Howard Gill’s homebred War Hero ($11.40) took advantage of a pocket trip, pouncing late and drawing clear to a 1:55.2 victory in the featured $10,000 Open Trot on Friday (April 17) evening’s Vernon Downs program.
The seven-year-old Ken Warkentin gelding secured the pocket behind pacesetter Grey Ice (Jimmy Whittemore) through a :28.2 opening quarter, drafting patiently through the race’s intermediate stages. As Grey Ice accelerated on the far turn, War Hero stayed right with him from the pocket, angling off the pegs when first-over challenger Jaipur (Fern Paquet Jr.) flattened at the apex of the turn. The two pacesetters were on level terms past three-quarters in 1:26.4, but War Hero kicked clear in the final eighth of a mile, kept to task through a four and a half length triumph. Grey Ice was all-out to narrowly hold second, while Ozymandias (Roman Lopez) rallied from the back of the pack to take third. The favoured A Penny Earned (Chris Lems) flattened amid his late rally, only mustering fourth honours.
Howard Okusko Jr. handled the driving duties for trainer Jessica Okusko.
While Okusko and defending Vernon Downs driving champion Chris Lems each recorded two wins on the night, Jimmy Whittemore led all drivers with an opening night hat trick.
Live racing resumes on Saturday (April 18), with the first of 12 races slated for a 6:45 p.m. EDT post time.