Lebanon, OH --- It has been a near record breaking winter season in the Miami Valley region of Ohio with snow and bitterly cold temperatures. Add to this a ‘not-so-electrifying’ opening night on Friday, so management and horsemen alike hoped Saturday would be a brighter day. On what seemed like a balmy 24 degree night, the long awaited and highly anticipated first pari-mutuel race at Miami Valley Raceway went to post at 6:30 p.m.
|After a disappointing cancellation of Friday's first ever program at Miami Valley Raceway due to a power outage, the track's initial live racing took place Saturday before a huge enthusiastic crowd.|
The grandstand, that was built to hold as many as 1,000 fans, was again packed to the rafters. Filled with fans young and old, new handicappers and seasoned veterans, the new southwest Ohio harness racing venue seemed to be standing room only. The parking lot was filled with cars as far as the eye could see. The crowd was certainly enjoying the product being offered. The concession lines were long as well.
To the voice of longtime race announcer Roger Huston, a field of eight pacers went to the gate behind the starter Mike Woebkenberg. The fans came to their feet, both to cheer on the horses and drivers, but to also find a better view of the race. Like a sweet sounding choir, they all began to cheer as Huston announced the start.
Papaknowsbest and pilot Greg Grismore went to the front. He led to just past the half with fractions of :28.1 and :57.1. Life And Taxes and driver Jacob Fox made a first over bid, challenging Papaknowsbest for the lead down the backstretch and past the three-quarters in 1:25.3.
Turning for home, the field fanned wide for the drive and Lookout Macatoo suddenly had the opening he and driver Randy Tharps waited for and they pounced on the dueling leaders. As they crossed the wire, Lookout Macatoo (Blissful Hall-Modelaag) drew clear to win the inaugural race by three-quarters of a length in a final time of 1:55.1. Tundra (Kyle Ater) was second and Quiteaworkofart was third for Kayne Kauffman.
|Brad Conrad photos|
|The first race was won by Lookout Macatoo, who was driven by Randy Tharps in a time of 1:55.1.|
In the winner’s circle for the very first win photo was owner R. Douglas Cullers from Greenville, Ohio, along with his family and friends; trainer Chris Hope; Chris’ mother Terry; the Tharps and Noble families; and yours truly.
When asked for his thoughts on being the first driver to win at the new track, Randy Tharps was literally ‘speechless’. When asked what they all thought about owning the first winner in the record books at Miami Valley, Cullers and company let out a collective “Yayyyyyy!”
Terry Hope added, “This is just so exciting for all of us.”
After a couple of races were in the books, it became clear that the ratio of patrons to mutuel clerks and self-betting machines required more time between races so that the fans could have ample time to place their wagers. By race four, the time between races grew to as long as 30 minutes to accommodate the large crowd.
Needless to say, if at first you don’t succeed, try again. In the case of Miami Valley Raceway, succeed they have -- exactly what the harness racing world and the state of Ohio wanted to see.
The 11-race program produced a handle of $249,042 and a track record mile of 1:52.4 in the $10,000 Open-Preferred Pace as Visible Gold lowered the track record for the fifth time with an impressive front-stepping victory for driver Dave Palone, trainer Ron Burke and his ownership partners Weaver Bruscemi and RTC Stables.
The 6-year-old son of Bettor's Delight is now three-for-three on the season. I’m Feelin Good (Tony Hall) was just two lengths back with Lookinforadventure (Ronnie Wrenn, Jr.) on the losing end of the tight place photo.
On the trotting side, the track record holder -- at least for now -- is Team Zordin, who captured the night’s only event for squaregaiters in 1:58.3. Dream On Shorty (Kayne Kauffman) and TK’s Karma (Greg Grismore) got the place and show money.
Racing resumes at Miami Valley Raceway on Sunday night with the regular 6:30 p.m. post time.
-- Miami Valley Raceway media relations also contributed to this report