Day At The Track

Sears seeks second Messenger win

06:59 AM 02 Sep 2017 NZST
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Brian Sears
Brian Sears

YONKERS, N.Y. - After sitting behind Downbytheseaside in his 8 1/2-length romp in the Messenger Stakes Elimination at Yonkers Raceway last week, harness racing driver Brian Sears likes the way the 3-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere is coming into the $500,000 Final and second leg of the Pacing Triple Crown Saturday night. Sears drove Downbytheseaside through a :56.0 half last week and was a passenger as Downbytheseaside opened 6 lengths racing into the lane and powered away with a :27.2 final quarter.

“He really did that under his own. I never even asked him. He just knew it was time to pick it up and that was all without asking. He’s a really nice horse and he’s getting better and better about his manners. Hopefully he keeps progressing.”

Sears will drive Downbytheseaside for the eighth straight time in Saturday’s Messenger Final, the fourth race on a stakes-laden card. The newly anointed hall of famer is happy with the progress Downbytheseaside has made since he picked up the drive in the North America Cup at Mohawk June 17.

“A couple weeks ago, he sat in behind a :56.0 pace,” Sears said. “I don’t know if he could have done that before or he wasn’t really willing to do that. He would get a little bully when he wanted to go and you had to pretty much be on the move with him at that point. He seems to be working with me a little bit.”

Downbytheseaside showed all the fire Sears described in the North America Cup. After Sears placed him in fourth behind a :25.2 opening quarter, Downbytheseaside dictated his own terms and followed Fillibuster Hanover’s brush to the lead. Downbytheseaside paced through a half in :52.1 and 6 furlongs in 1:19.3 before finishing third to stablemate Fear The Dragon beaten 3 3/4 lengths.

“I dropped a horse in front of me and then he ended up pulling back out,” Sears said. “Going to the half a hundred, and he actually took me, which was not what I was expecting. They were :52.1 at the half and that just shows the kind of speed this horse has. He hung in there very gamely I’d have to say for those numbers.”

Sears drove Downbytheseaside to a win in an elimination of the Max Hempt, a fifth in the final, a second in the Meadowlands Pace, and a third in the Cane Pace before the Brian Brown trainee made his way to Northfield Park for the Carl Milstein Memorial August 12. There, Downbytheseaside got back on a half-mile track, a trip he hasn’t lost on in five tries.

“He’s just a really athletic horse with an efficient gait,” Sears said. “I don’t know what it is about him that makes him so comfortable over the half-mile track. It was an incredible mile he went a couple weeks ago at Northfield.”

Downbytheseaside raced 3 lengths behind a :56.0 half set by Fear The Dragon in the Milstein. Sears pulled first-over with just over a lap to go and Downbytheseaside glided up alongside Fear The Dragon through a :26.3 third panel.

“The horse, he came out of the hole pretty relaxed. He knew it was time to do some work, but he really didn’t try to overdo it,” Sears recalled. “Although we were pacing sub 27-second quarters, it was just amazing how easily they were doing it, both horses, getting over the ground. We were side by side and going into the last turn, I saw Dave call on his horse and I was thinking, ‘he might need a little more than that.’ I still felt really good.”

David Miller popped the plugs on Fear The Dragon and reminded him with the whip on the final turn. With Sears motionless in the sulky and the whip dangling over his shoulder, Downbytheseaside put a nose in front of Fear The Dragon at the furlong pole. In the final strides, Downbytheseaside extended and paced away from Fear The Dragon on his own to win by a length in a track record 1:49.3. He paced a :26.4 final quarter.

“That’s one thing, that’s the type of horse he is. He’s going to give it to you, what he’s got,” Sears said. “He’ll empty the tank for you. My job is just to try and keep him relaxed and confident and let him go about his thing.”

Off his elimination win, Downbytheseaside drew post seven in the Messenger Stakes Final, a race Sears won by open lengths with 1-2 favorite Always A Virgin in 2007. Downtheseaside is a 9-5 morning line favorite, but could be closer to those odds come post time.

Geers winner Mac’s Jackpot, Pennsylvania Sire Stakes winner Summer Side, Empire Breeders’ Classic runner up Miso Fast, Empire Breeders’ Classic Elimination winner and Messenger Elimination runner up Art Scene, New York Sire Stakes winner Funknwaffles, and Messenger Elimination third place finisher Blood Line will start inside Downbytheseaside. Henry The Dragon drew post eight.

“I’m not thrilled with the seven hole. I’m not thrilled and there’s a little bit of speed in the race. He’s the class of the field and I think he’ll be able to overcome it,” Sears said.“How many horses are going to be using their early speed and the fact that I have to be going forward off the gate and try and not be too far back. I’m really not looking to have any road trouble.”

The Messenger Stakes Final is one of four stakes on the card Saturday night at Yonkers Raceway. The card also features the $500,000 Yonkers Trot, $113,880 Lady Maud Pace, and the $119,010 Hudson Trot. First post time is 7:10 p.m. For entries for the card, click here.

by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

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