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Hightstown, NJ — Desperate Man is tenacious when it comes to racing on half-mile racetracks.

A 6-year-old gelding, Desperate Man has opened his 2024 campaign by going 2-for-2 in the MGM Borgata Pacing Series for older male pacers at MGM Yonkers Raceway. Those two wins around The Hilltop’s half-mile oval give him 11 victories in 16 career starts on half-mile tracks. He’s missed the board just once.

In addition, Desperate Man is the all-time fastest performer (1:50.1) at half-mile Grand River Raceway and finished second in Linedrive Hanover’s Canadian-record 1:49 performance at half-mile Flamboro Downs in the 2022 Charles Juravinski Memorial.

“That’s pretty impressive,” said Matt Kakaley, who has driven Desperate Man for trainer Travis Alexander and owner Kathy Cecchin. “He’s a big horse, so you don’t think he would really fit a half, but he doesn’t have any trouble getting around there, that’s for sure. He’s a pretty flawlessly gaited horse, so I guess that has a lot to do with it.”

Desperate Man opened his Borgata series experience with a 1:51.4 victory on March 18, defeating Sumomentsomwhere A by 1-1/2 lengths. In the second round this past Monday, he defeated Linedrive Hanover by three-quarters of a length in 1:51. Covered Bridge finished third. Linedrive Hanover and Covered Bridge were first-round winners.

“It’s not like last week was a cake walk,” Kakaley said. “It’s not like we were in the easiest division. So, he’s had to work for it.”

Desperate Man, a son of Shadow Play-Dreamlands Latte, was Canada’s Horse of the Year in 2021, when his victories included the Pepsi North America Cup and Ontario Sire Stakes championship. For his career, he has won 18 of 57 races and earned $1.03 million in U.S. dollars ($1.31 million Canadian).

On Monday, Desperate Man competes in the third of three $50,000 divisions of the Borgata. The field also includes Rocknroll Runa A — the only other unbeaten through the series’ first two rounds — Covered Bridge and Whats Stanley Got A, who was a winner in round two. Desperate Man will leave from post three and is the 8-5 morning-line favorite.

“He hasn’t seemed to get tired yet,” Kakaley said. “He’s a powerful horse and he’s high speed. He can rattle off :27 quarters like they’re nothing at Yonkers. I could see him going a really big mile if I ever have to and the weather is right. He’s a tough horse. If he stays healthy and remains as sharp as he’s been, he’s going to have a big say (in the series).”

One race prior to Desperate Man’s Borgata split, Kakaley will be in the sulky behind Backstreet Shadow in the second of the three divisions. Backstreet Shadow, a 9-year-old gelding, made his seasonal debut in the Borgata’s second round, finishing third behind 1:51.4 winner Dunkin’ and Hemsworth N.

The son of Shadow Play-Backstreet Sweetie had prepped for his opener with a March 16 qualifier at Sunshine Meadows in Florida and March 20 qualifier at Mohegan Pennsylvania’s Pocono Downs.

“I thought he raced super,” Kakaley said. “To do what he did in 10 days, I was super impressed. He felt good. He’s only going to get better. He’s a classy horse. Tough as nails.

“It’s a nice little one-two punch to go through these next few weeks.”

Backstreet Shadow, trained by Alexander and owned by Robert DiNozzi, leaves from post six on Monday and is the 5-2 second choice behind Dunkin’ at 2-1.

“He’s not in a great spot, but if I can get him a decent trip and give him a shot to race, I think he’ll be close,” Kakaley said. “The following week, he should be even sharper and better.”

Linedrive Hanover is the 5-2 favorite in the first division Monday. He will leave from post six with Scott Zeron driving for trainer Linda Toscano.

The Borgata series features five preliminary rounds where horses receive 50 points for winning, 25 for second, 12 for third, eight for fourth, and five for fifth. In addition, all starters in each round receive 25 points. The top-eight horses at the completion of the prelims are eligible for the $200,000-added final on April 22.

This year’s final will also have a “win and you’re in” feature for the $125,000 Birthday Invitational Pace in May to celebrate 125 years of Yonkers Raceway, the Battle of Lake Erie at MGM Northfield on June 8, and the Aria Invitational at Yonkers scheduled for Sept. 7.

Racing begins at 7 p.m. (EDT) at Yonkers. For free programs, visit the Standardbred Owners Association of New York website here.