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>Kelley Racing Stable’s Twisted Pretzel, trained by Paul Kelley and driven by Jim Morrill Jr., scored his first pari-mutuel victory in the third and final $39,000-plus division of the New York Sire Stakes for two-year-old trotting colts and geldings at Batavia Downs Friday evening.

His victory wasn’t a complete surprise. He went off at 7-5 from the rail off two seconds from his first three starts. His chances improved dramatically when the even-money favourite, Royalty For Life, broke at the start from the eight post, losing all chance to post his fourth consecutive NYSS triumph.

With him out of the race, Morrill took full advantage of the rail to score his second NYSS win of the night.Twisted Pretzel, a son of Crazed out of the Lindy Lane mare Pretzel Hanover, set splits of :29.4, 1:00.1 and 1:30.4 on the way to an easy victory in 1:59.1, the fastest time of the divisions. Blackwolf Run got up for second and Insider Access was third.

Royalty For Life wasn’t the only heavy favourite to make a break Friday night. Tirade Hanover, sent off at 1-20 from the four post in the second division with Stephane Bouchard driving, broke as the horses were following the starting gate in the turn. Called some 20 lengths behind the field at one point, he managed to re-group and get up for third as Winbak Farm’s Ex King, a 6-1 shot, trained and driven by Dan Daley, held off late-charging 21-1 longshot My Future Ex by a head in 2:01.1. Tirade Hanover, who had won three of his first five starts, was only beaten by two and a half lengths.

Ex King, a son of Cr Excalibur, had won just one of his first four starts, and that was a romp in the easier Excelsior Series. He then finished second in the NYSS at Yonkers and fourth in the NYSS at Saratoga before winning Friday.

In the first division, Morrill sent Explosive Action, owned and trained by John Grasso, to the lead from the seven post as the 9-5 second choice. Jeff Gregory let the 3-2 favourite on the rail, Lindys Creditline, sit in the pocket as Explosive Action went to the quarter in :30.1 and the half in 1:01. Morrill then asked Explosive Action for a bit more, and he stretched his lead on Lindys Creditline to two lengths at the top of the stretch. Lindys Creditline closed the gap, but Explosive Action held him off by a neck in an even 2:00 thanks to a final quarter in a snappy :28.2.

Explosive Action’s win was his third in four starts with one second. In his previous start, he’d won an NYSS at Saratoga by a head at 3-5.

(Harness Horse Breeders of New York State)