by Brett Sturman
In the modern era of the Levy, only a single horse with immediate breeding outside of North America has won the signature FFA pacing series at Yonkers. Bit Of A Legend N (a son of Bettors Delight, out of a Sokys Atom mare) accomplished that feat just three years ago. Now, as horses are increasingly sent here from the Southern hemisphere, New Zealand and Australian-horses are well positioned to compete for the Levy crown.
Of the 47 horses entered for this weekend’s first leg of the series, 18 of them sport the “N” (New Zealand) or “A” (Australia) connotation at the end of their name. Some of those are already well accustomed to these parts, but there are also some newer shooters that could make a big impact. The one that most immediately stands out is the Mach Three gelding, Mach Doro A. As chronicled last week by HRU (full story here), the 8-year-old is a fresh acquisition that’s being trained by Heidi Gibbs and will be driven by Ron Cushing.
His debut two weeks ago in a N/W $20,000 conditioned race at Yonkers was far more impressive visually than charted line would show. Fifth past the half, there was confusion as the horse in front of him pulled but went back in. By the time Mach Doro A gathered momentum uncovered, horses in second and third pulled causing him to go wide around the final turn, but Cushing sat pretty comfortably as the gelding circled the field to then win going away easily. Hopes appear high for this one and although he’s sight unseen against this caliber of contenders, he looks like the real deal. He has the fortune, too, of drawing into a relatively easy division in the final leg of the night.
Another fresh import that could threaten in this series is fellow Aussie invader Sam A Champ A. Owned and trained by Tahnee Camilleri, this one couldn’t have prepped any better through two local starts. Driven by Jim Marohn Jr., this Dawn Ofa New Day—Sigrid Franco gelding followed up his Freehold race two back with a stylish looking win just last week at Yonkers. In that $44,000 open handicap race, he had the fortune of sitting a pocket trip from the rail, but he capitalized on it in a big way when he went right on by a formidable foe in Bettor Memories through the stretch in a time of 1:52:4. There’s lots to like in this and he has every right to continue moving forward.
Don Domingo N (American Ideal—Ohoka Moon) has quickly acclimated to these parts for trainer Lance Hudson. Hudson actually has a total of four down-under horses in this series (Christen Me N, Micky Gee N, Military Master A) but it’s this one in Don Domingo N that I think reflects his best chance. Already five-out-of-eight this year with a Yonkers open win to his credit, the 7-year-old gelding doesn’t seem that outmatched on paper. He’ll have to go faster than what he’s showed thus far and didn’t get the best of the draw in his opening division but will be one to watch throughout the series.
Anythingforlove A has been on a tear since moving to the Bongiorno stable in January. That seems to be a common theme lately, and this barn had success in the Levy last year with Evenin of Pleasure. As for this one, he comes off a fast 1:51.3 score from the rail in the winners-over two weeks ago. The speedy gelding by Rock N Roll Heaven draws into a competitive but beatable field; should be aggressively handled throughout the series.
Not to be overlooked is the former Levy champ himself, Bit Of A Legend N. Last year, despite getting up there in age, he still managed to bank over $500k for season as a 9-year-old. He always does well in this series and last year was no exception, winning multiple preliminary legs and then finishing second in the final. He also won the Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield last year and just last month, prepped for this series by winning a Yonkers open. The small track specialist may not do much this Saturday when starting from post 8, but he’ll be heard from before this series is said and done.
Playing opposite of the imports is the typically strong group of North American-based early season free-for-all types. The first division on Saturday features a stacked field of these warriors including Somewhere in L A, Mach It So, Dr J Hanover and Western Fame. All of these horses have had their share of success in previous Levy preliminary legs and perhaps the most notable of these to watch is Western Fame who went from Takter to Allard at the very end of last year.
As usual, trainer Ron Burke brings a strong group of contenders into this series. His four entries for the opening leg horses that are no stranger to the half-mile FFA wars, including Always At My Place who won a leg of this race last year, Rockin Ron, I’m Some Graduate and Windsong Leo. Every one of these horses could threaten for top spots this opening weekend of the series, and beyond.
If you had to put a line on it, someone out of the North American group of horses would be favored to win the Levy over a horse out of the AUS/NZ group due to the fact that there are more of them, and they are a more well-known commodity. That could all change after Saturday though, depending on how some of the higher anticipated imports perform. With the solid worldwide mix and even level of competition, the Levy is up grabs.