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The 2023 season of harness racing at Northside Downs kicked off on Saturday (May 13) to mark the 125th season of activity at the North Sydney, N.S. oval.

A seven-race card was conducted under overcast skies that allowed the sun to shine through at the end of the day. The feature on the afternoon went postward in the sixth race, with five horses entered in the $1,600 Winners Over event.

Rail control at Northside is usually a determining factor for early speed and betting selection, and the sixth race was the perfect example of such tendencies. Post one starter and second choice Mando Fun (Ryan Campbell) used that advantage to force favoured Kiss Me Im Irish (Adam Lynk) into the pocket early and post fractions of :28.1 and :58.4. Lynk vacated the pocket when third choice Gentry Seelster (Mark Pezzarello) started a move to the outer flow, trying to get Kiss Me Im Irish to clear the pacesetter but Mando Fun held strong through a 1:29.1 third station. 

With the pressure mounting, Mando Fun fronted the field around the final turn while all five starters remained in contention. Those contenders included the longest shot on the board, A Better Man. Gerard Kennedy employed ground-saving tactics here, staying on the pylons and darting to the inside of Mando Fun for the stretch drive. A :30.2 final quarter was more than enough as A Better Man was the best on this day, stopping the timer in 2:00. Kiss Me Im Irish was a length back, and Gentry Seelster completed the triactor.

Joseph Lewis of Sydney, N.S. trains and owns A Better Man (Betterthancheddar - Beluga Hanover). As the longest shot on the board, the seven-year-old gelding paid $15.30 to win, with today's tally marking the 18th time he's had his picture taken in the winner's circle.

Total handle on the seven-race card was $10,515, with a solid per race increase over the 2022 opener that handled $7,948 over six dashes.

Now under the management of Harness Racing Cape Breton, Northside Downs will feature live harness racing every Saturday afternoon through closing day on Sept. 30.