Lighthill Series Gets Underway Friday

Published: January 2, 2013 07:23 pm EST

The opening leg of the Joe Lighthill Trotting Series is the featured attraction at the Watch and Wager LLC meet at Cal Expo Friday night, going in divisions as the third and eighth races on a 15-race program that begins at 5:55 p.m.

Dukeofhazards and Keystone Audrey are both coming off sharp victories and are set to do battle in the first division, with the former landing the cozy rail slot while Keystone Audrey will do her work from the outside post in the field of seven.

Dukeofhazards is a four-year-old Indiana-bred son of Iron Duke who is owned and trained by Mike Magri. Making his local debut last week after making his most recent appearance three weeks earlier at Balmoral, he made every pole a winning one with James Kennedy at the helm and came home with two lengths to spare.

Keystone Audrey is gunning for her third straight trip to the winner’s circle for owner/driver/trainer Bruce Clarke. The four-year-old Ontario-sired Majestic Son mare crushed her field in the slop on December 21, then came back last week to work out a sweet tracking trip from a second-tier start and won going away by two and a quarter lengths as a 6-1 shot.

The second Lighthill division finds recent Sire Stakes hero Its Not Over taking on Hillcrest Romeo and Vari Forgetful, who were both second as the public choice in their most recent tries behind the aforementioned Dukeofhazards and Keystone Audrey.

Friday’s Joe Lighthill Trotting Series is named for the driver/trainer who had an outstanding career that found him gracing the winner’s circle with such legendary performers as Meadow Skipper, Countess Adios, Kerry Way, Tender Loving Care and Peter Lobell.

Joe Lighthill began his career in 1943 when he became the youngest professional driver in Ohio at age 15. After serving in the Army from 1946-48, he returned home and opened his own stable.

When Lighthill came to California, he quickly became an institution as one of the most respected horsemen to ever ply their trade in the Golden State.

“I first met Joe in the late 50’s when we were racing at Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows,” said Gene Vallandingham. “When I broke my leg in 1974, Joe raced all my horses for six months. He was a great horseman and a great friend.”

The storied Delvin Miller once called Lighthill “the best catch-driver in the sport,” while Frank Ervin once described him as “the best conditioner of young trotters in harness racing.”

Lighthill passed away in 2006 at the age of 78. He finished his career with 2,272 wins and $6.9 million in earnings.

In other California racing news, Robin Clements reports that her popular racemare Taxi Dancer has been retired. The nine-year-old daughter of Givemewhatineed and the New Zealand mare Catalao goes to the breeding shed with a record of 42 wins, 33 seconds and 28 thirds from her 229 lifetime appearances.

(With files from Cal Expo)