Despite an unfavorable outside post position, Fancy Crown easily took the lead in last night's $365,000 Breeders Crown race at Rosecroft Raceway and won the trotting race for 3-year-old fillies by 3 1/2 lengths over Petrolianna.
The winning time of 1:59 2/5 was a track record for trotters, the first sub-2-minute trotting mile in Rosecroft's 35 years of harness racing. Fancy Crown paid $3 to win as the 1-to-2 favorite.
Dale Miller, one of two Ohio brothers who bred her and still own 50 percent of the filly, had only one concern before the race: the next-to-outside post position.
"She'll be handicapped by that tonight," Miller said. "There's a three-horse entry. You can be sure they are going to team up against her."
But Petrolianna, the best part of the entry, did not leave quickly from the rail, putting that chore on stablemate Head Hunter. The ease with which Fancy Crown got the lead surprised even winning driver Bill O'Donnell.
"I thought I might get parked a lot farther than that," he said. "I was glad that Petrolianna didn't leave. She's tough."
Hakan Wallner, driving Head Hunter, tried to park Fancy Crown farther. "I got a perfect trip," he said. "I have no complaints. I couldn't park her because she's the best." Head Hunter finished fourth, with Selena Lobell third.
Fancy Crown, the first favorite to win in the six Breeders Crown races to date, took the lead in about three-sixteenths of a mile. When O'Donnell took her past early fractions of 29 4/5 and 1:00 3/5, this race was as good as over.
Any horse that can be considered for harness horse of the year honors should win easily off that kind of pace, and she did. "I was pretty confident when she did get to the front," O'Donnell said.
It still was a close race at the three-quarters mark, with Selena Lobell making a challenge from the outside, where driver John Campbell had her the entire race. But, midway in the final turn, O'Donnell let Fancy Crown loose, and she trotted the final quarter in 28 3/5.
The only horse gaining on Fancy Crown at the finish was Petrolianna, who had the most traffic problems of any of the seven fillies in the race (Moshannon Express was a late scratch, with a quarter crack, but her entry fee of $10,000 was not refundable).
Petrolianna's driver, Berndt Lindstedt, seemed satisfied with his second-place finish, despite beating Fancy Crown at Lexington, a mile track, Sept. 28.
"She never leaves," Lindstedt said of Petrolianna. "She's much better on a mile track than a half-mile track. She raced very well since she was sick last week."
For O'Donnell, last night's race was nothing compared with his nervousness the two previous days, when his wife Barbara was expecting. She gave birth to a 7-pound son, Christopher William, Thursday and O'Donnell said he would not have driven last night had his wife still been expecting.
"It was a long two days, a lot of sweat," O'Donnell said. "That's for damn sure."
The $182,500 he won brought O'Donnell's purse winnings to more than $8.3 million, a harness-racing record. It brought Fancy Crown's earnings for the year to $688,472. It was her 12th victory in 20 starts.
It also solidified her chances for winning the harness horse of the year award. Her two biggest competitors, the 2-year-old colt Nihilator and the 3-year-old colt On The Road Again, both were upset losers in the Breeders Crown series.
Not only has Fancy Crown dominated her division this year, she beat the top colt trotters in the Kentucky Futurity and has set world records for a trotting mile on both half-mile and mile tracks. Her 1:53 4/5 at Springfield this summer tied the record for the fastest trot ever.