MEADOW LANDS – Taking advantage of an unexpected scratch from the Dave Palone-driven Ultimate Beachboy, Yannick Gingras drove Sunfire Blue Chip to the front after the first quarter and burst home to win in the $450,000 Delvin Miller Adios on a cloudy Saturday afternoon at The Meadows Racetrack.
Sunfire Blue Chip was the obvious class of the 3-year-old field of pacers when Ultimate Beachboy scratched about 90 minutes before the Adios post. The injury – gravel foot, a cut on the hoof – is not considered serious and Ultimate Beachboy is expected back within a few days.
Sunfire Blue Chip crossed in 1:48.3, which tied the second-best time in the history of this one-mile race (47 finals). Bolt The Duer and Mark McDonald set the world record for pacers on a 5/8-mile track last year when he won the Adios in 1:47.4. Alsace Hanover, with Ron Pierce in the sulky, also turned in a 1:48.3 in winning the 2011 Adios.
Vegas Vacation and Brian Sears, which left as the race favorite, trailed by 2 1/2 lengths coming down the stretch but closed to within a half-length at the finish. Word Power, which had Jim Morrill Jr. in the sulky, finished third.
Sunfire Blue Chip paid $7.20, $3.80 and $2.80 on a fast track and earned trainer Jimmy Takter and owners from Sweden and Ontario a $220,000 payday.
It was the colt’s eighth win of the year and pushed his career earnings to nearly $390,000. He has won eight out of 14 lifetime starts and matched his career-best time.
“I thought our horse was better,” said Takter, who now has two Adios winners. Vintage Master and Daniel Dube won the 2009 Adios in 1:49.2.
“The race went the way I hoped it would.”
Sunfire Blue Chip saw third at the quarter pole, which Beach Memories reached in a lightning-quick 26.0. The colt took the lead shortly after, reaching the half in 53.4 and the three-quarters pole at 1:21.2.
“I felt real strong at the half,” said Gingras, who won his 35th stakes race and first Adios. “I was loving that spot. I was hoping for a little more speed out of the gate. (At the three-quarters pole), we got in the right spot. The top horses are behind me. When we made the last turn, I knew it was his race to lose. I would have been shocked if he didn’t win.”
Sunfire Blue Chip won one of the two elimination races last Saturday at The Meadows. Interestingly, it was Palone driving the colt to victory over Word Power and Some Kinda Beach. Palone has not won an Adios since 1999.
“I want to thank Dave Palone for qualifying the horse,” said Takter of the winningest North American driver in harness racing history. “Without him, I wouldn’t be here. I thought we had a heck of a shot.”
With Ultimate Beachboy, which finished second to Lonewolf Currier in the other elimination, an Adios field that was already considered wide open was even more for the taking.
“This is a good honest horse,” said Takter. “He has a good attitude and is very calm.”
Takter changed Sunfire Blue Chip from a come-from-behind pursuer to a leader of the pack. Gingras had to hold the colt back, then showed the whip down the stretch.
“It was a good breather at after the second quarter,” said Takter, who was inducted into the Harness Racing Living Hall of Fame. “I don’t interfere with the (driver’s strategy). Yannick loves this horse. He did a great job not to rush him out.”
Sunfire Blue Chip, purchased by Takter for $75,000 as a yearling, has won four of his last five starts. He won elimination races at the Adios and the Max Hempt and a stakes race at Pocono Downs.
Sunfire Blue Chip came into the Adios eliminations after a three-week break for rest.
“I wasn’t concerned,” Takter said. “The main thing is to win the elimination. Making the finals is what matters.”