Winner brings back childhood memories

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:50

    GOSHEN-The 95th Grand Circuit race at Goshen Historic Track attracted about 7,000 harness racing fans to "The Birthplace of Trotting" on the Fourth of July weekend. Trainer-driver Ray Schnittker, a Middletown resident who stables his horses at Historic Track, again scored some of the most impressive victories of the five-day meet. Racing opened on Thursday, June 30, and continued through Monday, July 4. Schnittker drove Here Comes Herbie, a horse he owns with Stephen Demeter and Herbert Burns III, to a 2.3 win in the $18,872 Landmark Stakes for 2-year-old male trotters on Friday. The time was a new track record and equaled the sixth fastest mile of the year so far in North America for a 2-year-old trotter. "He's a real nice colt," Schnittker said following the race, which he won by 10 lengths. "He's a little bit of a head case sometimes and has trouble getting around turns. He was super today. He could be anything." On Saturday Schnittker directed Love The Game to win a $17,655 Landmark Stakes for 3-year-old pacing fillies in gate-to-wire fashion in 1:59 "That was fun, to have a win at Goshen," remarked owner Steve Jones of Montgomery. "She was bred and raised right here [at Jones' nearby Cameo Hills Farm]. I come down here and jog her every now and then." Jones and Schnittker also combined to win the richest race of the day, a Landmark Stakes for 3-year-old trotting colts at a purse of $28,643, with Lindy Five Hundred in 2:02.2. The colt is owned by Jones For President Stable, KR Breeding LLC (Antonacci Family) and Edward Pachuta. "Jones For President is Ray Schnittker and me," laughed Jones. "When we're joking around together, I'm the more politically correct of us two, so Ray jokes that I sound like I'm running for president. Ed Pachuta is Ray's accountant. This horse loves a half-mile track." The next major race for him will be the Yonkers Trot in mid-August at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey. For the meet, Schnittker led all drivers with seven victories in 19 starts and $61,156 in purses. Leading New York Sire Stakes driver Jeff Gregory was the runner-up with four wins in 25 starts and purses of $45,092. Among trainers, Paul Doherty of the Ray Schnittker Stable led with seven wins in 15 starts, and his horses earned $58,911. Gary Gibson was second in the wins category, with three victories in five starts, and Dave Sabatelli was second in the earnings category with $11,126. n Hall of Famer sets new track record Here Comes Herbie wasn't the only horse to break a track record during the weekend. Former Yonkers Trot champion Goalfish and driver Mike Lachance also set a new mark in the annual Hall of Fame Invitational Trot. This event, held on Sunday, was exclusively for Hall of Fame drivers. Goalfish won in 1:58, replacing the previous record of 1:58.2, set in the 1999 Hall of Fame Trot by Maury's Mirage and driver Howard Beissinger. "Anybody driving that horse [Goalfish] would have won," said Lachance. "He was just the best horse in there." Angel Alan, directed by Jim Doherty, was second and Sassy Savannah, with Ron Pierce up, was third. Later in the evening Pierce was inducted into the Hall of Fame during the annual festivities on the lawn of the Harness Racing Museum. Immediately following the Hall of Fame race, the drivers sat beside the racetrack and signed autographs. Lachance, Doherty and Pierce, along with Doug Ackerman, Howard Beissinger, Clint Galbraith, Buddy Gilmour, Cat Manzi and John Simpson Jr. were available for several races and met a long line of fans in person. n Emotional win for one owner Victory was especially emotional for one owner on Friday who traveled from Massachusetts to race over Goshen's half-mile oval. Tears were falling down Linda Kenney's cheeks as she entered the winner's circle and she wrapped her arms around driver Stephen Smith and gave him a kiss. "You have no idea how much this means to us," she told him. She trembled while accepting the winner's trophy. Kenney's 2-year-old trotting filly Dalia's Dream had just won a $3,703 division of the Landmark Stakes. It might as well have been the Hambletonian. Even though Kenney and her husband, Robert, have been in the harness racing game for 30 years, this is something of a new experience. Dalia's Dream, named in honor of Linda's late mother, is the first horse the couple from Belchertown, Mass., has owned entirely on their own. In fact, the Kenneys bred, raised and broke the filly themselves before turning her over to trainer Don Guidette Jr. "This is a very special horse to us," Linda Kenney said. "We've done everything with her from beginning to end. We thought that before we get much older, we have to try this. We don't have any kids, so we have our horses." The Kenneys have a 12-acre farm in Belchertown. Linda has been a schoolteacher in the Springfield school system for 32 years and Robert has worked for H.L. Dempsey, a copier company, for the same time. Linda was introduced to harness racing by her father, Felix, who frequently took her to watch the action at Hinsdale in New Hampshire. "It kind of got in my blood," she said. "After we got married, we were going up there three nights a week with my father. We liked going to the races so much, we figured let's try it." n Owner returns to sire stakes with winner New York Sire Stakes events showcased the best individuals bred in the state on Sunday and Monday and also brought the meet to a close. Owner Kevin Reynolds found out that he had a bargain on his hands after his gelding, Marquee T, scored a 2:03 victory in a Sire Stakes division on Sunday. Reynolds and co-owner Thomas Binick Jr. picked up the now 3-year-old trotter last fall for a mere $1,800 at the Standardbred Horse Sale in Harrisburg, Pa. Later Raymond Birns was added to the ownership. Reynolds' brother, Robert Reynolds Jr., trains the colt. "The horse came into the ring and the bidding was only up to $1,500," recalled Reynolds. "I leaned over and asked my brother what was wrong with this horse and he said "Nothing,' so we bought him." A few short months earlier, Reynolds was not as willing to own a racehorse. "I got out of the business, I hadn't owned a horse for seven years," he remembered. "In June (of 2004) my partner (Binick) wanted to claim a racehorse. I said, "I'm not buying a horse. I want nothing to do with it.'" Despite his protest, Binick did convince Reynolds to claim a mare and she earned $17,000 in a few months. "We kept all of our purse checks, we didn't spend any of it and we used that money to buy four horses in Harrisburg," explained Reynolds. One of them was Marquee T, who has now earned $7,222 in 2005, more than paying for his purchase price. In the most rousing finish on Monday, American Village charged down the lane to pass pacesetter Perfectly Sealed by a neck at the wire to win her $10,000 New York Sire Stakes division. The event was timed in 1:58.3, making the filly the fastest performer of the afternoon. Brian Allen drove for owner Rocco Manzi and trainer Lonny Hale. Dear Old Boy, the 2004 New York Sire Stakes Champion, won his Sire Stakes pacing colt division in 1:59 for owners Ted Gewertz and trainer-driver Gaetan Brunet. Brunet also scored another training victory when he sent out Eyes On Kassa with driver Josh Marks to win in 2:02 in the last race of the afternoon and the last of the meet.