line odds: 1-Hillbilly Hanover (Jim Morrill, Jr., 4-1), 2-Domethatagain (Brent Holland, 10-1), 3-A Rocknroll Dance (David Miller, 5-1), 4-Lawgiver Hanover (Eric Goodell, 12-1), 5-Bolt The Duer (Mark MacDonald, 5-1), 6-Major Bombay (Brian Sears, 6-1), 7-Pet Rock (George Brennan, 3-1), 8-Steelhead Hanover (Jason Bartlett, 15-1).
The stakes companion event, the $229,440 Lady Maud Pace for 3-year-old fillies, goes as the sixth race (approximate post time 8:55 p.m.). The ladies look like this: 1-Bettor B Lucky (Morrill, 6-1), 2-Handsoffmycookie (Miller, 5-1), 3-Ramalama (Bartlett, 15-1), 4-Economy Terror (Goodell, 3-1), 5-Major Look (Brennan, 6-1), 6-Romantic Moment (Sears, 8-5), 7-Rockaround Sue (MacDonald, 12-1).
Romantic Moment, a daughter of American Ideal trained by Jimmy Takter for Brittany Farms, is the New York Sire Stakes champ and 3-for-3 here this season.