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A sulky can be the great equalizer
Thursday, January 02, 2014 - by Mark Ratzky, publicity, Cal Expo Harness

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Sacramento, CA --- They say age is just a number, but sometimes those numbers can really add up.

As the field passed the opening quarter in last Friday night’s ninth race at Cal Expo, Tour Guide showed the way with Rather Be Playing in the pocket and Early Boy looming in third. Nothing really unusual there as the field straightened for the backstretch in the conditioned trot.

However, trackman Marty Bridges pointed out something interesting about the three drivers who were guiding these leaders -- Steve Desomer, Pierre Girard and Gene Vallandingham. “If you add their ages together, that’s 219 years and that might be some kind of a record.”

We checked Marty’s math and he was right on. Steve Desomer is 77, Gene Vallandingham turned 73 in September and Pierre Girard had 69 candles on his last birthday cake. By the way, Gene ended up winning the race while relative youngster Luke Plano completed the exacta and 20-year-old driving sensation Tyler Smith finished in the show spot.

Vallandingham comes into this week’s action needing just 22 victories to reach the 3,000 plateau while sporting more than $13 million in earnings. He was asked what it’s like to come down the stretch with a 20-year-old who could easily be his grandson whipping and shouting in the sulky next to him.

“It doesn’t make any difference,” Vallandingham related. “Heck, I only feel about 29 when I’m out there, so I don’t mind driving against somebody who’s only nine years younger. By the way, the kid (Smith) is doing a very good job.”

A Stitch In Time headlines Sire Stakes

A Stitch In Time, a romping winner of the last two big-money gatherings for the division, looks to add to his reputation in Saturday night’s $10,000 California Sire Stakes for the newly-turned 4-year-old pacing males.

A 15-race card is on tap with first post set for 5:20 p.m. The headliner will go as the second race on the evening.

A Stitch In Time is a son of Kent’s On Nuke who is owned and was bred by Mark Anderson, takes his lessons from Gordie Graham and has Mooney Svendsen handling the lines. He comes into this contest having posed for pictures in 11 of his 16 starts, including a 1:53.3 lifetime-best performance at Fraser Downs in October.

The dark-hued pacer was a prohibitive favorite in the two stakes decided so far at this meeting and did not disappoint on either occasion. He waltzed home with 10 lengths to spare in the Nov. 16 affair, then came back two weeks later as the 1-9 choice and had 6-1/4 lengths on his nearest rival when all was said and done.

Lining up against him this weekend are Hi Ho Disguise, who will have Dave Siegel at the controls; Kablooie with Luke Plano; Orlando’s Express, who has the services of Chip Lackey; Bit Player, Steve Wiseman; and Me Tarzan with James Kennedy giving directions.

Beginning this weekend, there will be a $10,000 guaranted pool for the Pick-5 on both Friday and Saturday. The Pick-4 guarantee continues to be $20,000 on Fridays and $25,000 on Saturdays.

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