American Mercury Wins 64th Messenger Stakes
BY FRANK DRUCKER, Publicity Director, Empire City @ Yonkers Raceway
In the the half-million-dollar 64th Messenger Stakes found American Mercury (Tyler Buter, $16.20) finding room inside and picking off 1-20 favorite Bettor’s Wish (Dexter Dunn) in 1:51.3.
Pole-sitting Bettor’s Wish, as expected, left the gate, while American Mercury—from post No. 3—stepped around Branquinho (Ray Schnittker) and into an early pocket. They weren’t going that much (:27., :55.3), not even when U S Captain (Bartlett) moved from fourth.
That one did draw alongside Bettor’s Wish, however, in a modest 28-second (1:23.3) third quarter. That left Buter with a decision…swing off the cones or hope to find room inside.
Bettor’s Wish—the lone $30,000 supplemental entrant into the race—owned a length lead into the lane, gradually disposing of U S Captain. A patient American Mercury was loaded, though, needing a path to ply his craft. He was obliged when Bettor’s Wish bore out and the pursuer took down the prohibitive fave, winning the second jewel of the Pacing Triple Crown by a head.
U S Captain was third, with Branquinho and Escapetothebeach (Corey Callahan) grabbing the minors. Waterway (Joe Bongiorno), Aflame Hanover (Sears) and Reigning Deo (George Brennan) brought up the rear.
It was the first Triple Crown win of Buter’s career.
For second choice American Mercury, a soph Empire-bred American Ideal gelding co-owned by Crawford Racing, Northfork Racing, Chuck Pompey & Scott Bice and trained by Chris Oakes, it was his seventh win in 10 ’19 tries. The exacta paid $22, the triple returned $57.50 and the superfecta paid $308.50.
“He was super-sharp coming into the race,” Buter said. “First and foremost, I owe [trainer] Chris [Oakes] a big thank you for giving me a shot on this horse. It’s been a fun ride all summer, driving him and traveling New York. He definitely came through tonight and showed everybody what he can do.
“I came off Dexter (Dunn)’s helmet there and he kicked on the gas. I think that might have been the winning move, because if I stayed there, Dexter was probably going to back into me as much as he could. So then, as soon as I was off his helmet, Dexter stepped on the gas, and I was able to get back down the inside and find a little room late, and it worked out”
Asked when the ‘switch went on’ for American Mercury, Oakes offered, “When I gelded him. He was kind of a big, growthy 2-year-old. He had a lot of ability; we loved him training down, and quite honestly wasn’t quite as good as I thought he would be at 2, even though he raced some pretty good miles.
Bringing him back at three, he was training good, but I just thought he’d probably be more focused, mentally, for racing, as a gelding. We made that decision and I honestly believe it helped him a lot.
Mike Lizzi photos