CLEARFIELD – Five close finishes, all decided by one length or less, had the largest crowd of the 2010 Clearfield County Fair harness racing meet roaring and Roger Hammer drove away with another Charles “Buster” DiSalvo Trophy to highlight the program for three-year-old pacers Thursday at the Driving Park.
Hammer guided fillies Bliss Falcon and My Gal Mykenna to back-to-back wins, his fifth and sixth of the week, to continue his domination of the chase for the DiSalvo Trophy, awarded since 1984 to the driver with the most wins during the four-day meet.
Though 64-year-old owner-trainer-driver from Bedford is not even sure how many times he’s accomplished the feat, he’s confident the number is in double figures.
Most of the fans stuck around to cheer the six-time North American UDR (Universal Driver Rating) champion after he trotted up the track with two grandchildren, just as he did last year, to accept the huge piece of hardware from Carl Belin, a friend of the DiSalvo family.
The presentation capped an afternoon featuring many of the start fair circuit’s top Pennsylvania Sire Stakes pacers, and they provided plenty of excitement.
Bliss Falcon, a winner at the 2009 fair, clinched the DiSalvo Trophy for Hammer in thrilling fashion, beating hard-charging Variance Hanover by a head in the middle dash on the nine-race card. Hammer sent the bay filly he owns and trains to the front on the backside, parked out Mimi McBride at the half and had just enough horse to edge Steve Schoeffel-driven Variance Hanover at the wire.
“I was worried about her, because she is better off the pace than she is on top,” Hammer said. “But where she was in there, I had to take my shot with her on top.”
The 2:03 trip was Bliss Falcon’s third win in 13 starts this year. She’s 10-for-32 lifetime with earnings of $38,636.
In the previous race, Ed McNeight Jr. had tied Hammer with his fourth win of the week, keeping Kalua Killean on the front end the whole way for a one-length victory over NF Tango, driven by Chris Shaw. Owned and trained by Chris Oluvic of Cranberry Township, Kalua Killean scored in 2:05.3 for her second straight win after pacing 1:57.1 for second place at The Meadows July 27. She’s raced 18 times this year after winning one of just two starts as a two-year-old.
The third division of the Crawford Williams Memorial Pace went to My Gal Mykenna, which earned the cooler blanket with a 2:01.2 mile that boosted her lifetime earnings to more than $60,000. She’s won 16 of 27 starts for co-owners Hammer and Nevin Gilbert of Bedford, including six of nine trips behind the gate this year.
“She’s a good mare,” Hammer said. “She’s got a record of 55 and two. I’ve raced her three times at the raceway. She got beat in 53 and one. Then, I brought her out to the fairs.”
Where she’s been unbeatable, coasting to her fifth consecutive victory by 4-1/2 lengths after a 59.4-second half that was the fastest of the week.
Do Me First made the long trip to Clearfield pay off for co-owner-trainer-driver Al Tomlinson of Mason, Mich., by claiming the lion’s share of the PASS filly pace’s fourth division with a 2:04.2 mile that left George Heit III’s NF Native Lady 2-1/2 lengths back. Two of Do Me First’s three prior wins were in $20,000 races Pocono Downs in 1:55.2 on June 28 and The Meadows in 1:53.4 on July 14.
All three PASS colt and gelding races were dandies.
Driver Dave Brickell hit the late double with Straight Character and Stately’s Revenge, both scoring in the 2:00.3 to tie for the Jerry “Killer” Krisher Award that goes to the horse with the fastest time of the week.
Since they couldn’t share the E.J. Master Memorial cooler blanket, Stately’s Revenge owners Robert and Barbara Krenitsky of Butler opted to give it to their son, Straight Character owner-trainer Robert Krenitsky Jr.
Brickell tucked Straight Character in the pocket behind James Brewer’s DVC Gifted Indeed until pulling him outside nearing the three-quarter-mark. The brown colt had the at the top of the stretch and outlasted Hammer’s Cories Artist by three-fourths of a length.
“He’s just a race horse,” Brickell said. “He likes to go. You can do whatever you want with him. I drove him four back in 56 and four at a fair (Gratz), so he has speed. He did it by himself.”
Straight Character, sporting six wins, has earned nearly $20,000 in 17 races this year and more than $42,000 for 34 lifetime starts that show nine wins and 10 seconds.
The second division was a real crowd-pleaser as Stately’s Revenge sat fourth until going down the backside for the second time. The bay gelding still was third around the final turn before Brickell took him three-wide, and he roared down the stretch to pass Hammer’s front-running Lucious Al and Timmy Offutt’s Missed Opportunity.
Stately’s Revenge won by a half-length over Missed Opportunity, with Lucious Al another length back.
“Stately doesn’t have any speed,” Brickell said. “He doesn’t get real excited until after the half. Then he decides he wants to race. But he finishes strong. That’s his modus operandi. So you’ve just to work with him. Fortunately, he didn’t run out of track.”
In 35 lifetime starts, Stately Revenge has seven wins, three this summer, plus nine seconds and seven thirds for earnings approaching $44,000.
Timmy Offutt took Yogi Hanover to the front in the first turn of the third division, and the bay gelding owned by his parents, Joe and Karen Offutt of Woodsboro, Md., wouldn’t be caught, pacing the mile in 2:03 for a new lifetime mark. Yuma Hanover, with Kim Good in the sulky, was 1-3/4 lengths back in second.
The win was Yogi Hanover’s first in five starts this year.
Two dashes in the Quaker States race opened the program, and the Richie Salvatore Memorial trophy went to Whiting Hanover for a 2:04.3 mile after Blissful Bay scored in 2:05.2.
Whiting Hanover had made 26 lifetime starts without a win before Schoeffel sent her past early leader Late For Work, driven by Shaw, at the half and pulled away to an 8-1/2-length victory in 2:04.3
The first race set the tone for the afternoon as Blissful Bay led all the way for driver-trainer Wayne Long but flashed the wire a mere half-length ahead of fast-closing Vickers Hanover, driven by Timmy Offutt. The 2:05.2 trip marked only the second win for the bay gelding owned by Louis Manfredi of Lincoln University.
Thursday’s results, with place, horse’s name, post position in parenthesis and driver’s name:
Richie Salvatore Memorial Quaker States 3-Year-Old Pace
First Division (Purse $1,256.78) – 1. Blissful Bay (2), W. Long; 2. Vickers Hanover (3), T. Offutt; 3. Quickpop (1), C. Shaw; 4. Camerosa (4), B. Brown; 5. Seth W Hanover (5), S. Johnston. Time: 2:05.2.
Second Division (Purse $1,256.78) – 1. Whiting Hanover (4), S. Schoeffel; 2. Riverbloom (2), C. Kreiser; 3. Megaforce Hall (5), R. Hammer; 4. Late For Work (3), C. Shaw; 5. Puritan Hanover (1), T. Offutt. Time: 2:04.3.
* * * * *
Crawford Williams Memorial Pennsylvania Sire Stakes 3-Year-Old Filly Pace
First Division (Purse $3,013.75) – 1. Kalua Killean (4), E. McNeight Jr.; 2. NF Tango (5), C. Shaw; 3. Grand Central (2), E. Neal; 4. Team Spirit (3), T. Offutt; 5. Anxiety Hanover (1), R. Hammer. Time: 2:05.3.
Second Division (Purse $3,013.75) –1. Bliss Falcon (3), R. Hammer; 2. Variance Hanover (5), E. Neal; 3. Mimi McBride (4), C. Kreiser; 4. Fluffy Slippers (2), T. Offutt; 5. Mcultra (1), C. Shaw. Time: 2:03.
Third Division (Purse $3,013.75) – 1. My Gal Mykenna (5), R. Hammer; 2. BP Wonder Woman (2), D. Brickell; 3. Ms America (3), W. Long; 4. I’m Notbad Hanover (1), S. Schoeffel; 5. Ithinthereforiam (4), T. Offutt. Time: 2:01.2.
Fourth Division (Purse $2,964.75) – 1. Do Me First (2), A. Tomlinson; 2. NF Native Lady (1), G. Heit III; 3. Going Down Town (3), J. Brewer; 4. BP Ally (4), A. Johnston. Time: 2:04.2.
* * * * *
E Jay Master Memorial Pennsylvania Sire Stakes 3-Year-Old Colt Pace
First Division (Purse $3,905) – 1. Straight Character (2), D. Brickell; 2. Cories Artist (3), R. Hammer; 3. High Wire Kat (5), C. Shaw; 4. Mcrum N Coke (1), J. Offutt; 5. DVC Gifted Indeed (4), J. Brewer. Time: 2:00.3.
Second Division (Purse $3,095) – 1. Stately’s Revenge (3), D. Brickell; (2) Missed Opportunity (2), T. Offutt; 3. Luscious Al (4), R. Hammer; 4. Metro Man (5), C. Shaw; 5. Keystone Radience (1), J. Brewer. Time: 2:00.3.
Third Division (Purse $3,095) – 1. Yogi Hanover (1), T. Offutt; 2. Yuma Hanover (5), K. Good; 3. Mcdickerson (4), E. Neal; 4. Burton Hanover (3), S. Schoeffel; 5. R R Lucky Breeze (2), C. Flickinger. Time: 2:03.
HOOFBEATS – The very successful meet’s 36 races attracted 181 entries, with only two scratches… Schoeffel, Long and Wilbur Yoder tied for third in the DiSalvo Trophy standings with three wins apiece. Brickell, Shaw, Timmy Offutt and Bill Daugherty each had two. Nine others also drove into the winner’s circle… Thursday’s purses, $26,233.50, swelled the meet’s total payouts to $107,276.70. That’s second only to last year’s total of $116,905.50, according to longtime clerk-of-course Jeanne Urban.