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Evenin of Pleasure Sharper for Second Leg of Levy Series
Evenin of Pleasure Sharper for Second Leg of Levy Series
By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY
YONKERS, N.Y. - After finishing second to Rockin Ron in leg one of the George Morton Levy Pacing Series in his seasonal debut March 17, trainer Jenn Bongiorno is expecting Evenin of Pleasure to be even sharper in week two of the series. The 8-year-old will start from post three in the eighth race tonight (March 24), the second of four divisions of the Levy series on the 12-race program.
"Last week, I was so pleased. I thought it was a great start. Rockin Ron is probably one of the best horses in the series, we were not going to go by him that night, but I was really happy. I felt Evenin of Pleasure finished up well to stay that close to Rockin Ron," Bongiorno said. "Rockin Ron already had a start, that was our first start. Second start this week, I think he’s in such a good spot. I'd like to see him control the race for sure."
Evenin of Pleasure came to Bongiorno's barn in late February with his connections, owner Gestion Blais and trainer Travis Cullen, targeting the Levy Series. They initially intended to send Evenin of Pleasure to Ron Burke, who conditioned the horse during a stint of racing in the Yonkers Open Pace last summer. However, with Burke's series entries maxed out, Bongiorno got the call.
"Ron Burke couldn't take the horse for the series because he has horses he owns himself, so he can't put a horse he doesn't own ahead of one that he does, so luckily the owner was pointed in our direction," Bongiorno said. "You have that kind of a classy horse, the day he got to the barn, I just ran to his stall and gave him a hug. It's such an honor to even be able to sit behind a horse like that and have the opportunity to race him in such a great series."
A 27-time winner from 126 starts, Evenin of Pleasure is a multiple stakes winner with $811,524 in earnings. Bongiorno says his class shows in the morning.
"One thing I've definitely learned is better horses are better on the track. They aren't the ones that grab on so much. They're so smart and just perfect gentlemen basically," she explained. "I can't really say enough good things about him. Perfect in the barn, great attitude, turn him out every day. He seems to be really adjusting well to our program."
Although Evenin of Pleasure arrived with his own rigging, Bongiorno made some adjustments that she feels will help the son of Dragon Again stay sharp as the series goes on, such as a shoeing change that will help to combat Evenin of Pleasure's habit of running down, or hitting his heels on the surface of the track when he races.
"Right now, we have him completely off his rundown, so I think that could definitely be something in the series that will help him because that can definitely hurt a horse," she said. "When horses run down, the back of their heels hit the ground. With his shoeing and changes we made with that, we were able to get him off that, so that's a plus."
Evenin of Pleasure arrived at Bongiorno's stable in New Jersey nearly ready to qualify. She trained him the week he arrived and planned to qualify him at Freehold the following week, with the aim of qualifying him a second time before starting him in the series. However, a winter storm threatened to derail Evenin of Pleasure's schedule.
"That first qualifier was actually supposed to be at Freehold and it was the day of the snowstorm. I was like, 'oh my gosh, we have to get this horse qualified,' because he needed two qualifiers and that first start was going to be the Levy. I was in pure panic mode, I really was," Bongiorno said.
Bongiorno reached out to the Meadowlands race office and got Evenin of Pleasure in to qualify there after Freehold canceled. He won that March 3 trial in 1:53.1, beating Sunfire Blue Chip and Always at My Place. Six days later, Evenin of Pleasure posted a 6-length score in a qualifier at Freehold.
"I thought that was a really nice qualifier over some nice horses: Sunfire Blue Chip, Always at My Place, who won a leg of the series, so I knew that we were in the right direction," Bongiorno commented. "Freehold that day, the track was so dead, it was just a dead track. He paced in 1:54.2. We were happy, but we thought he might need another start before he was in tip-top shape. I think second start he'll definitely be tighter and better."
Evenin of Pleasure's leg two rivals include Christen Me and All Bets Off, who each finished third in leg one of the series. Bongiorno is confident given her horse's favorable draw as Christen Me and All Bets Off will start from posts six and seven, respectively.
"When I saw the draw this week, I couldn't have been happier," Bongiorno said. "Christen Me is a nice horse, but I thought he had time last week to shake free and win, and he didn't. All Bets Off is probably one of the top two in the series, but he didn't look that good last week either and drawing post seven isn't the easiest way of doing things. I think having the inside is definitely going to be to our advantage."
In addition to Evenin of Pleasure, Bongiorno will start longshot Franco Rayner in race 10, the third division of the Levy Series. After finishing fourth in leg one, the Australian import drew post seven tonight and is a 20-1 morning line. Although she believes he has talent, Bongiorno has yet to unlock his full potential.
"I've been saying since we first bought him, I think he's the real deal," Bongiorno said. "Foreign horses, it takes time to get them to adapt to life here. It's been a little bit of a battle with him. Last week, he did race well, he left great. He doesn't have the respect yet because he's not proven. Foreign horses have their little issues, we'll work on it, like keeping him better hydrated. He's going to need a little more attention because it seems like he can have issues."
First post time tonight is 6:50 p.m.
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