Hightstown, NJ — In 2019, harness racing trainer Jim King Jr. saw his pacing mare Shartin N spend every week ranked No. 1 in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll on her way to being named the Dan Patch Award’s Horse of the Year.
On Tuesday, Lyons Sentinel, another pacing mare from King’s training stable, took over the No. 1 ranking in this season’s Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll. It took her 19 weeks to ascend to the top, but it was no less exciting when King heard the news.
A 4-year-old mare, Lyons Sentinel has won six consecutive races — and seven of her past eight — as she prepares for Saturday’s $175,000 Dayton Distaff Derby at Hollywood Gaming Dayton Raceway, where she is the 6-5 morning-line favorite. For the season, she has won eight of 14 starts, hit the board a total of 11 times, and earned $517,183.
“As of right now, she’s stepping up to the plate,” said King, who trains Lyons Sentinel for owner Threelyonsracing. “She’s moved into a spot where we had another one, and that’s quite a spot, I’ll tell ya. Wow. It’s hard to believe what a feeling it is, and to think it could happen twice.”
Lyons Sentinel was a Dan Patch Award winner as a 2-year-old in 2019, when she won nine of 14 races, never finished off the board, and led her age group in purses with $801,809.
Last year, she finished no worse than second in 11 of 14 starts, winning three. Of her five runner-up finishes on the Grand Circuit, three were to Party Girl Hill, an unraced 2-year-old who captured 15 of 16 races at 3 and was the division’s Dan Patch Award honoree.
Party Girl Hill was retired in the spring because of an injury and bred to Tall Dark Stranger.
“Last year, Lyons Sentinel ran into an exceptional filly, Party Girl Hill,” King said. “Lyons Sentinel was an exceptional 2-year-old and if you take Party Girl Hill out of the picture, she would have been an exceptional 3-year-old. For (Party Girl Hill) to show up made all the difference in her year from 2 to 3.
“I know the 4-year-old year is a tough campaign — boy or girl, trotter or pacer. It can be a real tough transition. But Lyons Sentinel has got what it takes. She’s stepped up now and been able to go with the big girls.”
Lyons Sentinel heads to the Dayton Distaff Derby off a 1:49.2 win in the Milton Stakes, where she defeated Rocknificent by 1-1/2 lengths. Rocknificent is the 3-1 second choice Saturday. She has finished second to Lyons Sentinel in four consecutive Grand Circuit finals, with the Milton preceded by the Roses Are Red, Lady Liberty, and Clara Barton.
“Her winning attitude is everything,” King said about Lyons Sentinel, who is a daughter of Captaintreacherous out of Tutu Hanover. “When she gets to the wire, she is generally going as fast as she is at any part of the mile. That makes it tough on everybody else if they’ve been used, or even the fresh ones trying to run her down.
“She doesn’t have to have the perfect trip. She would much rather run them down coming out of the pocket, but she can kind of make her trip.”
For her career, Lyons Sentinel has won 20 of 42 races, missed the top three only six times, and earned $1.75 million. Following Saturday’s race, the mare will bypass the Allerage Farms Mare Pace on Oct. 10 and prep for the Breeders Crown and TVG Series final. Lyons Sentinel is a two-time Breeders Crown runner-up, losing the races by a combined total of just more than a quarter-length.
“We’re setting our sights on that,” King said. “We’re hoping to get the Breeders Crown and TVG. She’s always been ready to go when the time comes.”
King’s stable also includes a blossoming Threelyonsracing 2-year-old female pacer, Lyons Serenity. That filly has seven wins — six in a row — and a second in eight races. She competes Friday in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes at Lexington’s Red Mile.
Lyons Serenity won the Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes in her most recent outing, which followed victories in a division of the Keystone Classic and the final of the Pennsylvania Stallion Series. The daughter of Sweet Lou-Southwind Serenity, a $35,000 buy under the name Southwind Sprout at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, has earned $181,842.
“She had a fairly easy schedule in that she did the Stallion Stakes instead of (Pennsylvania) Sire Stakes,” King said. “We felt she could have been competitive in the Sire Stakes, and I don’t think anybody would dispute that, but at the end of the year she is pretty pleased with herself. She’s had to race every time, but at the same time, she was in where it was well within her capabilities.
“She’s a really nice filly. We’re really setting the stage for her for next year, hopefully. She will need to mature to do the right thing next year. She’s not quite top-top quality. She could race with the top ones, but she couldn’t dominate in there. We’re hoping she matures some. She’s got plenty of size, now she’s just got to make that more of an athlete’s body and carry the determination she’s shown so far with her.”