Thursday (Nov. 30) was the final day of live racing for the 2023 meet at Plainridge Park and driver Brett Beckwith was the star of the day by winning the feature race and reaching personal milestones for both himself and one of his mounts.
The $25,000 upper-level conditioned pace topped the card and Beckwith steered Always A Miki to his second consecutive win and seventh of the year.
Always A Miki left from post eight and took the lead from his stablemate Hespoisedtopounce A (Kevin Switzer Jr.) as they passed the :27.4 quarter. Pressure for the front-runner came immediately as Alex Having Fun (Drew Campbell) was on his outside at the half and pushed the third quarter with a :27.2 clip. But Always A Miki stood his ground around the last turn and took a one-length lead into the stretch. As they straightened for home, Hespoisedtopounce A was gaining ground near the pylons and The Wild Card (Nick Graffam) was barrelling down the center of the lane. However, Beckwith kept Always A Miki on task and won by a length in 1:53.
Always A Miki ($8.20) is owned by Joe Trice and trained by Jimmy Nickerson.
The win with Always A Miki put the 20-year-old Beckwith’s earnings for the year north of the $4 million mark, earned on the strength of his 403 wins in what has been a career year for the fourth generation horseman. Beckwith ended the meet in third place for driving wins (122) and with earnings of $1.45 million.
The other milestone Beckwith hit was with the venerable 10-year-old pacer JK Will Power, who won a $17,500 conditioned pace earlier in the card in 1:53.4 to become the sport’s newest millionaire. JK Will Power only needed $133 going into the race, but got the job done in style with the victory. JK Will Power ($7.60) has now earned $1,008,617 after his 42nd lifetime win for owner Michael Goldberg Racing and trainer Jeff Lieberman.
Beckwith completed a hat trick on Thursday behind Betterthanhope N (1:55.1, $3.40) for owners Paul London and Kathleen Brewer, who also trains the mare.
Plainridge Park recognized the top driver and trainer of the year in the winner’s circle and presented gifts to them after the ninth race. Both were repeat winners and both were very tough to beat all year.
Bruce Ranger finished as the top driver after posting 152 wins that pushed his connections earnings across the $2.1 million mark for the 2023 meet. This is the second time Ranger has achieved that status -- having earned $2.09 million in 2021 -- and makes him only one of two drivers in Plainridge history to achieve that plateau (Matty Athearn being the other). And Ranger just missed doing it three consecutive years after coming up only $3,013 shy in 2022. Ranger has been the leading dash driver at The Ridge for the past three years.
Jimmy Nickerson was the leading trainer for 2023 after he sent 77 winners to post, which was the second highest Plainridge win total he has achieved (92 in 2022). His horses went past the $1 million mark in earnings again this meet and it is the second year in a row Nickerson has done it. He remains the only trainer to ever cross that annual income threshold at Plainridge. This is also the third year in a row that Nickerson is the overall trainer earnings leader at The Ridge. Nickerson has won the dash title in 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022 while finishing second in 2020, only five wins short of the lead.
Racing will resume at Plainridge Park in April of 2024. Until then, the management and staff and all the horsepeople who race at Plainridge Park wish to extend everyone a very happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous new year.
(Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts)