Shenandoah Downs will host its two biggest races of the spring season on Saturday (April 22) — the $25,000 Blue Ridge Open Pace and $25,000 Alleghany Open Trot — in conjunction with an “Up & Coming Drivers Challenge” for reinsmen ages 18-26.
Set The Pace Racing’s Alilthundadownunda is early 2-1 favorite in the Blue Ridge Pace with trainer Nick Roland scheduled to drive from post two in an eight-horse field. The 5-year-old Malak Uswaad N gelding has won back-to-back Open Handicap events in Woodstock, both in 1:55 4/5. He has a seasonal mark of 1:52 3/5 at Northfield and a life clocking of 1:51 2/5 at Running Aces with earnings of $318,282.
Edinburg, Virginia-based Steve Wetzel’s Sea of Life is the second early pick based on a runner-up finish to Alilthundadownunda in the April 9 Open Handicap. The Brian Tomlinson trainee, who has a 1:50 4/5 mark this year at Rosecroft, will be driven by Corey Braden from post five. Sea of Life has $277,346 in earnings.
Stephen Farrell’s Rocksapatriot is third early choice and will depart from the rail with David Ingraham aboard. Ingraham made career start number 53,000 last weekend at Shenandoah. The railbird has not cracked the top three yet this spring but is fresh off a year in which he recorded 21 “in-the-money” finishes in 33 starts. Kelly Case trains the 8-year-old Rockincam gelding.
Shantae Gant’s Vulcan Hanover is 7-5 morning line choice in the co-featured Alleghany Trot. The 6-year-old Donato Hanover gelding has won Shenandoah’s Open Handicap on two straight weekends including a 1:55 4/5 effort last Sunday. Trainer Michael Whitaker’s charge is 10-for-15 in pari-mutuel starts at Shenandoah Downs over the past three seasons. Billy Carter will direct Vulcan from the rail.
Corey Braden’s Crossfit Mouse invades from Maryland where he has been competing in Open Handicap events this spring. The 6-year-old Muscle Mass gelding has bankrolled $252,083 from 103 career outs including $72,766 in 2022 alone. His best mile last year was 1:53 3/5 at Rosecroft. Braden will drive for trainer Stacey McLenaghan from post five.
Dowse Racing’s Seventier is third choice in the Trot and will leave from post four. The 5-year-old Chapter Seven gelding ended his ’22 campaign with a wire-to-wire trip at Yonkers in 1:55 4/5. Gareth Dowse will pilot on Saturday looking to push his trotter’s earnings past the $200,000 level.
The track’s first ever “Up & Coming Driver” challenge will take place in races 6 & 9. Eight young reinsmen that fit the 18-26 age conditions will battle in both and accumulate points based on where they finish. Competitors include William Carter (18), Trae Porter (21), Winter Asher-Stalbaum (19), Lucas Myers (19), Jamaal Denson (26), Cole Olsen (20), Declan Donoway (23) and Wyatt Long (18).
A total of 13 races have been carded with first post at 1 PM. An additional Pick-3 wager had been added covering Races 7-9 — the two Opens along with the final “Up & Coming Drivers Challenge race. Free Trackmaster programs, “Derby Bill’s” free Shenandoah Tip Sheet, live video streaming and replays can all be accessed at shenandoahdowns.com.