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Roosevelt Raceway Legacy Night draws large crowd
Monday, May 19, 2014 - by Fred Hudson

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East Rutherford, NJ --- The Roosevelt Raceway Legacy Night at the Meadowlands this past Saturday (May 17) was a huge success.

A large crowd lined up for autographs from the Roosevelt Raceway legends.

The fans came out to see the racing legends of the bygone Roosevelt Raceway. On hand for the festivities were Carmine Abbatiello, Lucien (Loosh) Fontaine, Herve Filion, Benny Webster, Randy Perry, Jimmy Marohn, Bobby Vitrano, Frank Popfinger, Rejean Daigneault, Bobby Rahner and Jim Doherty, all of whom all participated in the autograph session.

Also on hand were Mike Santa Maria, Joe Ricco, John Manzi, George Berkner, Frank and Mike Galante, Mike Lizzi, Frank Mule, Peter and Sherry Cashman, Benny Defonce, Billy Haughton, and many others.

Also showing up were former New York Ranger and harness driver Gilles Villemure, best selling author Victoria Howard (who along with Billy Haughton and Freddie Hudson are writing the Roosevelt Raceway book), and members of the George Morton Levy family, led by CeCe Levy, the daughter of the track's founder.

In the foyer and entrance to the track the Harness Racing Museum had on display items from the soon to be opened Roosevelt Raceway Legacy Exhibit and harness racing fan Jeffery Begelt was a huge contributor of RR items. Also the Standardbred Retirement Foundation had Roosevelt items on display with SRF's Judy Bokman manning the table. Former horseman Jerry Dahl, now turned artist, had many of his works on display along with the Lucien Fontaine/Valiant Bret watercolor that was raffled off with the proceeds going to the Museum.

When Lucien Fontaine entered the track, he had not walked 10 feet before at least 10-20 fans stopped him, asking if he would pose in a picture with them or sign an autograph, and then as if by design, Carmine Abbatiello entered the track and now everyone wanted pictures and autographs of this legend. Benny Webster, a third legend, showed up and it was mayhem. There were at least 20 driving and training stars of Roosevelt Raceway in the foyer posing for photos and signing autographs.

Lisa photos
Yannick Gingras and Lucien Fontaine in the winner's circle following the Roosevelt honored race.

The reception party was held on the West Deck of the New Meadowlands and there must have been at least 300 people there that all had Roosevelt Raceway ties.

The official autograph session took place right after the Preakness and was held in front of the winner's circle and was supposed to last about 45 minutes and be over before the start of the first race, but due to the large turnout of fans it was extended until the start of the third race. It was taking the fans between 30-40 minutes of standing in line to get the autographs and the line was long. In the end, track officials had to close the line down.

The third race was the Roosevelt Raceway honored race and the Meadowlands drivers wore the colors of the Roosevelt drivers. The colors of Haughton, Stanley and Sonny Dancer, Fontaine, Sholty, Insko, Perry, Vitrano, Daigneault, and Chapman were all represented in the race. Yannick Gingras, driving Caution Signs, won the race wearing the colors of Lucien Fontaine. The winner's circle ceremonies included a photo of all race participants with the drivers of the colors that they represented.

An appreciation award to Jeff Gural for keeping the traditions of racing excellence was presented to him by CeCe Levy, Victoria Howard, Billy Haughton and Freddie Hudson.

The rest of the evening continued with the party on the West Deck that soon moved into Trotters. The Cutler Memorial was won by Sebastian K of Sweden over Modern Family of the USA and everyone mentioned how it had the flare of the old Roosevelt Raceway International Trot.

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