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Virgil sets track record at Miami Valley
Saturday, March 21, 2015 - from Miami Valley Raceway

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Lebanon, OH---“Virgil set a track record at Miami Valley Raceway on Saturday night!”  That statement would come as no real surprise to any harness racing devotee in the Buckeye state, and their next question would be “With which of his horses?” 

The reference, of course, would be to prolific trainer Virgil Morgan Jr., not only Miami Valley’s current runaway leader in the trainer’s standings, but the winningest trainer in Ohio history and currently the second-winningest trainer in North America behind Ron Burke. Morgan has set numerous track records all over Ohio in the last decade as master of the most powerful stable in the state.

Conrad photo
Virgil's 1:51 mile was the fastest by a horse or gelding pacer in the history of Miami Valley Raceway.

This time, though, Virgil is a horse—a 5-year-old son of Always A Virgin—and his 1:51 mile in the $16,500 Open Pace was the fastest mile by a male pacer in the track’s two-year existence.

Tyler George trains this Virgil for owner L. J. Stone. It was the 12th career score for Virgil and pushed his lifetime bankroll to over $175,000. 

Driver Jeff Nisonger gave the black gelding a masterful steer to just nip last week’s feature race winner Lucky Lime (Kyle Ater) with favored A Sweet Ride (Josh Sutton) settling for third after carving honest fractions of :27.3, :55.1 and 1:23 on the front end.  Lucky Lime was first-over in the outer flow from the halfway point to the wire, with Virgil in tow right behind him. Nisonger swung the winner three-deep at the head of the lane and prevailed in the final strides. 

Sent off at 7-1 odds, Virgil paid $16.20 to win and combined with Lucky Lime produced a generous $105.40 exacta.

The only horse to have ever paced faster at Miami Valley is the recently retired mare Shebestingin, who won a Grand Circuit stakes for driver David Miller and trainer Joe Holloway on closing day of the inaugural 2014 meet in 1:50.4.

Other highlights on Saturday night were a 1:51.2 tally by Orion’s Belt (Greg Grismore) in the $11,000 top conditioned pace at odds of 18-1; and a fifth straight victory by Manipulator (Shawn Barker II) in a $15,000 claiming event.  Since being purchased by trainer Cole Fitzwater in Ontario, Manipulator has steadily progressed through the claiming ranks with wins at the $8,000, $10,000 and $12,500 levels before Saturday’s score in 1:52.2, despite moving up in class for the fifth straight start.

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