CLEARFIELD – Roger Hammer of Bedford was only 16 years old when logged his first win as a harness racing driver at the 1962 Clearfield County Fair.
He\’s been coming back to the Driving Park and winning and winning and winning ever since.
By his count, the Charles \”Buster\” DiSalvo Trophy he claimed as the 2009 meet\’s winningest driver is either his seventh or eighth. And that\’s just in the 26 years of the award.
Hammer, chided around the barns for being labeled a senior citizen earlier in the week, trotted up the track with two grandchildren to accept the trophy from Joe Colavecchi, a friend of the late racing enthusiast, in front of the cheering grandstand fans at the conclusion of Thursday afternoon\’s program.
Hammer had more than enough wins, five, after two days, but the popular reinsman delighted the largest crowd of the week with three more victories on the final card, including a speedy 1:59.2 trip behind Lahaye that equaled the Driving Park record for three-year-old colt pacers.
The six-time North America UDR (Universal Driver Rating) champion also guided Bell on Wheels and Real Espresso, last year\’s top two-year-old filly in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, to contrasting wins in the Crawford Williams Memorial Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Filly Pace.
Hammer didn\’t plan on racing for a Driving Park record with Lahaye, a bay colt that now has amassed more than $114,000 in winnings.
He hadn\’t trained the horse he co-owns with friend Nevin Gilbert of Bedford since a speedy 1:52.2 win in a $14,000 race on a sloppy Chester Racetrack on July 29.
\”He\’s usually a horse that likes to be trained a little bit, but I thought I\’d just give him a little breather, freshen him up,\” Hammer explained. \”I figured I\’ll train him up here at this track.
\”But he had a rough mile today.\”
That\’s because Timmy Offutt took Adelia\’s Prince to the front and refused to give way to Lahaye, cutting fractions of 28 seconds, 59 and 1:27, the fastest of the week.
\”(Adelia\’s Prince) ran a good mile,\” Hammer said. \”I raced against him with this horse. That horse of mine is a little bit superior than the rest of them when he\’s up on his game plan.
\”I didn\’t want to lead with him today. Because Timmy had a handful with his horse, I just ducked and let Beano (Steve Schoeffel, with Eagle All) get in the hole in front of me. So, I just sat there third.\”
Coming out of the first turn, Hammer pulled Lahaye to the outside for a duel with Adelia\’s Prince that lasted the rest of the way in the First Division of the E.J. Master Memorial PASS Pace. Lahaye finally overtook in the final 75 yards to win by three-quarters of a length and matching the Driving Park record set by Shu Hanover in 2004 and tied by Real Hanover the next year. Both of those colts were driven by Todd Schadel.
The win was Lahaye\’s fifth in a row and sixth in his last seven starts, including a record-setting 1:55.1 mile at the Gratz Fair near Harrisburg on July 12. He already has topped $43,000 in winnings in 16 races this year and has won 13 of 30 lifetime starts.
\”He\’ll be tight for next week,\” Hammer said. \”We go to Honesdale. He\’ll probably be going for $12,000, so he\’ll be ready up there.
\”He\’s a nice colt. I\’ll take him back to the (Chester) track for a couple starts. He can go with those horses, too, but a race track sort of takes the heart out of him because you race from start to finish. Here, you can get a little breather, so we keep him out here (at the fairs).\”
Lahaye\’s fastest mile for the card earned Hammer the Jerry \”Killer\” Krisher Memorial Trophy, making it a four-blanket day for Hammer. He also picked up the Auto Mart Trophy for the most wins on the day as well as the coolers for the E.J. Master Memorial and Crawford Williams Memorial races.
In the latter event, Bell on Wheels and Real Espresso scored with identical 2:01.2 times, one-fifth of a second quicker than First Division winner Ashley\’s Pride.
Bell on Wheels won her fifth consecutive fair race in come-from-behind fashion after leaving the gate fourth in the Second Division. Hammer rated the race perfectly, moving the brown filly into third at the half, second going into the final turn and then to the outside and first in deep stretch for a half-length victory over Aaron Johnston\’s Tremor Hanover.
Hammer also owns and trains Bell on Wheels, now sporting 18 lifetime wins in just 37 starts with more than $61,000 in earnings.
\”This mare is just coming back to herself,\” Hammer said. \”We\’re going back to the race track with her right after the fairs are over. We\’ll bring her back next year to race at the raceways.
\”She\’s good. She was third in points and second in the final (last year). I finished 1-2 in the finals.\”
Hammer had a great day at The Meadows in the 2008 finals for the fair circuit\’s top young trotters and pacers, with Real Espresso the only one of the eight leading point-getters to earn another win.
Though challenged early by Wrinkle Hanover, driven by Wil Yoder, and later by 2008 Clearfield County Fair winner Mud Pie Hanover, with Schoeffel in the bike, Hammer had Real Espresso in front from gate to wire in the Third Division.
The bay filly he also owns and trains won by 3-3/4 lengths to push her lifetime winnings past $67,000. She\’s won seven races in 20 starts this year and is 15-for-40 lifetime.
\”She\’s a good half-mile track horse,\” Hammer said. \”I never raced her nowhere but the fairs last year. We\’ll keep her over for next year. She\’s good enough to race at Chester and those places.\”
Ty\’s Arturo, driven by Hammer for Clair Corle of Bedford, set the early pace in the First Division but went off gait after the quarter, and Ashley\’s Pride rushed up from third to grab the lead by a half-length over Aaron Johnston\’s Tarra Risen Dragon at the half.
Ashley\’s Pride paced 59.2 on the second trip around the oval to win by 5-1/2 lengths in 2:01.3 for Offutt.
The chestnut filly owned by Samuel Stoltzfus of Ronks had not scored in seven races after winning five times and placing in nine other races as a two-year-old.
Schoeffel\’s A K and Randy Neal\’s Bruce Kav were the other E.J. Master Memorial victors.
A K was declared the winner of the wild Second Division race by judge Doug Bishop after finishing second to Red Hot Scandal.
Yoder had Red Hot Scandal on the lead for the first half, but the chestnut gelding owned by the Dunn Stable of Cochranton stumbled after throwing a shoe coming out of the turn at the five-eighths mark.
Red Hot Scandal recovered and flew down the stretch to cross the finish line first in 2:00.4, beating A K by 2-1/4 lengths.
However, Red Hot Scandal was placed last for interfering with trailing horses while on a break, Bishop said. All three drivers behind the bay gelding had to check up, he pointed out.
So, A K wound up with his eighth career win, the second this year, for owner Karl Schoeffel of Evans City.
Bruce Kav had an uneventful trip in the Third Division, pacing a fast 2:00 mile in the 2009 fair finale for Neal, a Punxsutawney resident who trains and co-owns the brown colt with his father, Cliff.
Coming off a win at the Lycoming County Fair in Hughesville, Bruce Kav made it three wins in eight starts this year and seven in 23 lifetime starts. He\’s piled up more than $34,000 in earnings.
The Richie Salvatore Memorial Pace, a Quaker State event, produced two exciting finishes for the fans despite having only four starters in the first dash and, because of a late scratch, three in the second.
In the Filly Division, Johnston had to go four-wide in the stretch with OHM Debutante to slip past Chris Shaw\’s DVC Fine Tuned near the finish line for a 3/4-length victory in 2:05.3. Both had just passed tiring pace-setter Miss Valley, driven by Jim Brewer.
Unraced last year, OHM Debutante had only two previous starts for owners Chris Oluvic of Cranberry Township and Anthony Lisi of Camillus, N.Y. Oluvic also is the bay filly\’s trainer.
Jordon Miller took Gladiare Grande wire-to-wire in 2:04 in the Colt Division, though challenged by Offutt\’s Blueridge Redman at the half and at the finish line. The two-length win was the bay gelding\’s third in 11 starts after not racing as a two-year-old. He is owned by Michael Grande of Washington and trained by J.C. Miller Jr.
HOOFBEATS – With The Meadows closed this week due to upgrading the track surface, the 2009 fair attracted 65 more trotters and pacers than last year, according to Clerk-of-Course Jeanne Urban… Several drivers who are regulars at The Meadows also made appearances… In 39 races, no less than 21 drivers made it to the winner\’s circle, including five teenagers… Trailing Hammer in the DiSalvo Trophy chase were Schadel, 2007 winner David Brickell and Ed McNeight Jr. with three wins apiece. Miller, Bobby Rougeaux and Kim Good were the only others with more than one win… With perfect weather and good track conditions, the 2009 meet ranks as one of the best ever despite not having overnight races because of a lack of funding… The Driving Park track crew worked in approximately 84 tons of limestone chips to prepare the surface for racing.
Thursday\’s results, with place, horse\’s name, post position in parenthesis and driver\’s name:
Richie Salvatore Memorial Quaker State 3-Year-Old Pace
Filly Division (Purse $1,252) – 1. OHM Debutante (1), A. Johnston; 2. DVC Fine Tuned (3), C. Shaw; 3. Sweetly Western (5), B. Brown; 4. Miss Valley (4), J. Brewer; 5. Moments That Last (2), S. Schoeffel. Time: 2:05.3.
Colt Division (Purse $1,226) – 1. Gladiare Grande (2), J. Miller; 2. Blueridge Redman (4), T. Offutt; 3. Up Front High Life (1), S. Libengood. Time: 2:04. Scratched – Western Bridge (3).
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Crawford Williams Memorial Pennsylvania Sire Stakes 3-Year-Old Filly Pace
First Division (Purse $4,243) – 1. Ashley\’s Pride (5), T. Offutt; 2. Tarra Risen Dragon (1), A. Johnston; 3. DVC Fivoclock (6), D. Brickell; 4. Ty\’s Arturo (2), R. Hammer; 5. Zimich (4), G. Heit III. Time: 2:01.3. Scratched: Roan Palone (3).
Second Division (Purse $4,243) –1. Bell on Wheels (6), R. Hammer; 2. Tremor Hanover (1), A. Johnston; 3. Jin Bloosom (5), T. Offutt; 4. Wallrose Ricki (2), W. Yoder; 5. Sandy\’s Character (4), E. Neal; 6. Cold Kiss (3), C. Shaw. Time: 2:01.2.
Third Division (Purse $4,192) – 1. Real Espresso (2), R. Hammer; 2. Mud Pie Hanover (1), S. Schoeffel; 3. Wrinkle Hanover (3), W. Yoder; 4. Europan Vacation (4), E. McNeight Jr.; 5. Shani Hanover (5), G. Heit III. Time: 2:01.2
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E.J. Master Memorial Pennsylvania Sire Stakes 3-Year-Old Colt Pace
First Division (Purse $4,136) – 1. Lahaye (3), R. Hammer; 2. Adelia\’s Prince (2), T. Offutt; 3. Eagle All (4), S. Schoeffel; 4. Fantasy Character (1), E. McNeight Jr.; 5. Spur\’s Arturo (5), L. Bish. Time: 1:59.2. (Ties track record for 3YO pacers).
Second Division (Purse $4,086) – 2P1. A K (4), S. Schoeffel; 3P2. DVC Firm Believer (1), T. Offutt; 4P3. Happy Shark (2), R. Hammer; 1P4. Red Hot Scandal (3), W. Yoder. Time: Disallowed.
Third Division (Purse $4,086) – 1. Bruce Kav (1), R. Neal; 2. Stately Art (4), D. Brickell; 3. Java Jolt (1), R. Hammer; 4. Blueridge Demondog (3), C. Shaw. Time: 2:00.