Monticello, NY --- With the temperature hovering around 12 degrees and the winds gusting up to 25 miles per hour, Dennis Watson was undeterred by the weather conditions and confidently reined Ally’s Delight to a 2:04.2 victory in the 13th edition of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Pace at Monticello Raceway on Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 22).
|Ally’s Delight and Dennis Watson were easy winners in the Dr. King Pace.|
The annual event honors the legacy of the great civil rights leader and features the talents of African-American drivers. It was also the first of eight legs in the Mighty M’s Heritage Drivers Series 2013.
For Watson, who traveled in from the Freehold, N.J., area, it marked his second victory in the Dr. King Pace.
“I’ve raced in nearly every one of the Dr. King races here, but it’s been about five years since I won my first one and I was getting to wonder if I’d ever win another one,” Watson said with a smile in the winner’s circle after his victory. “They tell me it’s cold out here today but right now I can’t feel anything but delight.”
Watson’s initial victory in the Dr. King Pace came during January 2008 when he guided BJ’s Jetstream home first in 2:00 which, by the way, is still the event’s fastest winning time.
When the race got underway and wings of the starting gate folded, James O’Farrow hustled Hannah’s Creek to the lead and they were quickly challenged by Majesty Hanover and driver Cedric Washington. But Washington, a three-time winner of the Dr. King Pace, got no respect as O’Farrow kept him parked out until the nearly the three-quarters when Hannah’s Creek tired and packed it in.
It was at that point that Watson, who was cruising second-over behind Washington’s pacer, fanned three-deep and zoomed to the front as the tightly bunched field passed the third stanza.
George Newell, Jr., with favored JK Diamondsnpearls in second position, made a run at the leader but came up short and had to settle for second money. Third place went to 95-1 shot B Major, driven by Dennis Washington.
“Even though I couldn’t reach the foot rests on the bike we were hooked to, when I turned and saw Georgie coming (in the deep stretch) I knew he wasn’t going to beat me,” Watson added.
|Geri Schwarz photos|
|“Bubba” Washington made the trophy presentation to Dennis Watson.|
The trophy and blanket presentation was made by General “Bubba” Washington, Jr., himself a Dr. King Pace winner in 2005. Although Bubba no longer drives, his sons Cedric and Dennis represented 'Pop' in the race this year.
It was the first victory after 27 previous starts for Ally’s Delight. The 6-year-old Bettor’s Delight mare is owned by Gus Lampo, Doug Layman and Harry Sinstack and trained by Will Harmon. She paid $5.80 for win.
A minor, unexpected problem arose when George Polk, Jr., who was programmed to drive Fly Italia, called the judges in the late morning and said that he was unable to make the race, which left Monticello Raceway officials with a dilemma since there was no other African-American driver waiting in the wings.
So in order not to scratch Polk’s horse and keep the race together, the judges named Saratoga Raceway’s racing secretary, Don Hoover, to drive Fly Italia.
“It may have been a bit unusual to have a Caucasian drive in a race featuring African-American drivers, but we had little choice,” noted track GM Shawn Wiles. “However, Dr. King’s legacy belongs to all Americans, no matter from what walk of life they come from.”