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PANCLEEFANDARPELS, STRATTON AND THE FIRST MATCHMAKER


Thursday, April 19, 2018-Sometime about a decade ago, a meeting of the minds took place. The purpose of the skull session was to put an end to rampant equine gender discrimination and "invent" a companion event for Yonkers Raceway's George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series.

The Levy, honoring the memory of harness-racing visionary and Hall of Fame founder of Roosevelt Raceway, was and remains a staple stop for the sport's best Free-For-Allers. The event, started in 1978 (as a one-dash affair), had been resurrected in 2007 after a decade-long hiatus, and the brain trust decided there was no reason the guys should have all the fun.

Accordingly, Yonkers Raceway race secretary Steve Starr reached out to the good folks at Blue Chip Farms in not-too-far-away Wallkill, NY, with the idea of putting together a "ladies only" Levy companion event for standout pacing mares.

Hence, 2009 saw the beginning of the Blue Chip Matchmaker.

It was/is as long (five preliminary legs) as the Levy Series, also for serious coin ($40,000 per division, per leg) with an rich, added-money final. Then, there's the "Matchmaker" part of the equation, a lovely carrot at the end of the stick where the first three finishers in the final get a free breeding to one of the farm's pre-selected roster of world-class stallions. The winner gets first choice, runner-up gets second choice, third gets third.

With this Saturday night's (Apr. 21st) $373,000 final going as the 10th Matchmaker, what better time-with apologies to Mr. Peabody and Sherman-to make use the WABAC Machine?

It was the first Saturday in May, 2009, merely hours after Mine That Bird pulled off a 50-1 stunner in the Kentucky Derby.

The first Belle of the Ball turned out to be a 5-year-old daughter of Noble Ability named Pancleefandarpels.

"First time I drove her came after Jason (Bartlett) picked off in an Open Handicap here," Jordan Stratton said.

"She was a fairly big mare who could take air and was easy on herself."

Stratton and Pancleefandarpels won consecutive local distaff derbies-the latter from an assigned eight-ole-leading into the '09 Matchmaker. Competing in the all five prelims, the duo went 1-3-1-5-1 before drawing post position No. 3 in the $229,000 final.

Stratton, who hadn't turned 22 years of age, remembered that night.

"There was an early breaker (2-5 favorite Chancey Lady Cat Manzi) and I had to go a bit wide," he said. "I was able to get in (fourth), then moved first-up.

"As I said, she could take air. She put away the leader (Omen Hanover [Eric Abbatiello]) and was sharp."

Pancleefandarpels defeated Double Dream N by a length-and-a-quarter in 1:54.4, becoming the first name in the annals.

After winning his second Matchmaker last season with Mackenzie A,Stratton tries for the hat trick Saturday with Sell a Bit N from post position No. 2.

Now an "over-the-hill" 30, Stratton has fond memories of Pancleefandarpels.

This Saturday's Matchmaker goes as the ninth of a dozen races, right before the 31st finale of the Levy, worth $532,000.

First post for the $1.3 million card is the usual 6:50 PM.

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