Eternal Star by a nose in Levine at Philly Park

Philadelphia Park, 8th Race - June 28, 2008

2Eternal Star edged Xchanger by a nose Saturday to win the $200,000 Donald Levine Memorial Handicap in a track-record performance at Philadelphia Park.

The time of 1:20.53 for the seven furlongs lowered the mark of 1:20.61 set by Flaming Bridle in 1999.

Eternal Star ($8.20), an emerging 4-year-old trained by Michael Trombetta and ridden by Julien Pimentel, earned his fourth win in his last five races. This was by far the biggest purse, and the deepest field, the colt had tackled.

After he won Philadelphia Park's Bensalem Stakes in March, the Levine came into focus for owners Harry and Tom Meyerhoff.

"The owners brought it to my attention that this race comes up in the future," Trombetta said. "He had the race over the track and he seemed to do well, so we kind of revolved what we were doing around this. This was one of those cases where it worked out very nicely."

High Finance, making his first start since the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial in November, grabbed the early lead and was soon joined by Wild Geese.

Those two hummed along on a blazing pace - 21.67 seconds for the opening quarter and 43.09 for the half-mile.

That brazen speed took a toll as both faded in the lane.

Xchanger, the narrow loser in last year's Pennsylvania Derby, was the first to take advantage with a strong move on the rail to grab the lead. He soon had company as Eternal Star closed in. Xchanger battled back and looked like the winner until Eternal Star got up with a final desperate push.

"I thought I had him," Trombetta said of Xchanger. "Then I thought he had me. It was just my turn to get him at the right time."

There was contract in the stretch run as Eternal Star and Xchanger bumped. Eriluis Vaz, Xchanger's jockey, lodged an objection that the stewards dismissed.

Spirit of Gulch came on to get third, followed by Lord Snowdon, the 9-5 favorite who dropped far back before launching a rally. Whistle Pig, High Finance, and Wild Geese completed the order of finish.

* Tuff Partners ($30.80) posted a pacesetting win in the $75,000 Caught in the Rain Handicap for Pennsylvania-bred fillies and mares on the turf.