RACING HILL WINS 61st MESSENGER STAKES
The half-million-dollar second jewel of the Trotting Triple Crown figured to be a showcase for the 3-year-old colt, whose resume already included the Hempt Memorial and the Adios and was making his first career small-track start.
At the outset, the fastest footprints belonged to Dr. J Hanover (Scott Zeron), an uncoupled stablemate of the eventual winner. "Dr. J" left to an immediate lead from outside post position No. 7 (eight-holer Manny was scratched-sick).
Looped trying to leave was Don'tcallmefrancis (Joe Bongiorno), who then grabbed up into a four-hole while directly in front of Racing Hill. Racing Hill, starting from post position No. 3, was already out. He had to go wide around 'Francis' before beginning his march to the lead.
Once there, after a :27.3 opening quarter-mile, the rest was rudimentary ( :56, 1:25, 1:53). Western Fame (Mark MacDonald) moved uncovered from sixth, but never threatened the leader.
Racing Hill took a length-and-three-quarters lead in and out of the final turn, then hit the wire an unpressured length-and-a-quarter to the good. Stonebridge Beach (Dan Daley) was a three-hole second, with Dr. J Hanover third.
Western Fame held well for fourth, Another Daily Copy (Corey Callahan) was sixth-placed-fifth with the smallest payday. Fernando Hanover (George Brennan) was set down from fifth to sixth for leaving the course, while Don'tcallmefrancis wound up seventh.
For Racing Hill, a homebred son of Roll with Joe owned by Tom Hill and trained by Tony Alagna, he's now 5-for-11 this season ($1,211,702). The exacta paid $16, with the triple returning $64.50.
Miller, winning his first Messenger, was effusive about his escort.
"He can give you a first quarter in 25 seconds, a second quarter in 32, then finish very quickly," Miller said. "He's been very professional since the first time I sat behind him as a 2-year-old."
Alagna, after winning his second consecutive Messenger (Revenge Shark), wasn't surprised his colt received the respect.
"When they gets in race like this and are 1-9 (actually 1-20), they deserve it because they've earned it," Alagna said. "The first part was a bit interesting, but I was glad to see him not get punished."
Alagna did mention an interesting sidebar in the life of Racing Hill. "He was in the (Harrisburg) sale, but had a bad hip number so he didn't get much interest. I told (Tom Hill) not to let him go cheap, because I knew about his family, so he was a buyback for $22,000."
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