Virgin Honor took advantage of a wild first half and rallied home for the upset win in the $7,500 conditioned pace Saturday, Feb. 18 at Saratoga Harness. The petite Indiana sired gelding scored the win in 1:55.1 for driver Luke Hanners.
Starting from post six, Virgin Honor used absolutely no early speed early on, but that decision was wise as three horses went out for the lead and none of them were giving in. Western Beachboy and Brett Beckwith were hung three wide next to Passport to Art and Shawn Gray and Jack Rock along the inside with Fern Paquet Jr. The trio of horses continued down the backstretch three wide past the quarter in :27.4 and continued three wide to the half in :56.0. All this time, Virgin Honor was sitting in sixth place, gapping off the horse in front of him.
Still hung three wide heading by the grandstand the first lap, the track announcer said Western Beachboy was so wide his driver was slapping hands with the crowd in the grandstand as he passed by. Finally past the half, Jack Rock took over the top spot as Western Beachboy dropped in two wide to the three-quarters in 1:25.2. Virgin Honor tipped to the outside down the backstretch and he went three wide around Western Beachboy to join Jack Rock on the front.
Jack Rock and Virgin Honor matched each other stride for stride around the final turn and the battle continued into the stretch. Both horses dug in gamely to the wire, with Virgin Honor getting a head in front at the finish line. KJ Erich and Jim DeVaux moved up late to finish third.
Virgin Honor paid $30.60 for the win. The four-year-old son of Always a Virgin is owned by Lases Racing of Michigan. Jaymes Mcassey trains the gelding who was bred by Engle Equine, also of Michigan.
It was the first win of the year for Virgin Honor in his fifth start of 2023. Overall, he has four wins in 27 career starts and his time in the race marked a new career best. He now has more than $37,000 in earnings.
Later on the card, old timer Control Tower and Jim DeVaux got rolling after the quarter in :58.0 and used a three-wide move at the three-quarters to get into position for the stretch drive. In the stretch, Control Tower inched up on race leader Rogue Cheddar and Luke Hanners and outbrushed him to the finish line, winning by one-half length in 1:57.4. Machtu N and McGwire Sowers finished second over Rogue Cheddar.
Control Tower was also a longshot, paying $123.50 for the win. The 11-year-old son of Panspacificflight is owned by Sheryl Gray and trained by Zackary Gray. Cottonwood Farm of Illinois bred the veteran, who won his first race of 2023. Overall, he has 41 career wins and more than $478,000 in earnings. His career best time was taken as a five-year-old at Miami Valley Raceway in 1:50.2.