CLEARFIELD — Many consider 13 to be an unlucky number, but not Roger Hammer of Bedford after receiving his 13th Charles “Buster” DiSalvo Trophy as the winningest driver for the 2017 Clearfield County Fair harness racing meet.
When asked if reigning as the top reinsman at the Driving Park is getting old, “No, not really,“ was the quick response of the driver-trainer-owner who had his first winner on the half-mile oval at age 16.
This one might be a little more special though because of the way his duel with Chris Shaw, last year‘s DiSalvo Trophy winner, ended in the drama-packed final race Wednesday afternoon.
Hammer, still one of the busiest drivers and trainers at age 71, owned five wins, but Shaw was only one behind and would have repeated by guiding Keystone Steam to Victory Lane because he held the tie-breaker, most second places.
And Shaw made a valiant effort with the Team Shaw three-year-old pacer after closing on Hammer’s Marvalous Artist at the quarter-pole.
Keystone Steam, though parked out, stalked the eventual winner the rest of the way in the Hallstrom Family Division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes “A” 3YO Colt Pace.
However Marvalous Artist still was a quarter-length in front when he crossed the finish line in 1:59.1, tying for the fastest dash of the week.
Told that time was just one tick off the track record, Hammer replied, “I should have kept driving him down the stretch. I just let loose of him. Sometimes, when you quit driving him, he just slows to walk. He’s cost me a race that way before. And I keep forgetting about it.
“As long as you’re tapping him, he’ll keep on going. He knows the race is over if you quit tapping him.”
The bay gelding Hammer trains and co-owns with Vicky Lynn Fair of Bedford sports five wins this year and 13 in 46 lifetime starts for earnings of $58,580. He was No. 1 in points among the 2YO colts that raced on the fair circuit last year.
Reminded one of his wins — which prevented a different outcome in the DiSalvo Trophy chase — was the result of replacing Shaw behind Clearfield County Fair record-setting 3YO filly trotter All Set Lets Go Tuesday, Hammer joked, “That didn’t hurt at all. I’ve got to thank him for that.”
They currently are one-two in wins on the Pennsylvania Fair Circuit with Shaw, who missed All Set Lets Go’s 2:02 trip, holding a 32-27 advantage.
Ginger Tree Marty, driven by Sam Beegle, also paced a 1:59.1 mile in the penultimate race, another PASS “A” Colt Pace, and was awarded the Queens Crown Memorial “Queen Mom” Arlene Swales cooler blanket, edging out Marvalous Artist’s time by a fraction of one-fifth of a second.
Beegle kept Ginger Tree Marty behind Todd Schadel-driven Cruiserwillwin, the 2016 Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes champion, and Hammer’s Artists Ruffles until the final turn.
Then, the sophomore bay gelding he also trains was first into the stretch and flying at the finish, winning by 2¼ lengths after a 28.3-second final quarter.
Ginger Tree Marty, owned by Ginger Tree Stables LLC of Gordonville and Robert Reber Jr. of Pottstown, has two other magic miles on his chart, a 1:55.2 at Gratz July 9 that was the fastest mile in almost four years for the state fair circuit and 1:58.4 with a 28.1 last quarter that was best at Bedford last week.
The Dunlap-Swales Memorial Division purse padded his earnings to $53,960 for 27 lifetime races, seven of them wins.
Shaw, who drove nine winners during the two-day Hughesville meet in late June, positioned himself for the challenge to Hammer by guiding Poker Nurse to victory in the PASS “B” Filly Pace’s Crawford Williams Memorial Division.
The Team Shaw (trainer Jason, Chris’ brother, and owner Mason, Jason’s five-year-old son) sophomore held off Steve Schoeffel-driven Northern Eclipse by three-fourths of a length with a 2:07.2 score.
Poker Nurse’s third win in 20 lifetime starts upped his purses to $10,657.
Tying for second with four wins was Aaron Johnston, who had Air Quotes Hanover on the lead coming out of the first turn and on his way to a 4¼-length win in 2:03.1. Shaw recorded one of his five seconds with Shampy Said.
Air Quotes Hanover, a Clearfield County Fair winner last year, now has six wins in 21 starts with earnings of $17,571.
The PASS “A” Filly Pace produced a pair of exciting races to kick off the eight-race card for the good grandstand crowd.
Tony Schadel was content with fifth and next-to-last place for Bella Ragaza’s first time around the track, had her fourth at the half and then made the big move down the backside.
She went three-wide to pass leader Gambling Babe, driven by Cory Kreiser, around the lower turn and pulled away in the stretch to beat Shaw’s Keystone Nikki to the line by 3¼ lengths in 2:01 to claim the Butch Flanagan Memorial blanket.
A nonwinner in 10 freshman races, Bella Ragaza is 6-for-21 this year with total earnings of $56,162 for co-owners Linda Schadel of Sacramento, Pa., and Roxanna Buffington of Gratz.
The Foster Kerr Memorial second dash featured owner-trainer-driver Dave Brickell’s Camera Lady, the 2016 fair points leader and winningest 2YO filly pacer in North America with 15 victories, and Team Shaw’s Gemalous, the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Fair Circuit Champion.
Both won at Clearfield, and Camera Lady was able to repeat by overtaking Gemalous in the stretch to go under the wire with 3½-lengths in front with a 2:01.3 time for her fourth victory of the year.
Camera Lady has returned $65,390 to Brickell in 41 lifetime races.
Schoeffel notched his third win of the week, taking Ounce Hanover wire-to-wire in the Bob Schucker Memorial Division of the PASS “B” Colt Pace.
Coming off a win at The Meadows with a 1:56.1 dash, the bay gelding had a 3¾-length lead at the end of his in 2:02.3 trip.
He’s won five of 27 starts and earned $17,129 for co-owners Vickie and Kathy Schoeffel of Evans City, M.A. Munn of Alden, N.Y., and T.A. Dedoszak of Verysburg, N.Y.
Wayne Long, who opened the meet with a victory Sunday, became a multiwinner with Brianna Hanover prevailing by one length over Johnston’s Roar Hanover in an all-the-way 2:02 win in the Ward Fink Memorial Division of the PASS “B” Filly Pace.
Unraced last year, the bay filly trained by Long for owners Arthur and Andrew Stafford of Harrington, Del., has two wins and $12,457 in purses for 12 starts.
The four-day meet drew 129 entries for 30 races, with only one scratch.
Purses totaled $123,250, a new record for the Clearfield County Fair.
Wednesday’s results, with horse’s name, number in parenthesis, and jockey’s name:
PENNSYLVANIA SIRE STAKES THREE-YEAR-OLD “A” FILLY PACE
Butch Flanagan Memorial Division ($5,450) – 1. Bella Ragaza (5), Tony Schadel; 2. Keystone Nikki (4), C. Shaw; 3. Liberty Party (2), Todd Schadel; 4. Gambling Babe (1), C. Kreiser; 5. Cajun Moonlite (6), C. Brickell; 6. Tsm Artemis T (3), A. Johnston. TIME: 2:01.
Foster Kerr Memorial Division ($5,375) – 1. Camera Lady (5), D. Brickell; 2. Gemalous (4), C. Shaw; 3. Keystone Zeta (2), Todd Schadel; 4. Princess Finola (1), J. Lieberman; 5. Yes Double Down (3), C. Kreiser. TOTAL: 2:01.3.
PENNSYLVANIA SIRE STAKES THREE-YEAR-OLD “B” COLT PACE
Bob Schucker Memorial Division ($2,750) – 1. Ounce Hanover (2), S. Schoeffel; 2. Fear Not (4), Tony Schadel; 3. Marvalous Café (1), R. Hammer; 4. Friendly’s Scooter (3), S. Beegle; 5. Dro Hanover (5), B. Brown. TIME: 2:02.3.
Violet Lansberry Memorial Division ($2,750) – 1. Air Quotes Hanover (2), A. Johnston; 2. Shampy Said (5), C. Shaw; 3. Another Dinger (3), J. Dodson; 4. U Rook Marvelous (4), B. Brown; 5. Beach Barker (1), R. Hammer. TIME: 2:03.1.
PENNSYLVANIA SIRE STAKES THREE-YEAR-OLD “B” FILLY PACE
Ward Fink Memorial Division ($2,750) – 1. Brianna Hanover (4), W. Long; 2. Roar Hanover (3), A. Johnston; 3. You’re In My Heart (5), S. Schoeffel; 4. Marvalous B T (1), R. Hammer; 5. Tsm Cassandra T (2), C. Shaw. TIME: 2:02.
Crawford Williams Memorial Division ($2,700) – 1. Poker Nurse (2), C. Shaw; 2. Northern Eclipse (3), S. Schoeffel; 3. U Bettor Git (4), D. Brickell; 4. Aliveah Snowangel (1), R. Hammer. TIME: 2:07.2.
PENNSYLVANIA SIRE STAKES THREE-YEAR-OLD “A” COLT PACE
Dunlap-Swales Memorial Division ($5,300) – 1. Ginger Tree Marty (3), S. Beegle; 2. Curiserwillwin (4), Todd Schadel; 3. Artists Ruffles (1), R. Hammer; 4. Tsm Roger Houstont (2), C. Kreiser. TIME: 1:59.1.
Hallstrom Family Memorial Division ($5,225) – 1. Marvalous Artist (1), R. Hammer; 2. Keystone Steam (3), C. Shaw; 3. Jp’s A Cruisen (2), B. Brown. TIME: 1:59.1.