The two-horse entry of Interpretor, undefeated in five starts, and Black Gold Road, who drew the high-ly advantageous No. 1 post, was named the morning line favorite Thursday for the $190,000 Hopeful Stakes pace at Buffalo Raceway Sunday night.
The pair of bay colts, trained by Doug Ackerman of Solana Beach, Calif., for owner Richard S. Staley of Los Angeles, was pegged at 3-1 by oddsmaker Pete Szmanski after the post position draw at the Brierwood Country Club in Hamburg.
A field of nine 2-year-old colts, all winners or second-place finishers in last Sunday's five elimination races, will face starter Andy Reese in the second-richest pace and third-richest harness race in Western New York history. The winner of the mile gets $95,000, with lesser shares scaled down to $9,500 for fifth place.
"This is one of the classiest sporting events Western New York has ever witnessed," said Jerry Monahan, the track's vice president and general manager. "We have a niche in the market. You start your best 2-year-olds and see if you can reach the end of the rainbow."
Interpretor and Black Gold Road were both driven by Doug R. Ackerman, 31-year-old son of the 62-year-old trainer, when they won their preliminary miles in 2:00 on a wet track labeled "good." The younger Ackerman has decided to stay behind Interpretor. Chris Boring will come in from Michigan to rein Black Gold Road.
Interpretor drew Post Five. The son of Nihilator has won $18,942 and sparkled last week when he cut the final quarter in 28 4/5 seconds while winning by 1 1/2 lengths. Black Gold Road, a son of On The Road Again, has won $18,025 while taking four of six races. He broke stride at the start in both his losses.
Four other colts were pegged at 6-1 or less, an indication of a hotly competitive field.
Second choice, at 7-2, is Cambest (Post Two), an undefeated colt trained by Daniel Altmeyer and driven by Dave Rankin. Cambest, a son of Cam Fella, won his elimination race in 1:59 3/5 , the fastest of the five qualifiers. Cambest, based at the Meadows, near Pittsburgh, has won four races and $7,250.
WRH, a two-of-two winner for trainer Kenneth Seeber, drew Post Six and was made the 4-1 third choice. Named for the late Hall of Famer William R. Haughton, the son of Direct Scooter won last week in 2:00. Driver John Campbell, the sport's leading money-winner, will return from New Jersey for the final.
He's Discreet, who drew Post Three and 5-1 odds, is expected to be the sentimental favorite of the Hamburg backstretch. The only Hopeful contestant stabled here regularly, he is driven by Patsy C. Rapone, a Western New York star who is the summer meet's second-leading driver. He's Discreet is trained by Fred White Jr., former assistant to the late Robbie Rankin, who died in a car accident last winter. The horse is partly owned by his widow, Theresa B. Rankin of West Falls.
He's Discreet, by Niatross, finished a half-length behind Black Gold Road last week after staging a spectacular charge from ninth place to second in the second half-mile. His final quarter was timed in 28 seconds, fastest of any horses in the qualifiers.
"I'm happy with the post. I think we've got a real good chance," said White, one of two trainers attending the draw. White said that with good weather he expects the winner to eclipse the track record time for a 2-year-old of 1:59, set June 13 by his Executive Decision.
Optimism also was expressed by David Elliott, trainer of Road To Gold, a 6-1 shot from Post Nine, in the second tier behind Black Gold Road. Driven by Ben Webster, the son of On The Road Again last week finished 2 1/2 lengths behind Three Wizzards, who won in 2:00 1/5 , the slowest qualifier.
Three Wizzards , trained and driven by Ronald Henderson of Michigan, drew Post Eight on the far outside and was listed at 10-1. The son of Albatross, former Raceway all-age track record holder, has won $17,650 and has lost only once in five starts.
The richest horse in the race is Canadian-owned Squire Squirt (Post Four, 8-1), who has earned $22,317 in five starts. Squire Squirt was driven by William "Buddy" Gilmour last week when he finished a nose behind Cambest.
Gilmour will be in Goshen Sunday for his induction into the Hall of Fame, so trainer Doug McIntosh has named William Gale, ninth-leading driver on the Greenwood-Mohawk circuit, as replacement behind the son of Falcon Seelster.
The longest shot in the race is 12-1 Fission, in Post Seven. Trained and driven by Neal Shapiro, the son of No Nukes was 3 1/2 lengths behind WRH last week after moving from seventh place down the stretch.
The Hopeful will go as the ninth race on a 12-race, free admission card that starts at 6:30 p.m. Monahan said he will apply for permission to conduct trifecta betting on the race, in addition to regular win, place, show, exacta and daily double wagers.
Farley Almahurst, driven by Ken Hardy, won last year's inaugural Hopeful in 2:00 3/5 . With a purse of $200,000, it was the richest race in Buffalo Raceway's history. Favored Beach Towel, who broke stride at the start and finished last, went on to win 17 of 20 races and $841,430. The area's richest harness race was the $268,756 Breeders' Cup Trot at Batavia Downs in 1988.
HOPEFUL STAKES FIELD
PPHorse Driver Odds
1a-Black Gold Road Chris Boring 3-1
2Cambest Dave Rankin 7-2
3He's Discreet Patsy C. Rapone 5-1
4Squire Squirt William Gale 8-1
5a-Interpretor Doug R. Ackerman 3-1
6WRH John Campbell 4-1
7Fission Neal Shapiro 12-1
8Three Wizzards Ron Henderson 10-1
9Road To Gold Ben Webster 6-1
a-Richard S. Staley entry