LEBANON, OH. – If fans of Big City Pearl had $2.20 in their pockets before the Monday (Jan. 24) Open Handicap Trot at Miami Valley and risked their last two bucks on the 4-year-old Chapter Seven mare, they had a $100 bill when the race was declared official. Although Big City Pearl won eight times as a juvenile and banked almost $150,000, this was just her second start in open competition and resulted in a $99.80 payoff.
Trainer-driver LeWayne Miller was content to race sixth past the opening quarter in :27.3, then moved up to fifth on the outside at the :56.3 midway marker. The winner advanced to third when the third teletimer flashed 1:25.1, but still had heavily favored Pick Me Upper (Tony Hall) and Refined (Mitch Cushing) to catch. Digging down deep for a final surge in the stretch, Big City Pearl accomplished that task and then held off a fast-closing runnerup Pass The Vape (Trevor Smith) to triumph and blow up the tote board.
In addition to the nearly $100 win price, a $2 exacta was worth $327 and a 50-cent trifecta with Pick Me Upper holding on for third returned $410.
Co-featured on the Monday program was the first of numerous Claim To Fame Series championships sprinkled through the next month at Miami Valley. This $25,000 final for male $12,500 claimers was captured by Levi for driver Sam Widger, trainer Ryan Bellamy and owner Jack Freeman.
Although word on the backstretch was that Levi couldn’t leave the gate, Widger wasn’t convinced and he sent the 6-year-old son of Pet Rock on his way immediately. Gaining the point with a :27.2 panel, Levi put consecutive :28 quarters up while controlling the tempo in the middle of the mild. The tactic left the other hopefuls struggling in vain as Levi crossed the line an open lengths winner in 1:53.2.
Bellamy started the winner in the first leg of the series, but lost him via the claim box to trainer Charlie Stewart. Stewart did win the second leg, but Bellamy re-claimed Levi so that he’d have him for the lucrative final.
Racing resumes Tuesday (Jan. 25) with a 4:05 p.m. post time. The card will feature a $26,000 Mares Open Pace as well as the $22,500 Claim To Fame championship for female $12,500 pacers.

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