by Melissa Keith
Carl Milstein Memorial Night is the most important card of the year at Northfield Park, honoring the late real estate developer who saved the Ohio track from closure. On Saturday, seven sophomore male pacers went behind the gate for the Carl Milstein Memorial Invitational. It was a field worthy of the $400,000 purse, although North America Cup / Cane Pace champ Captain Crunch was not in the mix and #7 American Mercury was scratched.
The 2019 edition of the Milstein Memorial marked the return of one top-tier 3-year-old pacer, plus the Grand Circuit debut of three regional prodigies. The arrival of these more lightly-tested colts — Ontario-based #2 Century Farroh, Ohio-bred #4 Yankee Boots, and Indiana’s #6 Rockie Got Framed — infused fresh excitement into a division often described as dominated by three horses (the absent Captain Crunch; Milstein #3 Bettors Wish; and Milstein #5 Workin Ona Mystery).
The final result confirmed the stature of the reliably-formful Bettors Wish, even as it raised questions about Workin Ona Mystery’s disappointing performance. The latter colt qualified at Hoosier Park on Aug. 3, recording a four-and-three-quarter length win in 1:51.1s after a three-week absence. The Brian Brown trainee had been scratched sick from his Adios elimination on July 20, and was making his pari-mutuel reappearance at Northfield.
The Milstein Memorial began with three colts blasting into the first turn, #1 Captain Victorious (Yannick Gingras) shadowed by #2 Century Farroh (Dave Miller) until both were circled by 4-5 betting favorite Bettors Wish (Dexter Dunn). The Cane Pace runner-up stole the opening quarter in a tepid :28.2, a length and a half ahead of Captain Victorious, with Century Farroh following third in the single-file procession. Turning for the half, Workin Ona Mystery was looming first over, challenging Dunn’s colt but never following through as they reached the midway marker in :57. When his colt was unable to clear, driver Tim Tetrick eased Workin Ona Mystery back through the field to last. Bettors Wish hit the three-quarters a confident pacesetter in 1:24.1.
Lacking any serious threat after his most respected adversary faded from contention, Bettors Wish opened up by three lengths in the stretch. Earplugs out but needing no whip urging, the Chris Ryder-trained colt sustained his advantage all the way to the wire, timed in 1:50.3h. Pocket-sitting Captain Victorious was second at 30/1 final odds; the 6/1 Century Farroh third. Announcer Ayers Ratliff declared the finish “tight for the rest”, with #4 “Buckeye Monster” Yankee Boots (Dan Noble) ultimately completing the superfecta.
Bettors Wish was bred by George Segal’s Brittany Farm LLC of Kentucky. He is owned by his trainer, Chris Ryder of New Jersey; Bella Racing, Ohio; Art Zubrod and Leah Cheverie’s Fair Island Farm, Kentucky; and Bettors Wish Partners, New Jersey. The Bettors Delight son is out of Lifetime Star (p, 2, Q1:55.4m), a Western Ideal daughter who raced seven times at age two, breaking stride repeatedly despite being under the skillful tutelage of Jimmy Takter. She did not earn a dollar on the track, but Lifetime Star has been a solid producer since her breeding career began in 2013. Her first offspring, Lifetime Trust (p, 1:51.1; $234,999) is a full-sister to Bettors Wish and still racing. Bettors Wish is her fourth foal, and her best, with a record of 1:49.1m taken this season. The Milstein Memorial victory puts him atop all 3-year-old pacers in purse winnings: The $200,000 winner’s share of the Milstein purse, plus $624,544 already earned this year pushed Bettors Wish into the millionaire club in terms of lifetime earnings. Lifetime Star was bred by Brittany Farms and purchased by Hanover Shoe Farms earlier this year. Her foals have attracted limited attention at public auction thus far: Bettors Wish was a $20,000 bargain at the 2019 Lexington Select Yearling Sale, while sister Lifetime Trust drew just $6,000 as a yearling at Lexington. Lifetime Star’s 2019 yearling should attract significantly more attention: Star Captain is a Captaintreacherous filly bred by Brittany Farms.
The Milstein Memorial was the sixth win of the year for Bettors Wish, who was the narrowest of place finishers in last weekend’s Cane Pace (by a neck, to Captain Crunch) and the July 13 Meadowlands Pace (by a head, to Best In Show). He has made nine seasonal starts, finishing second in each race he did not win. “The ones he got beat were big runs, you know,” said Dunn in the winners’ circle after the Milstein. “I’m pretty lucky that Chris (Ryder) gave me the drive on him this year.”
Ryder was not in attendance, but Dunn confirmed that the colt is now being pointed toward the Messenger Stake at Yonkers, with the objective of winning entry into the Little Brown Jug. (He is otherwise ineligible to the Jug).
As for the smooth sailing trip in the Milstein Memorial, the winning driver observed that a consistent horse plus an advantageous post combined to make good on the betting public’s wishes. “We obviously had a good draw to use,” said Dunn. “The horse has been racing pretty big.”
He added that while Bettors Wish obviously cut the mile at a leisurely pace, the “perfect half-mile horse” was capable of much more, if asked: “I probably wouldn’t worry too much (about the slow early fractions). He’s a pretty versatile and tough horse… I thought if he got beaten from here, it would be a pretty off night for him.”
Also on the card, Dancin Yankee turned in his fourth victory in the fourth edition of the $50,000 Myron Charna President’s Pace, edging out 1-5 favorite Sectionline Bigry in 1:49.2. Chris Page drove the winner of the invitational for Ohio-sired older pacers.