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New York Yankee Wins Amateur Race

Published: November 26, 2017 3:55 pm ET

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‘Yankee Joe’ Lee is celebrating today. And why shouldn’t he? After all, he just scored the biggest triumph of his amateur racing career when he guided Dizzy Rizzy to a 2:34 victory in the $25,000 CKG Billings Gold Cup Final, which was contested Sunday morning (November 26) at Yonkers Raceway.

Second place went to Wygant Prince and driver ‘Coach Paul’ Minore while ‘Tough Tony’ Ciuffettelli garnered the show dough with Aventure.

The race was contested at the distance of one and one-quarter miles.

A true amateur driver, Lee has no racehorses of his own and no specific trainer who he drives for. Although he always gets first call on horses trained by Bruce Aldrich Sr., Lee travels the amateur circuit seeking drives wherever he can.

Driving Sunday for trainer Nick Surick – whose trotter won the Billings Gold Cup last year at Harrah’s Chester with ‘Hurricane Hannah’ Miller at the controls – victory didn’t come easy for Lee, who has plenty of supporters at Yankee Stadium, where he serves as the assistant locker room attendant for the New York Yankees.

“We had tough trip today, but we got the job done,” Lee related. “I tried leaving, but Steve Oldford (driving Gonna Fly) was giving Paul Minore and Wygant Prince a tough time. I then tried to slip down on the pylons to no avail, but got lucky when Bob Krivelin’s horse made a break.

“Sitting third I thought I had a good spot. Then Oldford pulled the pocket with over a half mile to go, so I got to slip into the two hole. At the top of the stretch I rolled out of the pocket, grunted at her (Dizzy Lizzy) a little and she rolled right past the leader and got there in time. I’m real honoured to win the Billings Gold Cup for her connections.”

Joe Lee, pictured after his win (Geri Schwarz Photo)

It was the 11th victory this year for Dizzy Rizzy, a seven-year-old Ken Warkentin mare. She is owned by the Nick Surick Stables, J L Benson Stables and Hannah Miller.

Lee is a rising star in the amateur ranks. The victory was his 15th this season after having garnered 10 last year. His career began in 2010, but earnestly in just the past three seasons.

The $15,000 Billings Silver Cup Final was also a big thrill for driver Bobby ‘Rapid Robert’ Ciavardini, who also scored the biggest victory of his career when he guided Baltimor AS to a 2:32.2 triumph.

As a youngster, Ciavardini dabbled in harness racing, but upon retirement from a professional career he got back into harness racing. His victory Sunday was paramount to him, especially driving the family horse.

Baltimor AS is an eight-year-old Credit Winner gelding owned by Richard, Diane and Robert Ciavardini and trained by Tom Milici.

Both races were contested as non-wagering events.

(Billings Series)

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