Falling Sky, a Grade 3 winner this February at Gulfstream Park, rallied from just off the pace and then held off the charge of late running Mezzano to win the $100,000 Donald Le Vine Memorial Handicap Saturday afternoon at Parx Racing by a half-length. It was the fifth win in thirteen career starts for the 4 year-old Lion Heart colt and sent his lifetime earnings over $385,000.
Most of Falling Sky’s success has come in races where he has made the lead. Aboard him for the first time, winning jockey Edgar Prado changed tactics, smartly keeping him away from an early speed duel and instead, taking him back, moving him into the clear and then stepping on the gas with a quarter mile to go in the seven furlong main track sprint. It was no surprise to see Falling Sky break well, but defending champion Traffic Light and G3 winner Edge of Reality also came forward in the opening furlong. In between those two, Prado neatly gathered Falling Sky back, moved him outside and let the other two go on to battle for the early lead. With a relatively mild early pace, the first quarter in just 23.56, two others also came up on the inside of Falling Sky, leaving him fifth about three lengths behind out in the four path as they moved to the half mile pole.
The tempo picked up moving to the far turn as they hit the half in 45.80 and now Prado began to ask his mount to get closer. As the two leaders stayed on, the others to the inside of Falling Sky began to retreat and now Falling Sky worked his way into that perfect striking position on the outside as the field came to the quarter pole. Edge of Reality had the lead but now Traffic Light was bearing down on him and Falling Sky loomed large on the far outside. Coming off the turn, Traffic Light took the lead but was immediately tested by the hard charging Falling Sky. With a furlong to go, Falling Sky surged past and quickly drew clear with Mezzano shaking clear of traffic and putting in a late run in the middle of the track. While Mezzano did manage to close the gap a bit through the final eighth, he was always going to be too late. Falling Sky held him safe in the late stages and cruised under the line winning by a long half-length.
Owned by Newtown Anner Stud & Joseph Bulger and trained by George Weaver, Falling Sky went off as a slight second choice at 2-1 and paid $6.80, 4.80, and 3.60. Mezzano (7-1) raced in mid-pack most of the way and lacked racing room on the far turn. When he finally got free, he closed well but would be second best. He paid 9.00 and 4.60. Traffic Light, a 2-1 favorite, was a pace factor throughout, had a brief lead at the head of the stretch, but weakened late and finished third returning 3.00 to show. The final time over a track labeled fast was 1:21.91.