The Hanover Stakes at Freestate Saturday night gave local racing fans a chance to see harness racing's best 3-year-old pacing fillies, as well as some of the sport's top drivers who have made the Laurel track their summer home.
The most impressive victory in the three $20,000 divisions of the Hanover came in the second division. Driver Joe Pavia Jr., 27, co-winner of the Peter Haughton Memorial Award in 1982, called on and received Jolibea Hanover's best effort to win the mile race in 1:57 on a sloppy track.
Jolibea Hanover won a photo finish over Ediths Girl, driven by Ted Wing, despite running most of the mile on the outside in a race with fast fractions of 28 1/5 seconds for the quarter, :56 4/5 for the half and 1:27 for the three-quarters.
In another close finish, veteran driver Gilles Gendron and Diana Lynn Lobell caught Snooky Hanover and driver Ted Wing at the wire to win the first division in a lifetime best 1:56 4/5. The track was rated fast for the first division, but heavy rain midway through the card changed the condition to sloppy for the latter two divisions.
Gendron, 43, is harness racing's sixth all-time leading driver and has won 200 or more races a year for the last 15 years. His characteristic side-to-side whipping action in the stretch urged race favorite Diana Lynn Lobell to her fourth straight race win.
In the third division, Wing stopped settling for second-best and won easily with Halcyon, last season's champion 2-year-old pacing filly. Wing, 38, has earned more than $20 million in career purses and has won nearly 28 percent of his starts at Freestate.
Driving Halcyon, the 1-to-5 favorite, Wing knew he was in control and set comfortable fractions, making the other drivers challenge him. They couldn't, and the result was a leisurely 2 1/4-length victory over B Merry Collins in 1:57 2/5.
All three winning fillies are expected to race in the estimated $235,000 Turtle Dove at Freestate next Saturday.