Four hours before last night's William E. Miller Memorial Pace at Rosecroft Raceway, Joe Caico, the breeder and part owner of favored Set the Style, was saying he was worried about Seahawk Hanover and that he wouldn't be as worried had his colt had another race or two this season.
Caico's doubts proved to be wellfounded. New Yorker Ben Webster gave Seahawk Hanover a nearly perfect drive, tying the Miller mile record of 1:58 2/5 and beating Set the Style by a half-length for the winner's share of the $75,000 purse. The winner paid $5 straight.
Set the Style was a $190,000 yearling purchase with what the sulky trade calls the "Golden Cross" breeding of being sired by Meadow Skipper out of a Bret Hanover mare. His owners think he will be worth $3 million at syndication time if he races to his potential this year. But last night's race was only Set the Style's third start of the season.
Seahawk Hanover had just completed racing in a $500,000 series on the West Coast. "I'm worried about Seahawk Hanover," Caico said before the race. "We need a good trip. If we had another couple of starts under our belts, we'd win under any conditions."
The prerace thinking was that Seahawk Hanover, which possesses excellent gate speed, would try to get to the lead early. Webster said he thought about such a strategy, but decided against it because Star Beau, a 43.80-to-1 long shot that set the early fractions of 28 3/5 and 58 3/5, had started inside a tough horse his last start and hung that steed out in 57 3/5 for the first half-mile.
Obviously Webster made the right decision. Sitting just in front of Set the Style, a prolific closer, Webster took Seahawk Hanover three wide on the final turn, with Set the Style and Tommy Haughton on his right flank four wide. It was only a question of whether Set the Style could close enough in the short Rosecroft stretch. He couldn't.
"I had mixed thoughts about what to do (at the start)," said Webster. "That other colt had hung the horse out last week and we haven't tied into Seahawk yet. He had last week off. He's a prime contender for the big ones. And, he's a handy colt. He can go either way -- on the lead or coming from behind.
To Ri Daon was third and BoBo, stablemate of Set the Style, was fourth in the seven-horse field.